10 bands who rip off Black Sabbath but get away with it
“Scam” might be the last phrase anyone wants to hear to describe their band, but when it comes to imitating Black Sabbath, that’s not always a bad thing. After all, their gigantic effect on the heavy metal world – from their self-titled 1970 release through 2013 13 — helped forge a whole new genre, and it became pretty hard to avoid being brushed off with Sabbath comparisons if wielding devilish riffs or writing songs about witches was your forte.
Thanks to the all-consuming influence of the legendary British band, stoner/doom metal bands can also be spotted playing Black Sabbath bingo. There are usually a range of tropes embraced by these groups, whether it’s an aesthetic inspired by cult horror classics, occult practices, or a love of certain props. More importantly, however, the genre is made up of hellish riffs and groove-heavy melodies that could be the soundtrack to a black mass. Where a rock club.
Expect a potent smell of devil’s lettuce and plenty of trouser-blackening riffs as we watch the bands who took inspiration from the dark magic of Sabbath.
As if born from the loins of Tony Iommi himself in a drug-fueled ritual adventure, Dorset-based Electric Wizard are arguably metal’s most dedicated Sabbat sidekick. Their band name alone is an ode to the rock gods Brummy, formed from the two tracks of Sabbath Electric funerals and The wizard. At the forefront of their worship are hazy riffs rolled out from tuned SGs and a deliciously devilish allure.
Incorporating uniquely distorted vocal melodies and laborious hooks, Electric Wizard is an amalgamation of their obsessions and pays homage not only to the Sabbat, but also to Lovecraftian horror, the occult and of course marijuana.
Being a fan of stoner metal and Black Sabbath goes hand in hand, as does owning Sleep’s seminal 1992 album. Holy Mountain, which served as a cornerstone of the genre’s developing scene in the early 90s. San Jose’s Sleep, like Electric Wizard, are quasi-religious worshipers of the Sabbath and worship through extremely slow, chasmic riffs reminiscent of the same sorcery of Iommi.
Thickened by a veneer of blackened bong smoke, Sleep’s 2018 record Sciences – released on every weed smoker’s favorite annual holiday, 4/20, no less – features plenty of hat-tipping moments, including hidden Sabbath member footage in the vinyl cover (you can see drummer Bill Ward on a milk carton and Iommi on a slice of bread), the track Giza Butler (a track about the city of Giza and bassist Geezer Butler), and a reference to Iommi on Marijuana theme.
Berlin’s Lucifer resides closer to the occult rock part of Sabbath’s influence, crossing magical imagery with hard rock, a brushstroke of 60s psychedelia and heavy riffs. Led by vocalist Johanna Sadonis, who sounds like a cross between the powerhouse of Heart Ann Wilson and Dio, Lucifer’s Deep Purple, Blue Öyster Cult and Sabbath influences are easy to spot.
The latter is most evident when they debuted in 2015 Lucifer I, through songs such as the strange Total eclipse, Sabbath an/a Purple pyramid. Their next album, 2018 Lucifer II, sees them coming out of the underground with more radio melodies, like on Dreamer, reminiscent of the Dio-era Sabbath, and more specifically, the 1980 heaven and hell Track Children of the Sea.
Witch Seeker General
It’s debatable whether NWOBHM band Witchfinder General actually “ran away” by copying Black Sabbath, but their legacy as pioneers of stoner metal/doom remains concrete, if somewhat overlooked.
Their 1982 debut album Death sentence – which was criticized for the album cover which featured a bare-breasted witch – is jam-packed with early Sabbath racing riffs, hazy vocals that sound oddly close to Ozzy’s, and lyrics inspired by horror, inspired by the 1968 film Witch Seeker General. Their release in 1983 friends from hell features lots of doomy riffs, but feels less on the nose than its predecessor.
Deeply inspired by their formative environment – akin to Sabbath’s rise from the industrial smog of Birmingham – Green Lung is a modern echo of those that came before. Driven by quirky British storytelling and rural folklore, Green Lung fuses the esoteric ethos of Sabbath with the floridity of Queen.
Carried away by fantastic riffs, devilish vocals and a charming flamboyance, their debut in 2019 Rites of the woods sees their stoner, early 70s roots sprout through the mix. 2021 black harvest amps up their theatricality with plenty of fun grooves that evoke livelier Sabbath tunes like children of the grave and Fairies wear boots. And in 2020, Green Lung even covered Sabbath’s Snow guard on a 1972 V tribute compilation albumol.4.
Kyuss has generally refuted any speculation that they were inspired by Sabbath, with former guitarist Josh Homme even admitting in a 1992 interview that he had never really been a fan of them in the first place. These comparisons to the British band poured in after the release of their seminal 1992 album blues for red Sun, which pinned them on the map as kings of stoner metal.
songs like Molten Universe and Inch featured dark, growling riffs, but with a more abrasive undertone, and felt as close to Sabbath as anything else at the time. It was also produced by Chris Goss, who fronted Rick Rubin-produced blues rockers Masters Of Reality (a band named after Sabbath’s third album). Although Kyuss’ high regard for bands like Black Flag made him a comfortable choice for punk rock, the Sabbath quality was always unmistakable, much to Homme’s frustration.
“Josh was being honest when he said he was never really a Black Sabbath fan,” ex-drummer Brant Bjork admitted. “He’s always been very comfortable with his punk rock roots. It was a bit frustrating, because I don’t have anything against heavy metal, but I thought Kyuss was a punk band.
Named after the 1972 song Black Sabbath St. Vitus Dance, Los Angeles rockers Saint Vitus were considered one of the “big four” early doom bands, alongside Candlemass, Pentagram and Trouble. Despite this tag, the band never gained much traction, serving as an overlooked footnote within the doom metal pantheon.
They are however still on point and have released an album for the last time, St. Vitus, in 2019, which, like their previous material, focused on low-end, devilish riffs straight out of Tony Iommi’s textbook. Of course, their 1987 album, born too late, was a seminal version of the first doom scene, mixing velvety vocals – like a mix of Ozzy and Candlemass – with ungodly lead-footed riffs.
Orchid is another outfit named after a Black Sabbath song. Formed in 2007, the occult/doom metalheads from San Francisco may only have a handful of albums and EPs under their belt, making them hardly a scene figurehead, but their masterful talent for writing tasty riffs is hard to ignore.
Saviors of the Blind on the 2012 EP Heretic appears as a crawler black sabbath, while their 2011 album Capricorn is full of nods to the Birmingham Four, including the FEATHER the bass gets distorted Down in the earth and the guitar riff on the title track which sounds a lot like Hole in the sky.
Since their debut in 2006 The age of winters, Texas sci-fi/fantasy buffs The Sword created a type of bell-bottomed boogie metal that intersects Sabbath’s groove-heavy early hits with monolithic thrash. Though somewhat submerged under thick blankets of distortion-saturated riffs, vocalist John Cronise also shares Ozzy’s urgent, raw timbre.
2012 Apocryphal, which was intended to be a “classic rock” album from the start, feels most Sabbath-marked, highlighted by tracks like The hidden masters and Seven Sisters.
Originally formed in 2000 as a Pentagram tribute band, Swedish band Witchcraft have remained close to their original intentions. Possessing an unvarnished early ’70s sound that was bathed in the smell of incense and cannabis, their first three albums – 2004 self-titled album, 2005 album Firewood and 2007 Alchemist – managed to evoke that same mystical element that led to Black Sabbath being hounded by witches and banished from conservative circles.
2012 Legend was a modernized version of their earlier knockoffs, but without vintage production, but brimming with jackhammer riffs and crooner vocals. For Paranoid-style chugging riffs, just listen to the intro track, Of construction.