The 10 heaviest metal riffs of all time

Candlemass bassist Leif Edling and Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi
(Image credit: Press/Erica Echenberg/Redferns)

As the driving force behind veteran Swedish doom high priests Candlemass for almost 40 years, Leif Edling knows a thing or to about riffs. So when we asked him to pick the 10 heaviest metal riffs of all time, we didn’t expect him to come back with a list made up of riffs by one band: Black Sabbath. But we are just mere mortals, and we’re not about to argue with the master of monolithic Scandinavian  doom…

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10. Black Sabbath – Snowblind (Vol. 4, 1972)

"How can some pretty simple notes create such magic? Riff on riff! Majestic, noble... classy! For exactly five minutes and twenty-six seconds, riffmeister Iommi holds me in his sinister grip!"

9. Black Sabbath – Back Street Kids (Technical Ecstasy, 1976)

"Black Sabbath don’t put riffs in songs just for the sake of showing off, they are there for a purpose. Like here on Backstreet Kids. Very unusual, but so clever! It moves the song forward like a freight train. Never stopping, just keeping moving on, dragging you in - heavy as fuck! The production is fantastic and the song… extremely underrated!"

8. Black Sabbath – Under The Sun (Vol. 4, 1972)

"It's impossible picking between Under The Sun and Cornucopia, both are highlights of  Vol. 4. The opening riffs are uber heavy. Dark, monolithic, monumental. You can’t breathe, there’s no air… Just let the Sabbath take you. Bow to the gods of the (un)holy riff!

7. Black Sabbath – Never Say Die (Never Say Die!, 1978)

"The riff to Never Say Die is so simple and catchy. Bare, naked and yet so heavy. I wasn’t totally impressed with this tune when it came out, but it’s a grower. I love the simplicity of the riff. The great production also makes it bigger, better, heavier!

6. Black Sabbath – Wheels Of Confusion (Vol. 4, 1972)

"A very sludgy monotonous riff, heavy as fuck. That’s the intro to the entire album Vol. 4. Coked up like there was no tomorrow, Sabbath gave us perhaps the heaviest album of them all. I love this record to bits, it’s just wonderful! Maybe I should be buried with it? Hm..."

5. Black Sabbath – Children Of The Grave (Master Of Reality, 1971)

"I get all sweaty just thinking about the riff to Children Of The Grave. Starting with the drums of war, and then it comes: Tony Iommi's guitar, burning the riff into your brain! It’s totally impossible to play this song on low volume on the stereo. The Gods of Doom compel you to crank it up!"

4. Black Sabbath – Into The Void (Master Of Reality, 1971)

"Sloooowwww and heavy. A true masterclass in what heavy truly means. 'We deliver Doom to you - now!'"

3. Black Sabbath – Symptom Of The Universe (Sabotage, 1975)

"Very angry, very metal! That riff and that song is a like getting a lead boot right between the eyes."

2. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath, 1970)

"And the metal riff was born. So evil it's Satanic! Black Sabbath still gives me chills running down the spine. Dark, pentatonic and sublime. The most classic of all classic riffs in the world, ever."

1. Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, 1973)

"This is it. A total monster... A beast! The main riff is simple but so efficient. The entire song is a riff-party, and it gets heavier and heavier until we’re hit with the final riff, and that one is totally unreal. Like being pressed down through the asphalt by heavy machinery. Incredible!"

Candlemass’ new album, Sweet Evil Sun, is released on November 18

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.