Black Sabbath VS Led Zeppelin

Comparing the two giants of early hard rock and heavy metal.

The Sabbath versus Zeppelin debate has been going on since the two bands first exploded onto radios and record players in the 1970s. While I must admit that the question comes down to a matter of personal taste, by breaking down some specific aspects of the bands and their music I can perhaps reveal which group was most indispensable to rock music.

In the Beginning

While Black Sabbath was founded by four lower working class kids hoping to escape a life of factory servitude, Led Zeppelin was considered somewhat of a supergroup at the time of it’s conception, its members having been successful in earlier musical endeavors to varying degrees. Tony, Ozzy, Geezer and Bill had to struggle their way into a musical career, while the success of Jimmy, Robert and both Johns was nearly a foregone conclusion. Though the talent of both bands ultimately made them legends, Black Sabbath had to rely entirely on their music and abilities to even get that chance. And not only did they have to overcome that early disadvantage, they didn’t sell records or tickets on the strength of crotch-bulging bell bottoms. Hell, Tony had missing fingertips and a moustache/mullet combo holding him back, and still Sabbath prevailed.

Point: Black Sabbath

The Music

Both groups began with similar musical roots, playing blues-based rock music during its height in the late 1960s But where Black Sabbath created something new and unique from those roots, Led Zeppelin essentially stuck to that formula for much of their career, while sometimes incorporating other kinds of roots music before veering off into prog rock territory on the last few albums. Led Zeppelin always built on what others had created before them, and while they did it with amazing ability, they were not mavericks in the way that Black Sabbath were. While Tony was writing riffs that inspired and defined heavy metal music for decades to come, Led Zeppelin were paving the way for the hair bands of the 1980s and formulaic rock like Greta Van Fleet.

Point: Black Sabbath

The Message

While Ozzy and Geezer were penning lyrics about religion, war and plumbing the depths of human psychology – Robert Plant was singing about hobbits and fucking. Sometimes simultaneously, probably. And while there are a few hints of misogyny in the Sabbath lyrical oeuvre, reading the lyric sheets in a Led Zeppelin album is like reading a manifesto of male superiority and entitlement. Objectifying women is not just a central lyrical theme of Led Zeppelin, but their offstage antics also suggested a similar attitude and lifestyle, having even once shoved a fish in a fan’s vagina. Though Ozzy may have been belting about being ‘paranoid’ without really knowing what that word meant, Led Zeppelin were pioneering the Louis CK roles of the #MeToo movement.

Point: Black Sabbath

The Players

Without indicting John Paul Jones, who was probably the most reasonable person in Led Zeppelin, Plant, Page and Bonham were caricatures of excess and vanity. They came to define the sort of malignant celebrity personality that punk rock formed as a response to. On top of this they took on massive pretensions that were powered by their interest in pop occultism and children’s books, feigning their superiority from very questionable intellectual pursuits. In interviews they were self-aggrandizing and cocky, and their reputation for maintaining bloated egos has not waned in all the years since their demise. Alternately, Black Sabbath were humble goofballs that rarely gave even a hint of the kind of narcissism Jimmy Page probably displays in his sleep. Meanwhile Ozzy has become one of the most famous musicians in rock history and still makes self-deprecating statements in almost every interview he ever appears in.

Point: Black Sabbath

The Aftermath

Okay, name the first two recording projects of the surviving members of Led Zeppelin after John Bonham’s untimely, tragic death. I will wait while you go and look it up. When Sabbath split with Ozzy, they made two more epic albums with Dio, and then a bunch of other music that some people like. Ozzy became Ozzy, enough said. Plant and Page got back together in the mid-1990s to repackage some of their old tunes with new instrumentation, once again appropriating styles from other genres, and then played a few Led Zeppelin reunion shows in the 21st century to remind consumers they still have merch for sale. Black Sabbath returned to the studio in the dawn of their twilight years and wrote and recorded ’13’, which was an amazing return to form after more than 40 years. And even though John Paul Jones was part of the brilliant Them Crooked Vulture project, Robert Plant makes crappy bluegrass albums to prove he is a serious musician, while Jimmy Page supervises the maids polishing his gold records and Baphomet statues by waving a fish threateningly.

Point: Black Sabbath


There is no doubt that both bands were enormously talented, wrote timeless compositions and deserve their position of worship and praise in the pantheon of Rock Gods. Like every white boy, I grew up a huge fan of Led Zeppelin. I even lost my weed virginity while listening to Kashmir from the Page/Plant album. However as an adult I have grown serious concerns over what Led Zeppelin stands for, which is excess, misogyny and vanity. I have far less trouble justifying to myself why I still think ‘A National Acrobat’ should be the national anthem.

If Led Zeppelin had never existed, any of the other white boy stadium blues rock bands would have filled their shoes. I actually prefer Bad Company. However without Black Sabbath rock music as we know it since might not exist. No matter how much you like Led Zeppelin, if you think that they are the better band, you are just wrong. And probably stupid. Or maybe just dazed and confused.



2 thoughts on “Black Sabbath VS Led Zeppelin

  1. I completely agree. I heard Led Zeppelin all the time growing up as a young teenager and rarely heard any Black Sabbath. Now that I am much older and open to other bands, I started listening to Black Sabbath and bought four of their vinyl albums. I can’t stop listening to them. They are far better than led Zeppelin in every way. Ozzy doesn’t scream, Bill Ward is every bit as good of a drummer as John Bonham, Geezer is as good if not better than Jones and Tony is absolutely amazing. You don’t see anyone accusing Sabbath of stealing songs like Zeppelin.

    Listen to Supernaut by Sabbath, I truly believe this is song is one of the best ever heavy metal songs.

    A new Sabbath fan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You lucky sumabitch! Wish I could take all that in fresh. Also, ignore the shade, the last two albums with Ozzy are great. Especially NSD.


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