Gallery: Tony Iommi's influence

24th Dec 2010 | 05:23

Gallery: Tony Iommi's influence
Let There Be Metal, Saith Iommi!

Bow down and worship at the altar of Uncle Tony Iommi, the godfather of the heavy metal guitar and the single most influential metal axeman that ever applied pick to string in anger.

Every metal guitarist owes a greater or lesser debt to the great Black Sabbath/Heaven And Hell founder, and here TG places him in a chain of inspiration that leads from the mid 20th century to the modern era.

This gallery of riffage has been assembled for us by Joel McIver, whose books ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ and ‘The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists’ make him the ideal man for the job. It all starts with a legendary player who you may not be expecting…

Total Guitar issue 210 (originally on sale 24 December - 20 January) featured Tony Iommi on the cover and contained 11-pages of Iommi coverage, including an in-depth interview and a complete tab of 'Planet Caravan'.

Gallery: Tony Iommi's influence
Django Reinhardt

Django Reinhardt

Main years active: 1928-1953

Sure, the late, unbelievably great Django was jamming away in the sky 20 years before heavy metal was even thought of, but his influence on the scene is incalculable. Why so, you ask? Well, when the teenage Iommi chopped off two fingertips in an industrial accident, he assumed that his playing career was over – until a buddy told him about Django, who shredded like a demon even though two of his fretting hand fingers had been paralysed in a fire. Inspired, Iommi fitted plastic caps on his knacked fingers, down-tuned his guitar for ease of playing – and accidentally invented heavy metal. Respect the Reinhardt!

Hot Club de France ‘J’Attendrai Swing’

Total Guitar issue 210 (originally on sale 24 December - 20 January) featured Tony Iommi on the cover and contained 11-pages of Iommi coverage, including an in-depth interview and a complete tab of 'Planet Caravan'.

Gallery: Tony Iommi's influence
Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath, Heaven And Hell)

Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath, Heaven And Hell)

Main years active: 1970 to date

With his playing given renewed inspiration by the example of Django Reinhardt, Iommi spent the late 60s refining a taut, choppy style that – despite the relatively primitive effects and amplifier technology of the day – was still heavier than anyone before him. By the time Black Sabbath were up and running in 1970, Iommi was writing music that literally had never been heard before. Just as Jimi Hendrix had pioneered the art of overdriven lead guitar a couple of years before, Iommi had all the as-yet-unwritten riffs in the world to play with, such as the immortal ‘War Pigs’.

Black Sabbath ‘War Pigs’

Total Guitar issue 210 (originally on sale 24 December - 20 January) featured Tony Iommi on the cover and contained 11-pages of Iommi coverage, including an in-depth interview and a complete tab of 'Planet Caravan'.

Gallery: Tony Iommi's influence
KK Downing (Judas Priest)

KK Downing (Judas Priest)

Main years active: 1974 to date

While Judas Priest often labelled themselves the world’s first heavy metal band (as Sabbath incorporated some blues and rock into their sound), Iommi’s influence on the two Priest guitarists’ style was obvious. Both KK Downing and Glen Tipton used a warm, bluesy tone on their earlier records, with rhythms anchored by staccato downstrokes from the drawer marked ‘Paranoid’. Later on, the two axemen focused on a duelling style that the one-guitar Sabbath obviously couldn’t replicate, and KK and Glen incorporated techniques such as sweep picking that Iommi rarely (if ever) used, but there’s no denying that he cast a huge shadow on the early Priest albums.

Judas Priest ‘Victim Of Changes’

Total Guitar issue 210 (originally on sale 24 December - 20 January) featured Tony Iommi on the cover and contained 11-pages of Iommi coverage, including an in-depth interview and a complete tab of 'Planet Caravan'.

Gallery: Tony Iommi's influence
James Hetfield (Metallica)

James Hetfield (Metallica)

Main years active: 1981-1993

Readers of a certain age will recall 1991, when the San Franciscan thrash metal legends Metallica decided to take a deep breath, slow down and play heavy rather than fast. A generation of thrashers mourned, and continues to mourn, but it has to be admitted that the new, MTV-friendly ’Tallica had its moments – not least in the superb Sabbath homage ‘Sad But True’, one of the highlights of the planet-shafting Black Album. James Hetfield’s millimetrically perfect downstrokes, coupled with a strutting groove and a very Iommi-like down tuning to straight D made ‘Sad But True’ one of the biggest, most crushing songs Metallica ever recorded.

Metallica ‘Sad But True’

Total Guitar issue 210 (originally on sale 24 December - 20 January) featured Tony Iommi on the cover and contained 11-pages of Iommi coverage, including an in-depth interview and a complete tab of 'Planet Caravan'.

Gallery: Tony Iommi's influence
Kerry King (Slayer)

Kerry King (Slayer)

Main years active: 1983 to date

Slayer are best known for insanely fast thrash metal albums such as ‘Reign In Blood’ (1986), but at times even their nippiest songs included a slow groove that nodded directly towards vintage-era Sabbath. Occasionally, the primary songwriter, Kerry King, even penned a fully slow-and-heavy song that owed most of its sound to the template established by Iommi two decades before. One example is ‘Gemini’, which appeared on the otherwise regrettable ‘Undisputed Attitude’ album in 1996: the song stood out among the tepid punk covers on the rest of the record thanks to its vast opening riff, courtesy of King’s first ever seven-string BC Rich.

Slayer ‘Gemini’

Total Guitar issue 210 (originally on sale 24 December - 20 January) featured Tony Iommi on the cover and contained 11-pages of Iommi coverage, including an in-depth interview and a complete tab of 'Planet Caravan'.

Gallery: Tony Iommi's influence
Jim Martin (Faith No More)

Jim Martin (Faith No More)

Main years active: 1985-1993

Yes, we do mean the bearded legend from ‘Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey’, but bear with us for a minute. Jim Martin may have played a variety of guitar styles in his time with Faith No More, The Officially Greatest Band That Ever Lived™, but when he was in a metal mood he played his Gibson Flying V with a crushing commitment that rivalled any of FNM’s contemporaries on the 1980s metal scene. ‘Surprise! You’re Dead!’ is a particularly uncompromising example, and it’s no surprise that its parent album – 1989’s ‘The Real Thing’ – also featured a cover of Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’.

Faith No More ‘Surprise! You’re Dead!’

Total Guitar issue 210 (originally on sale 24 December - 20 January) featured Tony Iommi on the cover and contained 11-pages of Iommi coverage, including an in-depth interview and a complete tab of 'Planet Caravan'.

Gallery: Tony Iommi's influence
Josh Homme (Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age)

Josh Homme (Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age)

Main years active: 1988-1995

Nowadays, Josh Homme struts the stage with arch rockers Queens Of The Stone Age, but a few years back he was a key member of The Second Officially Greatest Band That Ever Lived™, Kyuss. Jamming the nights away in the Coachella desert, California, the band evolved a massively heavy but melodic sound that owed much to Sabbath (although Homme always insisted that he’d never heard the Sabs until much later on). This song, from the awe-inspiring ‘Welcome To Sky Valley’ (1994), shows what happens when you tune down to C#, neck a bunch of peyote and leave civilisation behind.

Kyuss ‘Gardenia’

Total Guitar issue 210 (originally on sale 24 December - 20 January) featured Tony Iommi on the cover and contained 11-pages of Iommi coverage, including an in-depth interview and a complete tab of 'Planet Caravan'.

Gallery: Tony Iommi's influence
Darrell 'Dimebag' Abbott (Pantera, Damageplan)

Darrell ‘Dimebag’ Abbott (Pantera, Damageplan)

Main years active: 1985-2004

Even if you discounted Pantera’s ace 1994 cover of Sabbath’s ‘Planet Caravan’, you’d still see signs of Iommi’s influence all over Dimebag’s playing. Check his beautiful, melodic solos; his almost painfully accurate downstrokes, as in ‘Walk’ and dozens of other Pantera songs; his commitment to the heaviest sound possible; and perhaps most of all, the huge presence in the mix of the rhythm guitars. Interestingly, Dime appeared to be moving towards a looser, more relaxed picking style with his last band, Damageplan, but we’ll never know where he would have gone with it because he was murdered in 2004.

Pantera ‘Walk’

Total Guitar issue 210 (originally on sale 24 December - 20 January) featured Tony Iommi on the cover and contained 11-pages of Iommi coverage, including an in-depth interview and a complete tab of 'Planet Caravan'.

Gallery: Tony Iommi's influence
Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society, ex-Ozzy Osbourne)

Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society, ex-Ozzy Osbourne)

Main years active: 1965-1989 to date

We’ve looked at how immense Tony Iommi’s riffs are, but perhaps we’ve neglected his world-class soloing a bit. Sorry, Tony. Let’s redress this by taking a long hard look at one of the most accomplished lead guitarists playing today, Zakk Wylde. Now, Zakk is a man with more knowledge of Iommi’s guitar playing than most people, having spent over 20 years as a member of Ozzy Osbourne’s band, in which he regularly played Sabbath songs. A key feature of both Zakk’s and Tony’s guitar technique is their ridiculously advanced alternate picking, gained after literally decades of practice. Think you can do it too? Watch this…

Zakk Wylde ‘2002 Solo’

Total Guitar issue 210 (originally on sale 24 December - 20 January) featured Tony Iommi on the cover and contained 11-pages of Iommi coverage, including an in-depth interview and a complete tab of 'Planet Caravan'.

Gallery: Tony Iommi's influence
Matt Pike (High On Fire)

Matt Pike (High On Fire)

Main years active: 1998 to date

Wait – we’re on the last page already, and we haven’t even looked at doom metal and stoner rock? Well, that’s what happens when you’re writing about a guy who’s been playing the guitar for almost 50 years. In that case, let’s raise a glass to High On Fire, one of the more dynamic stoner-doom-rockers of the last decade or so. Their most recent album, ‘Snakes For The Divine’, produced this tasty single, based on a full-fat guitar riff that has ‘Borrowed From Tony’ stamped all over it.

It only remains to doff a hat to Iommi, who inspired all this lot and hundreds of others. Long may he reign.

High On Fire ‘Frost Hammer’

More Tony Iommi features

Total Guitar issue 210 (originally on sale 24 December - 20 January) featured Tony Iommi on the cover and contained 11-pages of Iommi coverage, including an in-depth interview and a complete tab of 'Planet Caravan'.

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