Metal guitarists say that Black Sabbath’s Symptom Of The Universe riff is the greatest of all time

(Image credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Some of metal’s top guitarists have voted the riff from Black Sabbath’s 1975 track Symptom of The Universe as the greatest of all time. Tony Iommi’s monster lick topped a list of 50 riffs that was compiled by Metal Hammer magazine.

Frequently cited as a pivotal moment in the development of thrash metal, Symptom Of The Universe is taken from Black Sabbath’s 1975 album Sabotage.

Reflecting on his riff-writing philosophy, Iommi told Metal Hammer: “I would always try to come up with more and more inventive ideas - different tunings, changing the amps, just fiddling about with the guitars really.

“I would constantly be trying to improve things and change things. I didn’t really listen to other people, just in case I started playing someone else’s riff by mistake.”

Speaking to MusicRadar last year, Iommi recalled that coming up with a great riff was only half the battle; you also had to make sure that you didn’t forget it.

“You had to remember riffs back in the old days,” he said. “When we did get a tape machine it was a big reel to reel but in the early days we’d have to keep playing the same thing so we’d remember it, because you’d forget. We’d rehearse again the next day and everyone would come in. You’d ask, ‘Does everyone remember it?’ ‘I think so…’ and you’d have to try and drum it into yourself but you might play it slightly differently.”

The full list of the 50 greatest riffs is published in the new issue of Metal Hammer, which is on sale now.  

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.