So much of what we listen to today can be traced back to Black Sabbath. Distorted guitars, heavy power chord riffs, evil-sounding melody lines – Sabbath assimilated many disparate ideas into a cohesive sound that was undeniably theirs. Sabbath were and are, understandably, with the “civilian” crowd but they’ve always been incredibly influential to other musicians, too.

For evidence of this, just look to the Nativity In Black albums released in 1994 and 2000. These two CDs brought together some of the biggest names in metal in their respective times to cover Black Sabbath songs, and although they were released a relatively short six years apart, they reveal as much about the eras they were recorded in as they do the domineering influence of Sabbath.

Nativity In Black (1994) features 13 tracks: “After Forever” (Biohazard), “Children of the Grave” (White Zombie), “Paranoid” (Megadeth), “Supernaut” (1000 Homo DJs), “Iron Man” (Ozzy Osbourne with Therapy?), “Lord of this World” (Corrosion of Conformity), “Symptom of the Universe” (Sepultura), “The Wizard” (Bullring Brummies), “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” (Bruce Dickinson with Godspeed), “N.I.B.” (Ugly Kid Joe), “War Pigs” (Faith No More), “Black Sabbath” (Type O Negative) and “Solitude” (Cathedral).

Nativity In Black II (2004) includes takes on “Sweet Leaf” (Godsmack), “Hole in the Sky” (Machine Head), “Behind the Wall of Sleep” (Static-X), “Never Say Die” (Megadeth), “Snowblind” (System of a Down), “Electric Funeral” (Pantera), “N.I.B.” (Primus with Ozzy), “Hand of Doom” (Slayer), “Under the Sun” (Soulfly), “Sabbra Cadabra” (Hed PE), “Into the Void” (Monster Magnet) and “Iron Man (This Means War)” (Busta Rhymes featuring Ozzy Osbourne).

Comparing the two releases reveals some interesting contrasts. For instance:

Both albums feature versions of three of the band’s most enduring classics: “Iron Man,” “N.I.B.” and “Paranoid,” and on each album, Ozzy pairs up with a different act to reproduce one of these songs.

Megadeth is the only band to feature on both releases, playing the title tracks of Sabbath’s most well-known album (Paranoid) on the earlier album and perhaps their least-known (Never Say Die) on the latter.

Max Cavalera appears on both albums – as a member of Sepultura on the first album to cover the Sabotage classic “Symptom of the Universe,” and on the latter with his post-Seps band Soulfly to perform the Vol. 4 deep cut “Under the Sun.”

Ugly Kid Joe performed “N.I.B.” on the first album. Their drummer Shannon Larkin would go on to join Godsmack in 2002, two years after that band opened the second Nativity In Black album with “Sweet Leaf.”

Some other Nativity In Black trivia:

Faith No More’s live cover of “War Pigs” is taken from their Live at the Brixton Academy album. Two years after Nativity In Black was released, Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band, and he remained Ozzy’s drummer (with a few exceptions) for the best part of 14 years.

1000 Homo DJs is an industrial supergroup including members of Ministry (Al Jourgensen, Mike Scaccia), Dead Kennedys (Jello Biafra) and Nine Inch Nails (William Rieflin). NIN’s Trent Reznor also contributed vocals to the band’s cover of “Supernaut,” but his then-label TVT Records refused to allow that version’s release. However there are rumors that Reznor’s vocals are still on the Nativity In Black version, but simply run through some kind of distortion or fuzz box to mask his identity.

The band Bullring Brummies, who perform “The Wizard” on the first album, features Sabbath members Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford and his Fight bandmate Brian Tilse, Obsessed guitarist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, and harmonica player Jimmy Wood (Megadeth’s “Train of Consequences”). According to music journalist Martin Popoff’s Black Sabbath FAQ, this song was originally intended as a full original Black Sabbath reunion, with Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne recording their parts, but label politics intervened.

Finally, the album’s title is a play on a long-held mistaken belief of what the initials “N.I.B.” stands for. But as Tony Iommi explains in the documentary The Black Sabbath Story Volume 1, the song’s title simply came from the fact that Bill Ward’s beard looked like a pen nib!

Key Nativity In Black tracks:

“The Wizard” – Bullring Brummies

“Black Sabbath” – Type O Negative

“Supernaut” – 1000 Homo DJs

“Sweet Leaf” – Godsmack

“Snowblind” – System of a Down