Metal Hammer Says This Is the Greatest Riff of All Time


What’s the greatest riff of all time? How the crap do you even begin to contemplate such a question? It’s easy to think of riffs that are incredibly famous — “Satisfaction,” “Iron Man,” “Smoke on the Water,” “Back in Black,” “Enter Sandman,” “Walk,” etc., etc. — but the greatest? Sheesh. Even just picking my favorites would require a few months of being completely neurotic and endlessly obsessing over potential selections.

But Metal Hammer, braver than I, have made such an assertion, and while its creator may not surprise you, the riff itself might: it’s Black Sabbath’s “Symptom of the Universe,” from 1975’s Sabotage.

Metal Hammer Says This Is the Greatest Riff of All Time

Great song. Great riff. The greatest riff of ALL TIME? I don’t think it’s even it’s the greatest riff of Tony Iommi’s career. Just my two cents.

So how did Metal Hammer come to this conclusion? The magazine says they “asked some of metal’s most proficient players to name their favourite riffs,” but a) other than Zeal & Ardor’s Manuel Gagneux, we don’t know who was on that selection committee, and b) it’s not clear how the fifty-person panel’s answers were used to deduce this particular riff (Was it a poll? Was voting weighted? Did the editors just take everyone’s answers and put them in an order of which they personally approved?). Not that there’s, like, some scientific manner by which one could actually determine the greatest riff of all time. But I’d still be curious to know a little bit more about the process.

Meanwhile, they got this comment about the riff from Mr. Iommi himself:

“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.”

I think it’s worth noting, by the way, that Iommi kinda ripped himself off almost twenty years later, on the song “Time Machine”:

So… what do you folks think? Is “Symptom” the greatest riff of all time? And if not, what is? Head to the comments section to needlessly argue! It’s fun!!!

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