Tony Iommi Vs. Rudolph Schenker: Who’s the True Lord of the Riff?

They’re both known as the masters of the riff.  Both bands they’ve founded, Black Sabbath and The Scorpions, have more addictive riffs than the members of each band can remember.  So it’s natural to wonder:  Who is the true lord of the riff?  Is it the dark god Tony Iommi or the slick sharpness of Rudolph Schenker?  I think the first instinct answer is to say Tony Iommi.  Simply because of legendary songs like ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Black Sabbath’.  But then again, how legendary is ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ and ‘No One Like You’?  It’s a tough call, but someone’s gotta do it.

Honestly, I’m split.  If I was only comparing the Ozzy era Sabbath to the Scorpions I would say The Scorps run away with it.  The riffs just aren’t as consistent on the Sabbath end of the spectrum when it comes to that era.  However, there are several eras of Black Sabbath, each of them churning out catchy riffs and rhythms.  If we’re talking specifically riffs, the Dio and Martin eras of Sabbath may take the reigns over The Scorpions.  When you factor in albums such as ‘The Mob Rules’, ‘The Headless Cross’ and ‘Cross Purposes’, you’ve got some stiff riff competition going on.

But then again, even with those eras factored in, you’ve still got ‘Blackout’, ‘Love At First Sting’, ‘Savage Amusement’, ‘Crazy World’ and ‘Face the Heat’.  The latter two of which contain some of the greatest riffs ever written.  Even if ‘Face the Heat’ doesn’t get the recognition as say ‘Love at First Sting’.  But tracks like ‘Alien Nation’, ‘Unholy Alliance’, ‘Ship of Fools’ and ‘Someone to Touch’ are as solid as any of the Sabbath greats.  It’s too bad that they don’t play any songs from that record.  It’s one of the best metal albums out there.

But is it great enough to be greater than Sabbath?  Well, I think so.  Don’t get me wrong, Iommi is a riff machine.  And it’s really a shame that his 80’s work from ‘Seventh Star’ through ’94’s ‘Cross Purposes’ goes overlooked in the United States.  Because that’s where, in my opinion, the riff competition is.  But Sabbath aren’t as consistent as The Scorpions.  And what we’re going for here is consistency.  Since 1979’s ‘Lovedrive’, The Scorpions are one riff after another.  Black Sabbath can’t claim that statement when talking about their 70’s output.  Maybe The Scorpions can’t either, since they were still trying to find what their true sound is.  But once they figured out what The Scorpions sound was, there was no going back.  And there’s just riff after riff, album after album of incredible riffs.  Again, in many ways, the same can be said for Black Sabbath.  But it’s just not as consistent.  Here’s to hoping though, that Iommi remasters the Martin era albums, making them available once more.

But the winner is by a nano-second… Rudolph Schenker.

It doesn’t get better than this riff.

But there’s some tough competition

And then there’s the classics.

But it’s hard to beat the iconic vibes of ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’.  Sometimes there’s a reason a song is one of the most recognizable in all of rock.  Or really any popular genre for that matter.

So you do you prefer?  The darkness of Tony Iommi, or the sharpness of Rudolph Schenker?


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