Review Summary: Even though I did not deem it worthy of full marks, I do deem it as a classic of metal, and a must-buy.
The year was 1980, and at the time, Ozzy Osbourne was out of a job. His duties as Black Sabbath's vocalist were no more, and it had been like this for almost two years. The remaining Sabbath members needed a vocalist, and they needed someone worthy for the job. Enter Ronnie James Dio. The man's resume was perfect. He had worked with some of the greats, including Ritchie Blackmore, and not only that, but he had a perfect voice. So, Dio was given the role as vocalist of Black Sabbath, and him, along with the other three Sabbath members, recorded what is regarded as their last, truly great album: Heaven And Hell
Before listening, I had had very low expectations. Sure, Dio was cool, but no one can be better than the Prince of Darkness, am I right? This Sabbath is not quite of the same quality as the earlier Sabbath albums, like Paranoid and Master Of Reality, but do not get me wrong, this is a superb album. It showcases every band member at their best. I suppose they had to be doing their best, considering the band's two albums prior to this one had not only failed in sales, but they had bombed with critics as well. The band had to redeem themselves, and they succeeded in doing so. Like I mentioned before, this was the entire band doing their absolute best. Tony Iommi was playing some of the best riffs in the band's history. From the start of the opener, Neon Knights, you knew that this would rock. Wishing Well and Lady Evil also showcased some of the most impressive solos and riffs. And not only was Iommi's guitar playing most impressive, but Geezer Butler really played that bass of his very well. Not only does Iommi play well on Wishing Well, but Geezer does too. There are many metal albums that are dominated by guitar, and guitar only. One of these albums is ...And Justice For All
by Metallica. Solos a-plenty? Yes, of course. Jason's bass? Noticeable, but not as noticeable as the bass of Cliff Burton. My point? Many metal bands and albums tend to make the bass player seem like the least important member of the group. But this is not so on Heaven and Hell. Butler's talented bass playing is very noticeable, and it goes right along with the guitar. Bill Ward's drumming is solid as well, but his playing on the sticks is not as impressive as the other two instrument players and them playing their instruments. But it doesn't matter. The musicianship on this album is superb all the way through.
Every song on this album has at least something going for it, but I have my favorites from any album, and these are what they are. First of all, Neon Knights
, which is the opener, is a fast, heavy, and energetic rocker that made me know that this album would rock. Everything from the riffs to the vocals is impressive. It is one of the catchiest tracks on here as well. The beginning bassline is one of the reasons why Geezer Butler's work here is impressive. Dio begins to sing about things involved with fantasy, such as "Dragons and kings...". The track coming after it is a highlight as well, mainly because of its stellar introduction. Children Of The Sea
is a cry against pollution, but judging by its title, it could easily make one think of fantasy related things, as this is one of the things Dio is associated with. Iommi plays a wonderful acoustic riff, and then Ronnie begins to sing:
"In the misty morning,
On the edge of time,
We've lost the rising sun,
A final sign.
As the misty morning,
rolls away to die,
Reaching for the stars,
we blind the sky."
So it is quite easy to tell the song's meaning. Anyway, afterwards, the heaviness kicks in, and the songs keeps on rolling, providing us with everything that rocked about the first song. This would have been a spectacular introduction to the album, as having an acoustic intro song to open up an album is a splendid way to draw people in. Just look at Ride The Lightning
or Master Of Puppets
. But the bassline of the real opener does a fine job of drawing one in too.
We continue to have more and more highlight songs, because every song has something going for it, as I said before. The only real track that doesn't hold up is Walk Away. On its own, the track is fine, but compared to everything else on here, it is certainly the weakest link. Do not get me wrong. I am certainly not saying that this is by any means a bad track. I am just saying that compared to everything else, it is the worst song. Nothing is distinctly weak about it, but you get what I mean.
Overall, I think Heaven And Hell
is a superb album. Let us go over everything, shall we? The vocals? Spectacular. Ronnie James Dio had a stunning voice then, and his voice is still in fine shape now, twenty-seven years later. He can reach low notes and high notes. His voice never once cracks or begins to go down in quality. He put one-hundred percent of his voice in to this album. The musicianship? Stellar. Tony Iommi is a very talented guitarist. His style is unique. For others to perfectly mimick his style, they might have to cut off some of their finger tips as well. He plays faster riffs on here than on some of the Ozzy albums, but he has no problem with it. Geezer Butler plays a mean bass on this too, and like I said before, the drumming is solid and goes with the music. The lyrics are more fantasy-ish, but there are still those doomish lyrics that every fan of the Ozzy-era Sabbath will love. So in conclusion, Heaven And Hell
is a must-buy for anyone who likes anything related to Ronnie James Dio, and many fans of the Ozzy-era will love this as well. A classic of heavy metal, indeed.