Review Summary: The Remastering job saves this box set. Other than that, the packaging is sub-par, especially considering how great The Ozzy-era Black Box is!
(I hate to do this but I have a) Disclaimer: I am not giving this box set a 3.5 based upon the music itself! Absolutely not! These albums are bloody essential to any metal head, and to also disregard these records due to somebody being an Ozzy purist is also painfully ignorant. Black Sabbath is usually always about Tony Iommi, and if the man could sing you bet your ass he would be the vocalist! With that being said, the music collectively is a solid 4.5, and at times is much more vicious than some of the Ozzy material.
I had the highest of hopes for this set. I had bought all of the Dio-Sabbath albums individually, and to find out that these collection of records were going to get the treatment the first albums with Ozzy got (The Black Box), I was, to say the least, ecstatic. Like everyone else that wasn’t there to see this rendition of Black Sabbath, I caught on many years later. I was already a (semi) fan of Ronnie James Dio, mainly his time with Rainbow. To single myself out, I had no idea that Dio even sang for the mighty Sabbath! Not until I got into metal, that is. So needless to say, when I heard that these albums existed, I got into my crappy 89 Toyota Camry, and ran to the mall and bought all four of these records in one shot. It was Heaven (and Hell) to my ears. This was a completely different monster than the Black Sabbath that I was used to, and I wholly welcomed the change.
I would like to give props and praise to Tyler Patrick Munro (aka Cocaine) for his review on Heaven and Hell
and to Krusty85 for his review on Mob Rules
. They both truly caught the essence of those albums, and nobody could have said it better than them. So needless to say, I wont review the albums, but I will touch upon the remastering jobs these records were given. Heaven and Hell's remastering job was done well, but "Neon Knights" sounds a bit too compressed when it first kicks in. However, that is a really small complaint since the rest of the album sounds so much better. Now, I always enjoyed the quality of how H&H was recorded, as every member sounds crystal clear. Here, it's more in your face, and on head phones you can hear some of the members breathing! Yes, I’m serious. I would also like to say that H&H stands as one of the finest Sabbath records, and blows the last two Ozzy albums out of the water (which is huge since I love Technical Ecstacy and Never Say Die wholeheartedly, so imagine how I feel about this album).
The Mob Rules
remastering job isn’t of too much significance, as it is just primarily louder than the regular edition. My only quarrel with this LP is Vinnie Appice. Since I’m a drummer myself, I feel as though Appice's drumming on this album is a bit bland. I guess you could say I was so used to Bill Ward's busy style of drumming. Vinnie Appice doesn't stick out, and his "meat and potato" style didn’t really fit with the gnarly performances of all of the other members. But needless to say, The Mob Rules is one fantastic metal release, if only a little weaker than Heaven and Hell.
Now if you don't know the back story about Live Evil
, Wikipedia will gladly help you with that. A decent live album at best, the remastering here REALLY saves it. It's also highly interesting to hear Dio sing some of the Ozzy staples, and Dio really stands out on "N.I.B." Usually with live albums, the energy is key to the enjoyment. But with this particular live album, the energy is pretty much sucked out, and the overdubs are painfully obvious. Geezer once called this "Live in the studio Evil", and boy is he right. But like I said earlier on, the remastering saves this a whole bunch, despite my beefs with it.
The album with the best remastering treatment and also the most underrated of the Dio-era is the brutal Dehumanizer
. Since this was released in 1992, you could say that it was unnecessary to remaster it. BUT, Dehumanizer absolutely smokes if played loud! Now I said before that I was bit disappointed with Appice's performance on Mob Rules, but not here. In short: Appice sounds incredible, and it sounds like his drums were completely made of metal which fits the beast of an album well.
The package itself is a pull-out compartment, and it's cheaply made. With the Ozzy era box, we got an 80+ page book, digipak-style cd cases, and, The Rules of Hell
is such a let-down since we get jewel cases that are not individually wrapped. So in saying that, the cases have minor scratches when you first open the box to see the contents inside! To me, that’s inexcusable since the The Black Box was such a lovely addition. The booklets for the cds themselves have some semi-interesting liner notes but nothing already said, and there are barely any insightful facts. Also absent is commentary from Bill Ward on his performance on Heaven and Hell. We also get no new pictures from these eras. Since the Ozzy box was of such quality, why is The Rules of Hell such a let-down? I see two reasons. The first reason is the obvious reformation of this version of Sabbath, and looks good to have another box set to go with the first. The second is an obvious "Cash Grab" and since It's clearly that (to me), it wasn't thought out, and it suffers. I know that Iommi, Dio, and Butler MUST have some goodies from this time period, so why not throw it in there? It’s astounding to see how rushed the overall package is.
Another thing that is clearly annoying is that I recently heard that these albums were going to be re-released individually anyway! Since these are going to be re-released, why didn’t the Black Box remastered cds get released individually as well? To me, it seems that Iommi and co. are trying to milk this rekindled interest from everybody as much as they can, and that really sucks. When I buy a Black Sabbath album, the quality is (almost) guaranteed. But with this box set, I was very displeased. If you are at all interested in this, wait for the albums to be released individually, as you might save a buck or two in the long run. For a whopping Sixty dollars that I paid, I almost returned it, but did not since the remastering is very well-done. Since this box set is essential to any Dio fan or Sabbath fan, go ahead and buy it for the sound quality. For the rest, torrents can be your friend. Regardless, this version of Black Sabbath is a beast, and Id recommend it to anybody in a New York minute. But with this box set, the bigger fans should only be interested, and even then you feel a bit let down.