Review Summary: Ozzy WHO?
Even the greatest haters of Ozzy Osbourne will have to admit one thing: the work Black Sabbath created in the 70’s fronted by the Prince of Darkness has never been topped in terms of creativity, influence and whatnot. Paranoid
still stands as one of the finest heavy metal albums of all time. But things had gotten out of hand with Ozzy, and the original Sabbath was no more. Their latest records Technical Ecstasy
and Never Say Die!
were disappointing to say the least. Sabbath sounded tired and uninspired. No singer could possibly step in to save them from utter doom and despair.
But then we got the tiny man with the tall voice: Ronald James Padanova, better known to the world as Ronnie James Dio. Known for his work with Elf
, and more so, Rainbow
, he seemed a rather unlikely candidate for Sabbath; Osbourne’s eerie, off-key performances were quite the opposite of the voice emboweling pure might (and magic), let alone technical ability. The question was: would Ronnie actually work
As the new music proved, Dio was giving the band exactly what it needed: a new, fresh direction to pull it out of its creative misery. A new decade was home to a new start. The group’s ninth album, Heaven and Hell
, was not just great. It was the very best since the band’s prime that ended with Master of Reality
. Dio is the basis of why this became possible. His fantastical lyrics (he took over penning songs from Butler at this point) were different, but still suited the band’s early image, and his voice gave new possibilities. Dio could impress vocally, and while earlier records focused heavily on the dense guitar work of Iommi and Butler, the vocals were now really a big part of the experience.
"They were totally different altogether. Not only voice-wise, but attitude-wise. Ozzy was a great showman, but when Dio came in, it was a different attitude, a different voice and a different musical approach, as far as vocals. Dio would sing across the riff, whereas Ozzy would follow the riff, like in "Iron Man". Ronnie came in and gave us another angle on writing."
~ Tony Iommi
The three original members fittingly adapted their sound. No longer was Sabbath a sludgy, doomy monster that played slow and dark tunes. The leads were still vintage Iommi, and yet played with an energy and more upbeat feeling that had previously been impossible for the band. From the moment the opening to Neon Knights
kicked in, everyone knew this was a very different Sabbath. But it was a brilliant Sabbath. The riffs are pumping, the bass is a prominent support (we’re talking Geezer Butler here, after all), and Ward’s trademark drum fills have made a triumphant return. On sings Dio, across the riff indeed, as he mightily commands the protectors of the realm to ride out, and beckons the captains to sail across the seas of light.
Heaven and Hell
is a record that sounds vigorous. And while credit is obviously mostly given to that new, revived Sabbath, we have a legendary heavy metal producer on board. Thanked must be Martin Birch (also known for his work with Deep Purple
and Iron Maiden
, among others), who does a tremendous job as usual. Heaven and Hell
was the clearest-sounding Sabbath record thus far, and that perfectly worked with the group’s new sound.
Despite it being a somewhat short experience, everything on this album is grade A-material. The epic title track, featuring one of Dio’s finest performances and one of Iommi’s finest solo’s in both their careers, the mystic Children of the Sea
, the oh-so-cheesy but nevertheless oh-so-enjoyable Lady Evil
, the fitting finale Lonely is the Word
, it’s top-notch from beginning to end. The length is not even an issue, since a longer album would have only made it repetitive despite the strength of the material. Everything is just in its right place here.
Heaven and Hell
was not just a magnificent comeback. It was also the birth of a brand new Sabbath, and even stands as one of the finest efforts the group has ever put out, surpassing even some of the excellent albums in their first era. that
, truly, is one great achievement. Ronnie James Dio had given a band new hope and new inspiration, and he came around at the precise right time. Of course, Black Sabbath would never be the same again without Ozzy. Listening to Heaven and Hell
, that isn’t a bad thing at all.
Heaven and Hell’s Black Sabbath was:
- Frank Anthony ‘Tony’ Iommi ~ Guitar
- Ronald James ‘Ronnie Dio’ Padanova ~ Vocals
- Terrence Michael Joseph ‘Geezer’ Butler ~ Bass Guitar
- William Thomas ‘Bill’ Ward ~ Drums
- Geoff Nicholls ~ Keyboards
Heaven and Hell
Lonely Is the Word
TO BE CONTINUED…