My name is Tyler, and I hate Ozzy Osbourne. I fail to see what's so appealing about the guy. I mean, first and foremost, he's a terrible singer. More often than not, he sings way off key and it's really, really excruciatingly bad. While he was one of the founding members of the
pioneering metal act, he was neither their primary lyricist (Geezer Butler) nor was he their primary songwriter (Tommy Iommi). And so while some people associate Ozzy as being the face of Black Sabbath
, I feel it's an unwarranted to put such prestige on a man who did so little. When your career as a musician was built upon those surrounding you, as well as senseless antics, I feel it's not something worthy of praise. I was never much of a Sabbath fan growing up, not that it's of any importance, I mean; I was born in 1988, too late to really be disgusted or happy about any change in vocalists. Therefore, with the combination of my lack of understanding for the appreciation of a sub-par vocalist, as well the fact I care not about "the face of Sabbath", I am quite the fan of 1980s Heaven and Hell
Despite a decline in record sales, many people were still hopeful that Black Sabbath could get their act together. Those hopes were, at least temporarily, cut short in 1979, when John "Ozzy" Osbourne was asked to leave the band. Was this the end of Black Sabbath? Their attempt at having drummer Bill Ward sing lead vocals was a total failure, and it would seem they had no place to go. That is, of course, until they recruited a singer who went by the name of Ronnie James Dio.
Unlike Ozzy, Ronnie James Dio, formerly of the bands Elf
, had a very powerful voice. Ronnie's vocal prowess allowed the vocals in Sabbath to be pushed further into the forefront, which was quite the change from the muddy, blended vocals of the Ozman. Dio's voice is not unlike that of Bruce Dickinson; while they sound virtually nothing alike, both singers have the same highly projected style of vocalising. The power coming from this tiny little man's body was, and still is very impressive. The addition of Ronnie wasn't limited to vocals, however, as he also undertook all of Geezer Butler's duties as lyricist.
Musically, the album speeds thing up, while still retaining the Sabbath sound. Producer Martin Birch managed to clean the band's sound up a bit as well, making every instrument perfectly audible without making it sound processed or fake. Heaven and Hell
is also the official debut of unofficial Sabbath keyboardist Geoff Nicholls, who was initially brought in to replace then departing bassist Geezer Butler, who obviously decided to remain with the band (though only for a short while). Geoff did, however, write the prominently awesome bassline in the album's title track. All the elements of classic Sabbath are present, with the exception of Ozzy of course; Iommi cracks out some excellent riffs, the drums are excellent and the bass has a pretty big part in carrying the songs along. While a major selling point is the addition of Ronnie James Dio's powerful vocals, the trademark guitar potency of Tommy Iommi remains integral the bands sound on the album.
It's no small feat to pick up stand-out points on such an all around amazing album. As I mentioned earlier, Sabbath somewhat sped things up on this release; things are a little faster, a little less sludgy, but they still retain the classic doomy feel. Neon Knights
opens the album sounding like a slightly faster rendition of Paranoid, while Heaven and Hell
is lesson in Doom 101. Complete with a slow plodding bassline and repetitive drumming, the album's title track is quite possibly the best thing Sabbath have ever done, in fact, I go so far as to say it's one of the best Doom Metal songs ever recorded. The way the song builds from an epic doomy sound to when it speeds up to Tommy Iommi's excellent soloing, finally fading out in a beautiful acoustic outro, is quite masterful. Children of the Sea
, perhaps the most lyrically ambitious track on the album, tells the story of a group of lost children, though, on a deeper level, has to do with humans in general getting ahead of themselves. Dio sings, "We sailed across the air before we learned to fly", and later relates that to children being lost at sea. The song is a slower, partially acoustic number, complete with excellent atmospheric keyboards that kick in just after Iommi's soloing at the 3:50 mark. When the acoustic passage re-enters, its all the more effective, a true testament to Iommi (and the band as a whole)'s songwriting ability. As a whole, many of the songs are slightly faster than earlier Sabbath, and to be honest, I'm surprised Bill Ward was able to keep up considering his consistently inebriated state. For those who don't know, Bill Ward has stated he actually has no recollection of ever recording this album, just so you get an idea of how trashed the guy was. The album features some of the, if not the best
guitar work ever heard from Tommy Iommi. The album, despite its length, is musically as close to perfect as one can come.
This album, in my honest opinion, is the best thing Black Sabbath has done. While some may argue the legitimacy of its release, claiming without Ozzy there is no Sabbath, I beg to differ. With the dark and cryptic lyrics, written by newly acquired Ronnie James Dio, the band took their sound and imagery to another level. The band became more complex thematically, bringing in a whole world of possibilities. While Dio would only remain in the band for one more studio album and a live album, his mark was left, as was Sabbath's mark left on him. You'll notice a stark similarity between the title tracks off Heaven and Hell
and Holy Diver
, Dio's first solo album. For moving past adversity, and bringing Sabbath back on track, this album is a must own for any fans of the band. If you're like me, and don't care for Ozzy's antics and more importantly, his vocals, than you owe it to yourself to at least give this a listen. If you're a fan of Ozzy, you should still appreciate the album and realize that without it, Sabbath would most likely have ended in 1979; this album brought Sabbath back to the forefront, and eventually Ozzy did rejoin to tour with the band. A thematically, lyrically, vocally and instrumentally amazing album, Heaven and Hell was certainly a great way to start the 80s.
- Ronnie James Dio's vocals are excellent
- Not one song is filler
- Excellent production (on both the original and re-mastered edition, which is essentially just louder)
- Very well written, both lyrically and musically
- Every member pulls their own weight in spite of their supposedly intoxicated state.
On this album
Ronnie James Dio - Vocals
- Some may not like the fact Ozzy wasn't present
- The album is very short, clocking in at a mere 39 minutes.
Tony Iommi - Guitars
Terrance "Geezer" Butler - Bass
Bill Ward – Drums
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards
Well if it seems to be real, it's illusion
For every moment of truth, there's confusion in life
Love can be seen as the answer, but nobody bleeds for the dancer
And it's on and on, on and on and on....