Review Summary: The follow-up to "Heaven and Hell" and the second album with Sabbath Mark 2, "The Mob Rules" is a very strong metal album with some very choice cuts. While not quite up to the standard of the predecessor (some filler evident) it is still highly enjoyable
In 1979, following the departure of Ozzy Osbourne from Black Sabbath, it seemed clear that the band would most likely be no more and fade away into history. Enter pint-sized Ronnie James Dio, probably one of the finest singers in the metal/hard rock world and in 1980, the release of "Heaven and Hell", easily one of Sabbath's best and in my honest opinion, one of the best heavy metal releases of all time. "Heaven and Hell", being the success it was, quickly inspired the boys to return to the studio and record a follow-up. With producer Martin Birch at the helm (one of the best rock producers around - check out Deep Purple and the "classic era" Iron Maiden) the follow-up, "The Mob Rules" appeared in 1981. The results, I must say, while not quite on par with "Heaven and Hell", not too shabby at all.
I have read in various reviews that the track listing is almost identical to "Heaven and Hell". Maybe so but it certainly does not detract from a very enjoyable album. Once again we see the so-called "Sabbath Mark 2", minus Bill Ward who left for personal reasons. His chair is filled by Vinnie Appice who does a fine job.
All up this is, as I said, a great album with all musicians in top form and a fantasticly rich and meaty sound courtesy of Mr. Birch. Lyrically, speaking I find the fantasy references a little cheesy and Dio put in a better effort in the previous offering. By no means bad though. His vocals are top notch as usual. Tony Iommi and Geezer Buttler once again craft some killer riffs and are easily one of metal's best guitar/bass partnerships. On this album we also see the return of keyboardist Geoff Nichols who provides some nice atmospherics in several songs. And now for a quick song break-down:
Turn up the Night - A very energetic, up-beat song but not exactly a stand out. A bit like a less interesting version of "Heaven & Hell's" opener, "Neon Knights". Nevertheless quite good. 3.5/5
Voodo: A more midpace rocker with Dio putting in a nicely gruff performance. Again, nothing special but still a very good song. 4/5
The Sign of the Southern Cross: Now we're talking! This a fantastic 7 and a half minute epic. Starts of with a very soft acoustic guitar and bass intro and some soft vocals from Dio. At the 1:15 cue drums and killer riff from Iommi. During the verses we mainly just have drums, Dio and some interesting keyboard work with the occasional guitar break from Iommi. It works very well, very atmospheric. Overall an absolutely fantastic song 5/5
E5150: This is just a bit of strange, space-like noise with some guitar at the end. Interesting, but even at less than 3 minutes it gets a bit boring. 2/5
The Mob Rules: All I can say about this track is: furious. This is brilliant. A driving strong rhythm, fantastic riff and a wonderfully angry performance from Dio. Killer solo too. Probably the best song on the album. The only bad thing that at just over 3 minutes it's a tad short 5/5
Country Girl: Probably the album's weakest song. It's not terrible but not exactly interesting either. Lyrics are worth a listen but all in all, this is the one I tend to skip. 2.5/5
Slipping Away: Also not a brilliant song. However in the middle there's a nifty solo duel between Butler and Iommi. The alone raises the score to above average. Otherwise a decent rocker 3.5/5
Falling off the Edge of the World: A somewhat overlooked gem, mainly because it's similar to "Sign of the Southern Cross" but a bit shorter. Starts of quiet with what sounds like a violin, but I'm not sure. Then a great doomy riff from Iommi which seems like it was the inspiration for Metallica's "Outlaw Torn". At about the 2 minute mark the song picks up pace and rocks on to the end. On par with the other "5/5" songs on the album. 5/5 (obviously)
Over and Over: The album closer is actually quite a sad, melancholy song. Very ballady but quite good IMO. As usual fantastic vocals from Dio, this time very smooth and lyrical, as opposed to the gruff performance he gives in the faster tunes. Fantastic guitar work from Iommi at the end. 4/5
And there you have it. "The Mob Rules" is probably the last widely respected album by Sabbath and it's no surprise. Sadly this lineup would break apart due to in-fighting shortly after. it would have been interesting to see where Sabbath would've headed had this not happened. Still, a worthwhile album and strongly recommended.
This is also my first review so feel free to comment