Review Summary: A powerful masterpiece that truly catches the Black Sabbath aura.
Paranoid was fantastic. I didn't think that Black Sabbath could do much better, if at all, but that was before I downloaded (ahem, *bought*) Heaven and Hell. Ronnie James Dio (from Elf and Rainbow) replaces Ozzy on vocals, and there is a noticeable difference. Dio puts the soul in metal, giving it not only heaviness but depth. His vocals range from melodic crooning to scratchy growls, but whatever he does, he has confidence, unlike Ozzy, who could barely hit the notes. The lyrics deal with the supernatural, the occult, and life in general. It's very polar - there are dark songs like the title track and happy ones (like "Walk Away"). After all, it's called "Heaven and Hell".
The thing that made Paranoid great wasn't Ozzy, but Tony Iommi. He does the same here, albeit with more heft in his sound, producing work that stands out in the world of heavy metal. It almost seems as if these metal pioneers are borrowing from NWOBHM bands, with more of a "kick". There are plenty of solos, all of them worth listening to multiple times. There's even some acoustic - the outro of "Heaven and Hell" gives an eerie sense of lingering evil, making the album seem more theatrical. The drums are done by Bill Ward again, though he left before he could tour with them. There's nothing to say about them - it's Bill Ward, doing what he does best. As for the bass guitar - I hear it more on this album than any other album I've listened to. That's another thing I love - every member of the band contributes equally, rather than one voice towering over the others.
The album opens with "Neon Knights", somewhat reminiscent (at least to me) of "Paranoid". If its raw energy and powerful execution doesn't impress you, then the momentum buildup in "Children of the Sea" definitely will. The title track is probably the best on the album, and although simple lyrically ("Sing me a song, you're a singer/Do me a wrong, you're a bringer of evil"), it is memorable, and will, at some point or another, loop in your head. Another big track is "Die Young", but I don't think I want to comment on the individual songs any further. That's not something I can just describe - it's a five star album, go listen to it yourself. More than once. It takes some listens to get in the Dio vibe, but in the end, it's worth it.
To conclude, I love the album. And while Dio does well, I hear everyone equally. Isn't that enough for an album" It flows well, and there are no "throwaway" tracks. And there are no "single-esque" tracks that detract from the rest of the songs. It's an album, nothing less, and a damn good one at that.