Review Summary: Criminally underrated. A quality album by Black Sabbath, and, in my opinion, one of their very best.
1992... Quite a good year for music. Alice in Chains released their classic album "Dirt", Dream Theater's "Images and Words" also went out, Rage Against The Machine released their self-titled album, considered to be their best by many, Stone Temple Pilots released the great "Core", Pantera came up with their landmark album "Vulgar Display of Power"... It was actually a year for classics. And of course, there were many overlooked ones, one of those being Black Sabbath's "Dehumanizer". Ah yes, Black Sabbath, the famed band that is known for being "the original Heavy Metal band", the one with the legendary Ozzy Osbourne (Who I might add I believe is more renowned for how hilarious he is when thrashed than for his vocals that, in all honesty, are terrible), the band with albums such as Paranoid, Master of Reality, and then the ones of the Dio era during the 80s: Heaven and Hell and The Mob Rules.
But what happened after that? They had already fired Ozzy, and for various problems with Dio, well, Dio left the band. And then Ian Gillian was recruited for their next album, Born Again, which in all honesty isn't exactly good. It isn't bad, but it could've been better. After that, they pretty much fell under the radar, and they also went through so much line-up changes that it felt more like it was turning into "Tony Iommi and Friends" rather than Black Sabbath. But it had to happen: Dio era couldn't be over so fast. So, back in 1992, the old "The Mob Rules" line-up returned for some more, and with that return they came back with what I consider their best and most underrated album.
Yes, I do consider this their best. Why? Well, musically, this is the finest they've been since Heaven and Hell, and maybe even better. Combining some doom-styled riffing reminiscent of the Ozzy era, some thrashier riffs here, classic metal riffs in other places, and great solos, Iommi is better than ever in this album. Vinnie Appice's drumming pretty much owns the drumming seen by him in Mob Rules, he returned with more energy, giving some awesome fills and tight rhythms. "Geezer" Butler shows that he's not any bassist, but THE bassist in this album, keeping an amazing touch in the songs. Rhythm section is solid, guitars are solid, but what about the vocals? Well, it's Ronnie James Dio, and damn, he has few better vocal performances than in this album. His vocals are aggressive, energetic and passionate, he truly gives an edge to this album.
Yes, all the members of the band are great, and this can be witnessed from the very first song of the album, Computer God
, which I consider the best Black Sabbath song ever made. Opening with some machinery sounds that fit the theme of the song, it doesn't take long to break into a great drum intro where one can witness already the intensity of Appice's drumming. And then enters Iommi, followed by Butler. With a classical Iommi riff. If you think it wasn't enough, Dio enters after that, sounding downright pissed off, this might be one of his most aggressive vocal performances.
Waiting for the revolution
New clear vision - genocide
Computerize god - it's the new religion
Program the brain - not the heartbeat
This song shows what Dehumanizer is all about
: At times doomy, at times just downright heavy, some calmer moments, and the crazy awesome ending which is quite fast. It does sum up the entire album.
Of course, the rest of the album keeps a high level, why else would I rate this a 5? After All (The Dead)
is a song very reminiscent of the Ozzy era, with slow, doomy riffing, and an overall dark atmosphere. Naysayers of Dio, if you think he can't contribute to a dark atmosphere like Ozzy did, listen to this song. He manages something Ozzy never would be able to. Following it, there comes the thrashy TV Crimes
. It opens with some crazy drumming and some chords over it, and shortly after comes the riffing. This song means serious business from the beggining. Up tempo, it covers the topic of religion, but Dio delivers the lyrics in such an amazing fashion that you could care less what the heck is he talking about. That doesn't mean the lyrics aren't good, because they are:
Holy father - holy ghost
Who's the one who hurts you most
Rock the cradle when you cry
Scream another lullaby
Jack be nimble, Jack be slick
Take the money, get out quick
Slow and steady, so much time
To commit another
TV Crime, TV Crime
If someone can make that sound even cooler than when read, that is Dio. Yes, the first 3 songs are some of the album strongest. And after that, the album loses some steam for a song, but not much. Letters From Earth
is a great song on it's own right, but I find it to be the album's worst. The opening riff is great, the verses have quite a bit of energy and are cool, and it has a great solo, but the chorus is definitely a low point in this song, it's nothing memorable or special. In fact, the song's not really memorable, but it's still good.
But that's a short-lived weak moment, as the album returns with one of it's strongest songs: Master of Insanity
. Butler has his moment to shine here, with one of the coolest bass riffs I've ever had the pleasure of listening too. In fact, what moves this song is the riffs, and then Dio's vocals. Some of Iommi's and Butler's best riffs here. And the chorus, unlike Letters from Earth
, is really memorable, with a lot of energy. Truly one of the highlights of the album. And then, for 2 songs, the album gets a bit weaker, but not much. Time Machine
is quite a good song, but compared to others of the album, it's nothing too special. It still has some shining moments like the rising intensity of Dio's vocals and the short bass jam of Butler halfway through the song, but other than that it isn't too memorable. And there's also Sins of the Father
. A guitar/vocal driven song, opening with Dio's vocals and a subtle riff, and then every instrument joins in. I honestly haven't ever found it very interesting compared to the rest of the album, but it has some great moments like the chorus, the lyrics, and when the drums enter full force. Two of the weakest of the album, but still great.
Following along, it comes Too Late
, quite an interesting song. The first time I listened to it I thought I was listening to Octavarium by Dream Theater, as the intro is quite similar. But then it changes. The main riff enters, and also Dio. Slow, haunting, dark, that's how it can be described. The lyrics are quite interesting, someone making a deal with the devil but then wanting to back out:
It's too late
You've said the word
Something heard you
Too late - now the race is on
And you're run out of road
And no one hears you
Can you feel the touch of evil
It's too late
3 minutes that are haunting, and then enters to the heavy part. And heck, does it sound awesome. Returns to being slow for a moment and then back to the heavy, but it keeps a dark, haunting atmosphere throughout. A great song, but not better than the ones to come.
The final 2 songs are easily top 10 material, and they actually make it to my top 10 Dio era songs list for a reason. First comes I
. What a long title it has. After a single keyboard chord that opens, there's a moment of silence, and then the intro riff... And man, what a riff it is. A calm mood, the calm before the storm. Dio hums for a bit, and then... POW. The main riff enters full force. And then enters Dio sounding really pissed off, once again. He embraces being alone in this song like nothing else. The lyrics are honestly hilarious.
Yes, I am giant
I'm a monster
Honestly, they are just too damn funny, but Dio makes them sound cool. And Iommi's solo is badass. Oh, and the outro is really cool. And then comes the closer of the album, Buried Alive
. This is a mid-tempo, pure rocking song. Quite a badass riff, even if simple. Dio's vocals once again are a highlight here. He sounds great. But the chorus is just too amazing. A cool riff played behind, and badass lyrics performed in a really cool way:
When you thought you were free
You didn't need a reason
No reason to survive
As the big door closes
And you waiting for the nail
Somebody tell the world
You're buried alive
3 solos in this song. Yes, 3 SOLOS. After both of the choruses, and during the outro. And all are badass. Speaking about the outro, the final scream of BURIED ALIIIIIIVE is amazing. What a way to close this album.
Until they returned as "Heaven and Hell", Dio era Sabbath was pretty much unheard of. And of course, this album went pretty much under the radar. Honestly, this album is criminally underrated. Possessing some of Sabbath's best performances overall, this album is what I'd consider another classic of the 90's, and, if not for Alice in Chains "Dirt", the best album of 1992. If one thing is held true, is that Dio got Black Sabbath to a level Ozzy never did, and this album is proof.
After All (The Dead)
Master of Insanity