ALBUM REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Deluxe Expanded Editions of Dio-Era Albums

Label: Sanctuary
Release Date: 05.04.2010

The end of the 70s saw the end of Black Sabbath with a certain Ozzy Osbourne’s departure, but in less than 2 years they had a new line up with Rainbow’s Ronnie James Dio taking up lead vocals, and an album by 1980.

The 5th April 2010 marks the release of three deluxe expanded editions in the shape of “Heaven & Hell”, “Mob Rules” and “Live Evil”. That’s 54 tracks in total if you are counting.

Most of our readers have heard of Black Sabbath, or at least their music – even if you don’t know it (for the younger readers that means ‘Iron Man’ and that bit of the film with the tank). And therein lies the problem – how do you review something that changed the musical landscape, creating a genre in doing so, and giving us the “metal horns” ( that’s right, you have Dio to thank for what is now a given at any metal night). The influence of the band in all it’s guises can be seen in a multitude of bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Korn, Judas Priest, Guns N’ Roses, Alice in Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, The Foo Fighters and Godsmack – to name but a few.

Taking the late 60s bluesy rock sound and slowing it down, and turning up the bass, bringing the lead guitar to the fore, and having intense and often macabre lyrics, now seems like such an obvious thing to do – but hindsight is a great thing! The addition of Dio for these three albums saw a change in how the band sounded. Not only because Osbourne had a distinctive tone, but also in approach. Where Osbourne followed the riff with blistering success exemplified by tracks like ‘Hole in the Sky’ and ‘Iron Man’ creating that sense of doom, Dio criss-crosses that riff creating a sense of impossible size. ‘Children of the Sea’ was the first track of a new chapter in the band’s history, and the three albums only served to show that there was life beyond Osbourne.

“Heaven & Hell”, when released in 1980, was critically acclaimed and the follow up, 1981’s “Mob Rules” had a stuttering beginning with the critics of the day but also reached that podium of great albums in time. And just for those of you who like a bit of trivia, ‘The Mob Rules’ (the title track of “Mob Rules”) was originally recorded in 1981 at John Lennon’s house here in the UK. “Live Evil”, released in 1982, saw the beginning of the end in terms of the Dio-era, with the band falling out – it’s probably best to leave it at that.

Of the three, “Heaven & Hell” is the better album in this deluxe set. It typifies everything about the Dio-era, and shows why Black Sabbath survived what many thought would be the end of the band following Osbourne’s departure. The live discs include many of the older tracks, like ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Paranoid’, reworked by Dio, but without Osbourne’s doom-ridden tone they just don’t feel right.

However, the focus should be on those tracks written in the band’s present and not those of the past – ‘Neon Knights’ drives you straight past what Black Sabbath were with Osbourne, and into the Dio-era. ‘Children of the Sea’ will be one of the classics of the band, inspiring Iron Maiden’s ‘Children of the Damned’. The title track ‘Heaven & Hell’ has had a lasting appeal, most recently appearing in Grand Theft Auto IV in 2008. ‘Lonely Is The Word’ creates an eery, terrifying melancholy filled world.

Mob Rules, with its purported “Kill Ozzy” statement at the bottom of the album artwork, featured Vinny Appice on drums and the lyrics are darker than previously. The title track found its way into the 1981 animated film “Heavy Metal”, ‘E5150′ became the mainstay opener for the band on the road, and the dual tracks of The Sign of the Southern Cross’ and ‘Falling off the Edge of the World’ manifest the darker themes of this album. In some ways these tracks typify the long, drifting tracks of genre.

Overall, even if you don’t like Sabbath, the importance of the Dio-era shouldn’t be underplayed and the influences on future bands can be heard throughout the deluxe set.

Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Constantinos Kypridemos


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