Black Sabbath: Heaven & Hell
Black Sabbath: Heaven & Hell
Once again, its been too long since I’ve written a review. So, since there’s such a buzz with Heaven & Hell (the band) I’ve decided to do all three Dio Sabbath albums (not all at once)! Or at least attempt to do all three.
I was inspired to do this when I was listening to this album in its entirety on my way back from the dentist. I don’t usually play this album all the way through, and after this afternoon’s listening, I realize why. Don’t get me wrong, this album is by no means bad, but its a bit patchy (especially during the second half). We have here, five stone cold classics, two songs that are ok but really don’t belong here, and one absolute disaster that rapists use to scar their victims.
Before we get into the song breakdown, however, there’s something that needs to be addressed. With the departure of Ozzy and the addition of Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio, there’s alot of speculation on whether or not this should be considered a Black Sabbath album. Since there are plenty of bands that have carried on less than three original members, and the fact that Sabbath’s sound subtley changed from time to time during the course of the first six albums, I can’t make that much of a fuss about keeping the name. However, the detractors who say they shouldn’t have hold all the Aces when it comes to argument. Let’s start with the obvious fact that yes, Ozzy and Dio are two completely different singers, but when Dio came in, the bands sound completely changed. Instead of blackened, evil, heavy-as-fuck sounding monsters such as Symptom Of The Universe, Supernaut, and of course, Black Sabbath, they were writing material that marched do a different drummer. The band seemed to have much more of a power metal sound, with its colorful melodies and faster speeds. Ronnie had also dethroned Geezer as the band’s lyricist, and Ronnie’s lyrics used metaphors regarding wizardry and the like, so Black Sabbath’s sound and message had practially undergone a complete transformation.
Then of course there’s the fact that some of the material sounds flat-out commercial or pop. Stuff that Black Sabbath used alot on Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die, and received flak for it. Yet it pops up here and everyone calls the album a masterpiece. I personally wonder whether or not Tony Iommi & crew should’ve of course carried on, but under a different name (Neon Knights perhaps?). Most of this seems more fitting under the label of “the life and times of Ronnie James Dio” instead of “the life and times of Black Sabbath.” Finally, there’s the fact that I am a [bitter] Ozzy fan/purist asshole, which really trumps over everything I just stated (though I figure I’d say list the reasons for insurance). While I don’t think that EVERY album Ozzy did with Sabbath was classic, I do most definitely believe that his voice, whether the more soul than technique approach of the first two albums or the “how about both?” approach of the following four, was just an essential part of Black Sabbath as Tony Iommi’s riffs, Bill’s jazz drumming, etc. etc.
With all this in mind: Let’s review the track listing.
Neon Knights: The album starts of strong with one of the catchiest riffs ever! “OHHHHHH NO! HERE IT COMES AGAIN.” I’ve never been able to figure out this songs lyrics, but its got the music and the melody to back it up. I’ve always thought that no matter how grand your concept for a song is, if the music itself sucks, you might as well burn your 100-page long lyric books right then and there. This song also has the distinction of being uncharacteristically fast. Faster than Symptom Of The Universe. Probably the fastest Sabbath song up to this point and time (although fast for Sabbath is merely 50 miles an hour, but still). And that’s not even the fastest on here. This band definitely kicked things into high gear this time around. That and Tony Iommi makes the people who say he can’t solo drink a nice warm glass of shut-the-fuck-up. That fade out solo at the end especially owns. It kind of uses the same melody over and over again, but uses different paths of getting there! FUCK! One out of one so far!
Children Of The Sea: Starts off with something you would never expect from Sabbath, a Hawaiian sounding intro! Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and that opening solo is smooth. Then it slams into a heavy-as-fuck, mid-paced crusher! There are times on this album when the ideas of Ronnie and Tony gel so well together, and they don’t gel any better than this! The best track on here.
Lady Evil: This on the other hand, sounds a bit more like something from “Long Live Rock N’ Roll;” in the sense of Lady Of The Lake, rather than Gates Of Babylon. I usually end up skipping this song when I listen to this album, but its not hard to see why people like it. The chorus is very catchy, and grooves along nicely. If you liked those Rainbow songs that didn’t quite scream power metal (i.e. Do You Close Your Eyes, If You Don’t Like Rock & Roll, the aforementioned LOTL), then you’ll probably like this song.
Heaven & Hell: Now THIS is where shit starts smashing through boundaries and making all sorts of magic! Very different approach to this song, letting Dio’s vocals play front and center in the verses (hell they play front in center on this entire album), and once again Tony’s solo work kicks maximum ass on this one. A slow epic burner that explodes into total speed about three quarters of the way through! While I don’t agree neccesarily on the album, I will concede that this is the track that made Dio a vocal legend in the metal world. This would be the best track on here if not for that pointless acoustic meandering tacked on the end (at least the Symptom Of The Universe outro was somewhat interesting).
Wishing Well: This is where things start getting a little weird, especially in the lyrics department. I mean you can wave as many wizard dicks and witch titties at dragons with eyes of fire as you want, but “I’m your Wishing Well?” I don’t fucking think so. That sounds like bad sexual methaphor that Britney Spears should be singing (stick your magic wand in my Wishing well) As for the music, it’s mediocre at best. It’s not awful, but it just lacks any sort of heaviness. Isn’t this the kind of crap that Sabbath wrote in a hurry while recording Never Say Die? Survey says: Wishing Well sucks.
Die Young: This song also has a slightly weird intro to it, although on the plus side there is some nice, moody lead guitar from Tony Iommi (you were expecting Carlos Santana?). What comes afterwards however is a heavier, faster (the fastest on here) metal classic. The type of classic that makes you scream “FUCK YEAH!” rhytmically at the end of each verse. (which I’ve done) Did I mention more awesome soloing from Tony FUCKING Iommi?
Walk Away: Ummm...yea. I’m confused now. The album cover says “Black Sabbath” but it feels like we’ve now been switched to a song from a really bad 80’s movie. I mean I love guitar melody and vocal melody as much as any other self respecting Nirvana hater, but this is just...lame. Add Ronnie James Dio’s gender confusion (You don’t use handsome to describe women, dammit!), and what you’re left with one of the cheesiest songs ever. And not the good “High overhead, they carry the dead, where the Blood of My Enemy lies” kind of cheesy either. This is the kind of crap that jocks in the 80’s listen to while strutting and posturing down the street in rattails, mullets, or whatever Patrick Swayze was wearing that week. The kind of shit Sammy Hagar masturbates to while he dreams about taking over Van Halen. In fact, not only is this the most likely moment where Bill Ward said “Fuck this shit, I’m outta here,” this is probably the Dave Walker session song that Ozzy listened to upon briefly rejoining the band for Never Say Die, was completely douched-out by it, prompting him to demand that the band discard everything it had previously written and start Never Say Die from scratch. Not to mention all of the people who wanted to give Sabbath one last chance, heard this song, and then subsequently jumped ship to Ozzy’s solo career. Holy fuck this song blows!
Lonely Is The Word: While “In The Club” by 50 Cent would sound better than the previous pile of dogshit, this is actually a pretty sweet ballad (yes it is a ballad, what the fuck else would it be?). Starting off with a nice crushing riff, and moving at a slow, but not quite plodding pace and then soaring to great emotional heights (the manly kind mind you). Finally, *drumroll please* more awesome leadwork by Tony Iommi! Here the solos actually interplay with some keyboards at the end. Not like Highway Star or anything like that, but still very memorable.
In conclusion, its not exactly the legendary Black Sabbath sound. None of this album is really. That doesn’t make it bad, oh no not by any stretch! But it is just a completely different approach than the likes of Paranoid, Sabotage, and the like. I suppose the only reason that will convince me that this is indeed Black Sabbath is the fact that Tony Iommi is the heart and soul of the band (shut up HECHO!), and that that is the only reason you need.
Nonetheless the pissed off Ozzy fan in me approves of this album and it is most essential to Dio’s career. Well worth getting, just don’t expect anything crushfuckingly heavy like War Pigs.
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