Black Sabbath
The Dio Years

This is about as close as you get as a reviewer to a “gimme” review. I mean, it’s classic Black Sabbath. Most of the folks reading this already know these songs and have a long-standing opinion of them, so really this hinges on the three new songs and how well the package is put together.

For those two or three folks who have been hiding under a rock and have never heard Dio-era Sabbath, this record would provide a very solid overview of all his work with the band, including the underrated 1992 release Dehumanizer. Most of the expected songs are here, “Neon Knights,” “Lady Evil,” “The Mob Rules,” and of course, “Heaven and Hell,” not only one of Sabbath’s best moments, but in my opinion one of the greatest metal songs ever. They throw in a few more tracks from the Heaven and Hell (“Die Young,” “Lonely is the Word”) and The Mob Rules (“Turn Up the Night,” “Voodoo,” “Falling off the Edge of the World”), three tracks from Dehumanizer (“After All (The Dead),” “TV Crimes” and “I”) and the live version of “Children of the Sea,” just to get something from Live Evil in. There could be some quibbles with the track listing. My personal disappointment is the absence of “Sign of the Southern Cross,” which I think is one of the best numbers of the Dio era, but overall it has a nice variety from all three records. The classic tracks boast of being remastered, but you won’t really notice much difference. The bottom end has been noticeably beefed up on a couple of the songs, but that’s about as far as it goes. There’s nothing surprising or astonishing in the remasters.

That brings us to the three new tracks, “The Devil Cried,” “Shadow of the Wind” and “Ear in the Wall.” “The Devil Cried” and “Shadow of the Wind” are plodding numbers that, if nothing else, prove Tony Iommi can still lay down some dark and menacing riffs. “The Devil Cried” has everything going for it in the beginning, a big slabalicious riff and Dio’s studio voice sounding a thousand times better than it did on last year’s Holy Diver Live. The problem with the song is that, after six minutes of that same riff and vocal melody it begins to kind of drone a little. It’s the same problem I’ve had with Dio’s last few solo releases, this slow, overly melodramatic pacing of so many songs. It’s not a bad song, but I much prefer “Shadow of the Wind.” It has the same slow pacing, but there just seems to be more energy to it. It really reminds me more of those first Dio Sabbath albums rather than Dio’s recent solo work, and there’s this really nice guitar groove that kicks in under the verses that I absolutely love. The third new track, “Ear in the Wall,” is one of those more upbeat songs in the vein of “Neon Knights” or “The Mob Rules.” It’s a solid track, one of those crank it up in the stereo on the highway kind of songs. As you’d expect, though, none of the three songs comes anywhere near matching any of the first songs on the record. The old stuff is far, far superior.

Ultimately, if you haven’t been introduced to Dio-era Sabbath, this record will serve as a great introduction. On the other hand, if you already own Heaven and Hell, The Mob Rules and Dehumanizer, you’d probably be better served just downloading the three new tracks and leaving it at that. There’s not enough difference in the sound to warrant dropping another 20 bucks on this collection.

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Written by Fred Phillips
April 14th, 2007

Comments

  1. Commented by: Old Pick Axe

    Two of my biggest regrets in life are that I a) Never saw Dio live and b) Never saw Heaven and Hell live. Ronnie James Dio was truly one of metal’s true sorcerers. Can you imagine the state of metal today, especially power metal, if Black Sabbath had never released “Heaven And Hell” and “The Mob Rules?” Man. So many bands owe a helluva lot to Dio, whether they admit it or not.


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