Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
Following the increasingly turbulent time for the band during the recording of ‘Never Say Die’ things had reached breaking point for Black Sabbath, something had to be done and firing the increasingly erratic and sometimes disinterred Ozzy was the only way to go.
Ironically enough, it was Sharon Osbourne who inadvertently introduced Tony Iommi to Ronnie James Dio when all three met at a party one night, the guitarist and former Rainbow singer hitting it off immediately.
With the original intention of starting a side project, the two got together, wrote ‘Children of the Sea’ immediately and Iommi knew that he’d found the new singer for Sabbath.
Whilst the move was welcomed with open arms by most, die-hard fans felt that anyone other than Osbourne fronting the band and singing the songs would be tantamount to sacrilege. Whilst there was still some initial resistance when the quartet went on tour, 1980’s *‘Heaven and Hell’* was an album that sent seismic shocks through the rock world, a no holds barred declaration that Black Sabbath were back and ready to fight for their crown.
The moment the needle touched down on the groove for opener ‘Neon Knights’ they were off and running, a powerful new beast with the old fire and heaviness as before but this time with a singer whose voice brought a whole new grandeur to the band.
An explosive driving riff, the guitar, bass and drums pumping away like the pistons of a locomotive, before Dio split the air with his mighty roar, the track laid claim not just to their continuing legendary status but showed all the younger bands snapping at their heels that Sabbath were just as ferocious as ever. One of the best opening tracks in all of metal, this was just the first salvo from a remarkable album.
The multi-layered ‘Children of the Sea’ was up next, a ballsy epic that featured some incredible fretwork by Iommi and Dio really letting lose as Geezer Butler and Bill Ward brought forth thunder from their instruments.In fact, it was Butler’s thick as molasses bass work that informed ‘Lady Evil’, the spiky hard rocker including touches that wouldn’t have been out of place in the singer’s former band.
The best was yet to come though, the grandstanding title track a massive undertaking that brought a richness of colour and sound so wide that it was able to fry synapses, From the monstrous riff that opened it, Butler’s pumping bass work and the multi-layered vocals, through to Ward’s charging drums as the song switches into its headlong race to the end, this was something that set the benchmark for heavy rock of the era and beyond.
The opening of the second half of the album doesn’t let up, the rampaging rocker ‘Wishing Well’, the changing dynamics of ‘Die Young’ and The Who on steroids-like blue collar rocker ‘Walk Away’. The album closes with the bluesy ‘Lonely is the Word’, a loud and passionate piece that features two
contrasting solos by Iommi and some very effective keys from unofficial fifth Sabbath member Geoff Nicholls.
The band had done it, creating something that not only restored their reputation but pushed forwards into fresh new territory and its still an absolute killer.
Released the following year, *‘Mob Rules’* had a big set of shoes to step into, the album seeing Vinnie Appice taking the place of Ward who was struggling with various health issues at the time. Despite this change of personnel once more, the band were in a good place initially but it was recording this and the subsequent fall out when the record company tried to lure Dio away into a solo career led to them being on difficult ground.
Irrespective of this, whilst ‘Mob Rules’ may not quite reach the heady heights of its predecessor, it’s still a ferocious and high-quality release by the band.
The hard hitting ‘Turn Up the Night’ was another weighty opener, Iommi’s driving riff showing the master craftsman at his most aggressive best. ‘Voodoo’ follows with its heavy grind but this is just a warmup for the heavyweight epic ‘The Sign of the Southern Cross’.
With a canyon wide and deep groove, incredible fretwork, impassioned vocals and a doomy feel, this was old school Sabbath but given a modern cutting edge. Ominous instrumental ‘E5150’ arrives next as a prelude to the storming title track, a full-blooded assault on the sense that rocked as hard as anything on the scene. The two tracks, originally recorded for animated film ‘Heavy Metal’, tap into the lyrical wizardry that imagines dystopian worlds that Butler and Dio immersed themselves into previously, the songs on the album springing from jams rather than the previous method of work of writing everything more as separate entities.
It was an approached that worked, the album a glorious patchwork of ideas that covered everything from the quasi-heavy metal folk of ‘Country Girl’, the technical sheen of ‘Slipping Away’ and the out and out metal slam of ‘Falling Off the Edge of the World’, a track that seemingly so inspired Iron Maiden. This latter point may be linked to the fact that Martin Birch produced both ‘Heaven and Hell’ and ‘Mob Rules’ before going on to helm the next several Maiden albums to great acclaim and effect.
The bluesy, almost Pink Floydish ‘Over and Over’ wraps things up, another interesting twist in the story and one that highlights the clarity and freshness brought by these remasters. Both releases are packed with extras, the CD versions adding more than the vinyl due to time constraints on the latter.
The bulk of both sets of these additional tracks are hewn from live shows on both tours from both the UK and the USA, all having their merits and showing a band really on fire as they tear into the material. Worth the price of admission on their own, these put you on the centre of the action and whilst the crowd noise may be a little muted at times, the performances are the polar opposite to that.
Genuine landmark albums, Dio and Appice wouldn’t reconvene with Sabbath until ‘Dehumanizer’, some eleven years later, but their legacy was assured with these two behemoths of classic hard rock. With the glorious new vinyl reissues or the expanded CD versions there’s never been a better time to reacquaint yourself with two of the best releases by the Godfather’s of Metal and if you haven’t got them already just where have you been this past four decades. Essential albums for everyone’s collection, ‘Heaven and
Hell’ and ‘Mob Rules’ still crush today.
Purchase your copies here: https://blacksabbathband.lnk.to/MobRulesDeluxeIG