Heaven And Hell

Black Sabbath

Warner Brothers Records, 1980


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Entering the second phase of Black Sabbath's career -- marked by the appearance of Ronnie James Dio, formerly of Rainbow, as lead throat -- there were many questions regarding the band. Could they survive without the maniacal ball of energy known as Ozzy Osbourne fronting the band? Would Dio prove to be a worthwhile replacement? Could Black Sabbath rebound from a few disappointing releases and recapture at least some of their past glory?

The answer to all of these questions, bound in the eight songs which comprise Heaven And Hell, were all the same: Yes. This album marks a change in Black Sabbath's style, but one which seems like a natural progression for them, even if it does make them sound a little bit like Rainbow.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first notable thing on this album is the guitar work of Tony Iommi, something which had been improving with each consecutive album Black Sabbath recorded. Granted, it sometimes began to sound like so many other heavy metal guitarists' style, but for the time being it felt like the right thing for Iommi to be doing. Second, the songwriting tightened up a great deal, no doubt in part because of Dio's hand in the process.

Then, of course, there are the songs themselves. There's a reason that the title track is revered among Black Sabbath and Dio fans alike. This sinister, plodding number captures a sense of the evil which seemed to float over the band in their earlier days. Likewise, tracks such as "Neon Knights," "Lady Evil" and "Die Young" all keep the listener's interest for the duration of the album.

If there is anything missing from Heaven And Hell, it is the veiled sense of humor which seemed to permeate the band during their Osbourne era. Sure, a song like "Black Sabbath" could scare the hell out of you given the right mood. But somehow, you always knew that the band's tongue was firmly planted in its cheek, creating an almost playful, albeit sinister, feeling about the music. With Dio, the overall feeling is simply sinister - much like the way Dio's solo career would sound.

It also takes a little bit of adjusting to the overall change in Black Sabbath's sound. Granted, the shift turns out to be a good thing for Iommi and crew, making them sound the tightest this group had ever been. But if you've grown up with a steady diet of the rough-and-tumble sound of albums like Paranoid and Master Of Reality, it takes a few minutes to regain your senses with this new version of Black Sabbath.

Still, Heaven And Hell proves to be well worth the time and effort, and remains a classic in the group's catalog. For Dio's debut, it proves to be a multi-leveled success.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A



© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.