Mob Rules

Black Sabbath

Warner Brothers, 1981

REVIEW BY: Ben McVicker


Arguably the closest to a mainstream breakthrough that Tony Iommi achieved during his forty years of carrying the Black Sabbath name was 1981’s Mob Rules, the band’s second studio effort with Ronnie James Dio. Vinnie Appice replaces original Sabbath drummer, Bill Ward, adding a new degree of speed and heaviness to things, and bassist Geezer Butler appears to feed off this, turning in a solid, more inspired performance than was the case on Heaven And Hell. This is arguably the most composed that the band has sounded since Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

The band’s new sound is apparent as soon as “Turn Up The Night” kicks things off with an up-tempo, chugging riff, a melodic vocal performance from Ronnie, signature bass fills from Geezer, and a surprising amount of wah-drenched soloing from Iommi. With the melodic vocals and new trends of the times, i.e. speedier soloing and drumming, it’s impossible to imagine the band writing something like this with Ozzy or Bill in the lineup.

As if to prove that the band can still handle a heavy, groove-based rock song, “Voodoo” has Vinnie taking more of a back seat as a time-keeper, letting Tony and Geezer carry the song. Just two tracks in, and it’s apparent that Iommi’s latched on to the new, solo-heavy approach to guitar playing of the 1980’s, offering more leads than on previous records.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Sign Of The Southern Cross” is something of a centrepiece to the album; a heavy, plodding number approaching eight minutes in length. In many ways, it seems like an effort to make another “Heaven And Hell,” from the touch of acoustic guitar, to the quiet verses, to the heavy choruses with soaring vocals... but overall, it doesn’t measure up. While “Heaven And Hell” gradually progressed to a climactic guitar solo that stands among the most memorable in Tony Iommi’s career, “Southern Cross” sticks to the same slow ‘n’ heavy pace and never quite lives up to its promise.

The title track is probably Black Sabbath’s biggest commercial success after “Paranoid.” A good fast-paced riff and solid headbanging material, but it’s hardly as involving as the earlier tracks. One could say the same for the other lesser numbers, too. “Country Girl” is the most plain and straightforward song on the album, while “Slipping Away” is notable only for a short bass solo by Geezer Butler.

Likewise, the final track is just a bit dull – its title, “Over And Over,” essentially speaks for itself. It’s a pity that they chose it as the closing track to an otherwise solid, at times impressive album. A far superior choice would have been “Falling Off The Edge Of The World,” an apocalyptic tune featuring a sinister riff, a great solo, and vocals to match. A three-minute rock song with the feel of an epic, Dio melds his quiet vocal style with an angry snarl. It’s the perfect foil to Iommi’s guitar in this oft-overlooked gem from the Sabbath catalogue.

Despite a few underwhelming tracks, Mob Rules is one of the most solid post-Ozzy releases in the band’s career. A number of songs remain favourites among diehard fans, and this line-up proved to be among Black Sabbath’s most consistent, with another two studio albums and three live releases to its name (that’s including their masquerade as Heaven And Hell from 2007-2009). While Heaven And Hell at times resembled a vintage Sabbath album with a new vocalist, Mob Rules firmly establishes the Dio-fronted lineup as its own separate entity.

Rating: B+

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