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Black Sabbath: The Rules of Hell

Heavy Metal fans that have prayed to whatever gods they prefer will find themselves pleased at the news informing them that all of the albums recorded with Ronnie James Dio would be getting the remastering process done to them and be released together as a deluxe boxed set. Several years ago, Rhino Entertainment did the same thing with all of the Ozzy Osbourne recordings and released The Black Box. There was only one bonus track on it, but the book enclosed read like a history lesson on the ones who kicked this whole genre off as a whole. The downside was that it stopped at Ozzy but now some twenty-eight years after Black Sabbath Mark II came into existence, we would get our chance to not only relive the greatness of that lineups music, but also learn some vital details about this point in the bands career as they try to successfully move on from replacing a figure like Ozzy Osbourne. With the scope of this release covering four individual albums we have decided to break them up one by one and offer up some thoughts on each of the releases. Believe me readers, I was as excited for this one as you probably are so let's get down to business.

Heaven And Hell (1980): Neon Knights, Children Of The Sea, Lady Evil, Heaven And Hell, Wishing Well, Die Young, Walk Away, Lonely Is The Word.
*** Out went Ozzy Osbourne and in walked Ronnie James Dio and to many this was truly unthinkable, because how dare Black Sabbath fire their lead singer and choose to replace him with anyone. This was the mindset of many of the bands fans and these people dropped the band right then and there. The others who kept on supporting them through such an upheaval would find that their replacement wasn't just some nobody who got the job, but instead was Dio, who they knew and loved from Rainbow with Ritchie Blackmore. Clearly the man could sing, and compose worlds of mystery in heavy music without any difficulty. With Dio as the new singer in Sabbath, the music that they had done for so many years would morph ever so much and no longer focus on the Doom and Gloom side but instead retain its darkness and deliver a little more up tempo evil for the Metal community. The sure sign of this was with the albums opener "Neon Knights", which was a superb track and a powerful kick off tune for the new album. Dio's voice was perfect for the new music they were doing and it was instantly accessible had you an open enough mind to keep with the band. "Heaven And Hell", the albums title was also one of the more riveting of tunes they would compose and it has become a legendary part of the Sabbath catalog since it was written. The remastering on this one is incredible and makes everything sound terrific, but there are tracks that come off stronger with it like "Die Young" and "Children Of The Sea". "Heaven And Hell" definitely proved that Sabbath still had fire in their eyes and were looking ahead instead of back. The downside was that with this album, original drummer Bill Ward would choose to step down from the drum chair and move on.

Mob Rules (1981): Turn Up The Night, Voodoo, The Sign Of The Southern Cross, E5150, The Mob Rules, Country Girl, Slipping Away, Falling Off The Edge Of The World, Over And Over.
*** With Bill Ward gone and a new album to be recorded and delivered to the faithful fans, Black Sabbath brought on ex-Derringer drummer Vinny Appice. He is the brother of legendary Carmine Appice and his addition as a member of BSM2 would be a little bit of a step up in terms of the recent level of drumming being done in the band. Bill was good at what he could do, but I always felt Vinny was quicker and had much better fills. The bands music was showing signs of being faster on occasion and Appice was very good at driving this point across with apparent ease. One of my favorite tracks has always been "Turn Up The Night" and hearing it with the better production was just awesome. Mob Rules was actually my own first purchase for this lineup of Sabbath so songs like the amazing "Sign Of The Southern Cross" and "The Mob Rules" were stronger in my mind than the album that preceded it. These tunes were instant classics to me and the album and the tour that followed it were met with resounding success. What I also liked about Mob Rules was that it showed that this version of the band had a lot more staying power than many might have believed them to have. The sophomore curse didn't apply and they continued to keep the material strong and relevant. Dio's powerful voice and writing style seemed to fit right in to the riffs that Iommi and Geezer were doing. All in all it was working out quite well and this tour would result in a live recording that would be released the following year.

Live Evil (1982): E5150, Neon Knights, N.I.B., Children Of The Sea, Voodoo, Black Sabbath, War Pigs, Iron Man, The Mob Rules, Heaven And Hell, The Sign Of The Southern Cross, Heaven And Hell (continued), Paranoid, Children Of The Grave, Fluff.
*** Say what you will about the live album that the Sabbath guys recorded during their Mob Rules tour, because to me this was a far cry and step ahead musically and sonically from the only other available live recording that had come out two years previous. OK so Live At Last was not an "official" release but it did feature Ozzy Osbourne on all of the classics and yet official or not, bootleg or legal, this album was a load of crap and disappointed more people than it won over. Having owned the original vinyl of this album I can attest to it being rather spotty at times, but overall it was still a very strong live recording and that should be known right off the top. It was an album that featured the bands two recordings together and of course would be the one that found Dio addressing some of the bands long venerated classics for the first time. While this might have put people off a little bit, because the idea of someone else singing "War Pigs", or "Paranoid" and the like was just not done. To these people anyone other than Ozzy Osbourne singing the songs would be a travesty and nothing less. Being honest, I felt that Dio did these songs well, and that they performed them superbly together on the whole. Appice was great on the fills once done by Ward, although he sometimes kicked them up a notch since that was part of his overall flair. If you discount the dramatic introduction number "E5150" which is taped, the set list for the recording is split down the middle with both bands getting equal time. The remastering on this CD puts away forever those moments of spottiness that I mentioned the vinyl having. Either way this was always a valuable Metal release in my record collection and now the CD can officially replace it. I am sure a lot of you also felt this way but were afraid to speak in public about it for respect to Ozzy, but fear not, you can now safely stress your opinions on it. Despite the strong impact of the MK2 lineup's material, this live recording would also seem to seal their fate as Dio would move on along with Vinny Appice as the pair continued on as "Dio" while Iommi and Geezer went through singer after singer for decades.

Dehumanizer (1992): Computer God, After All (The Dead), TV Crimes, Letters From Earth, Master Of Insanity, Time Machine, Sins Of The Father, Too Late, I, Buried Alive, Time Machine (Wayne's World Version)
*** Sabbath continued along with a number of singers after Dio left and their numbers featured Ian Gillan, David Donato, Glenn Hughes, Ray Gillen, and Tony Martin. Eventually the two sides mended broken fences and the band moved out Tony Martin and moved in once again Ronnie James Dio along with drummer Vinny Appice and Mark II Sabbath lived again. Together the magic seemed to return and they would record Dehumanizer, an album that was just what the Metal world needed. Sadly, it arrived to hardly a whimper of interest and it's long been said that their initial reunion album was one of those releases that nobody got during the time that it was first released. This makes perfect sense to me as this was 1992 and the world of music was caught up in itself with the growing Grunge Movement out of Seattle. It had successfully all but killed off the Hair Metal nation from California and now was rearing its head in the direction of the legendary bands as well. Everyone was listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Alice In Chains and when it came to finding new Black Sabbath, no one seemed to care. I admit that this one had passed me as well since I was not following Sabbath at the time, so having a remastered copy to enjoy at this point in time was great. The album is perhaps one of the heaviest that the band had ever done and when you hear tunes like "Computer God" and "After All (The Dead" you will be convinced. It was also a little ahead of it's time as it speaks of computers being worshipped as gods and with the way the Internet has grown since then could they have been prophets to the way our world has become? The most powerful track on the album without a doubt is "I", a strong number that finds Dio at his best. The band also seems to be playing with a renewed zeal as they try to recapture lightning in a bottle as they had done ten years earlier. Sadly the reunion would not last too long and Dio would return to his solo performing while Sabbath would bring back in Tony Martin for the immediate future on albums and touring.

Each album is presented as its own album and they come packaged together in a sturdy slip cased box which has graphics around it but since this is in black on black you need to look a little more carefully to enjoy them best. The albums also include a booklet of their own that offers the listener relevant information about that particular release and its place in Black Sabbath history. These are fantastic reads and come courtesy of Dave Ling (Heaven And Hell), Bryan Reesman (Mob Rules), Stefan Chirazj (Live Evil) and Dave Ling (Dehumanizer). The only downside for me was the lack of song lyrics since it would have been nice to have them and perhaps some additional photographs of the members during each era or perhaps even unused artwork that was originally debated for use. Any of that would have been nice as an addition to an already excellent release. There aren't any bonus tracks presented on the albums as one often sees on such remasters but one would hardly care based on the excitement around this release finally seeing the light of day in this manner. The old saying is "third time's the charm" and in 2007 the music world would see the return of the Mark II lineup once again. Together they would record some new material and present it on a compilation "Best Of" that only focused on the times with Dio. The albums name was Black Sabbath: The Dio Years, and it was an album that would lead to one of the biggest tours ever. Now calling themselves Heaven And Hell; Tony, Geezer, Ronnie and Vinny would sell out night after night and perform before tens of thousands of the Metal faithful.

The release comes to us while the band is appearing on the "Metal Masters" tour as the direct support for Judas Priest, with opening slots being held by Motorhead and Testament. It's a serious dose of the classic vibe coming at you once again and its been stated by the band that new material will be released in early 2009. Based on the new stuff we heard on the compilation in 2007, I am sure that Metal will be off to a great start next year if that was any clue as to what their new tunes will be like. This is a must have release for ones collection.

Added: July 30th 2008
Reviewer: Ken Pierce
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2674
Language: english

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