11
Apr

Blast from the Past: Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell

Towards the end of the 1970s, Black Sabbath were in a real turmoil. The band had been falling apart for years, with addiction consuming Ozzy and the band, and as a result of the band’s problems, the quality of the music was dramatically taking a dive. After the release of 1978’s poorly received Never Say Die, as stated by Iommi, ironically the band were actually dying. Ozzy was fired and everyone assumed the band would end.

As we all know though, the band didn’t end, and instead, with the help of Ronnie James Dio, they went on to release a new album, known as Heaven and Hell. I’m here to take an objective and honest hard look at the album and deliver to you a review on the 1980 album. How does it compare to the Ozzy albums? Read my review after the jump.

Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell

  1. “Neon Knights” – 3:54
  2. “Children of the Sea” – 5:35
  3. “Lady Evil” – 4:26
  4. “Heaven and Hell” – 6:59
  5. “Wishing Well” – 4:08
  6. “Die Young” – 4:46
  7. “Walk Away” – 4:26
  8. “Lonely Is the Word” – 5:53

 

The words on the artwork above may read Black Sabbath, but this album is a very different beast to the albums most know and love by Sabbath. Heaven and Hell is a difficult album to review and digest, especially when you compare it to the classic Sabbath albums, because really, the band should have called themselves something else. It isn’t just the replacement of Ozzy with Ronnie James Dio that makes it sound different, musically it’s also very different. The songwriting and vibe is a bit different at times, and overall, the music is more American sounding than their previous material. Of course, as we all know, this doesn’t make the album bad in the slightest, it just makes it difficult to compare to the band’s previous (and considered classic) albums. The comparisons will always be made, even though they really shouldn’t be, purely because in name, it’s considered the same band.

So the album starts with ‘Neon Knights’, a great opening track. There’s no fancy acoustic intro, no pretentious orchestral instrumentation, you press play and instantly you’re greeted by the sounds of awesome riffage and the legendary Dio bellowing some fantastic vocals. Compared to the material Black Sabbath were writing in the latter parts of the 1970s, it’s like the band had discovered new energy in themselves. Dio sounds absolutely brilliant of course, and was a great replacement for Ozzy. Let’s be honest, Dio is one of the greatest Metal and Rock vocalists of all time, and up until the point of his tragic death, he could still absolutely kill it. And that’s more than Ozzy can do. Overall, the beginning of the album is strong and sets the tone for the remainder of the music.

The rest of the album doesn’t let up. Second track ‘Children of the Sea’ is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and one of the best of Sabbath‘s career. It begins with a gorgeous acoustic, clean intro riff that sounds amazingly trippy and cool. Dio’s vocals accompany the song well, before it breaks into a Heavy Metal classic. The chorus also proves to be a strong point. It’s songs like this that went on to influence legends like Iron Maiden. In fact, allegedly this song DID influence Iron Maiden.

The music varies decently on Heaven and Hell. Third track ‘Lady Evil’ is great and manages to have a more classic Sabbath vibe, although oddly enough is my least favorite track. While the title track ‘Heaven and Hell’ proves undoubtedly to be one of the greatest Metal songs ever written. With songs as strong as that, you know the album’s a classic. ‘Die Young’ is another brilliant song, from the slow opening soft synths, with Iommi providing some great guitar work in the foreground, to the awesome heavy verse sections. The soft chorus, with Dio softly singing “die young” over some great instrumentation make it potentially the strongest track on the album. The album closes as brilliant as it opens, with ‘Lonely is the Word’ bringing the album to an end. The song is a strong way to end the album, and the ending, with keyboards in the background reminiscent of part of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and a brilliant solo by Iommi assures the album ends in style.

So overall, the album is a classic Heavy Metal album that should be in every metalhead’s collection. Is it better than the band’s self-titled, Paranoid, or their other classics with Ozzy? That’s honestly irrelevant. You can you spend hours trying to convince yourself that this album is any less of a classic, but you’d simply be wasting your time and losing out on some awesome music. Yes, perhaps the band should have changed their name, but one thing I’m certain of, if they had, this album would be considered as big a milestone as the Black Sabbath‘s first few albums. Heaven and Hell is up their with the rest of Sabbath‘s classics.


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