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Review: Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell
Black Sabbath
Heaven and Hell

Label: Warner Bros. Records
Year released: 1980
Duration: 39:30
Tracks: 8
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 4/5

Review online: September 25, 2011
Reviewed by: MetalMike
Readers Rating
Heaven and Hell

Rated 4.59/5 (91.83%) (93 Votes)

1980 saw the release of Black Sabbath's 9th studio album, Heaven and Hell. The new decade brought with it a new singer, in the form of former Rainbow front man Ronnie James Dio. With a style that couldn't be much different from the band's previous singer, Ozzy Osbourne, it was hard to imagine what the band might sound like. The addition of new blood seemed to be just what the band needed as they crafted some of the best songs of their careers. Of course, there were some misfires as well.

Dio brought all his trademark lyrical imagery with him (swords, dragons, rainbows, etc.) and the rest of Black Sabbath seemed only too happy to allow him free rein, including bassist Geezer Butler, who'd penned many of the more popular lyrics from the band's heyday. The musical direction, too, got the once over. Heaven and Hell opens with the awesome, pre-Power Metal anthem "Neon Knights." If there was any indication that this wasn't going to be your typical 70s Black Sabbath album, this song was it, with its speedy riffs and sing-a-long chorus. "Neon Knights" remained a live staple for Dio, whether playing solo or with Black Sabbath/Heaven and Hell, up until his death. It is followed by the equally good, but completely different "Children of the Sea," with its slow, epic feel. After the unimpressive "Lady Evil," a generic cross between Rainbow and Dio's later solo works, we get "Heaven and Hell." This is surely the band's most atmospheric and "doomy" song since the early 70s. A brooding pace creates a bleak atmosphere before giving way to the whirlwind finish, a la "Black Sabbath." "Die Young" is another speedy track but it successfully combines that quick tempo with some wickedly dark soloing by Tony Iommi. Throughout the album, Butler puts on an amazing show with his bass playing. He plays actual melody lines as opposed to simply pounding out the songs tempo with root notes. There are a couple of other "throwaway" tracks in the vein of "Lady Evil" that are OK, but out of step with the rest of the album. The closer, "Lonely is the Word," lives up to its title in mood, if not listenability.

Heaven and Hell is a mixed bag, no question, but the good songs ("Neon Knights," "Children of the Sea," "Heaven and Hell" and "Die Young") completely outweigh the dross. It is far superior to the last two Ozzy albums and it proved Black Sabbath still had good music left in them. Black Sabbath, Dio and Traditional Metal fans who don't own this should immediately rectify that situation.

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