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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Great rock album. We used to have huge debates in high school about Ozzy versus Dio and this album packs some great memories of those arguments. But even the most ardent Ozzy purist should acknowledge this album as successful on most fronts. Dio was a more than capable vocalist perfectly suited to the image of the material composed. The songs rock, the lyrics are fine, the playing is great.

Side one is the real slam dunk with Neon Knights, Children of the Sea, and the title track. Neon has always been a Sab favorite, something about the "feel" of the chords that just screams energy. I just love the guitar on this song. That's one thing I notice about H and H, it really seems to have re-lit the fuse for the band. They sound fresh and energetic and I think that's why the album has held up over the years. I suppose it was invigorating to get away from Ozzy's drama and alcohol problems. The title track is a late night teenage anthem up there with Stairway to Heaven on FM radio playlists. Geezer in particular has such a nice fat bass sound here and Dio is in his dramatic glory. Side two is less successful with "Die Young" being the standout track.

On the strength of the better four songs, Heaven and Hell is a must for Sabbath and Dio fans. For the rest of the site it is "good but not essential."

Report this review (#143924)
Posted Friday, October 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Exit Ozzy. Enter Ronnie James Dio.

This is a fine album. The first part of the album is the strongest, opening with the crushing Neon Nights. The next track, Children of the Sea, is a great rocker. Lady Evil is also a good song after that, although not my personal favorite. The highlight of this album is the title track, Heaven and Hell. The most progressive song on the album, it's got some really nice vocal, bass, and guitar work. Although the next half of the album is weaker, there are no bad songs.

Recommended for: any fan of Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio, or metal in general.

Report this review (#144044)
Posted Friday, October 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is my favourite Black Sabbath album ever.

After two mediocre albums with Ozzy, the one from '76 and the worst album Ozzy era Never say die from '78 Sabbath return to the doomy sound that made them gods of dark heavy metal in the early '70. Again i mention, to me Sabbath is heavy metal and not a shred of prog in their music, not even the early works are not prog. Enter Dio ex - Rainbow, Elf. Voice is perfect for what they play, powerfull, and he give a new dimension to Sabbath music. When everybody belived that Sabbath is history, Dio's voice is a punch in the face and he said in a german magazin in 1980 " Who belive Sabbath is dead then those persons must come to at least on show of us - he will live the stadium with the tail between the legs". Nothing more to say, Dio was right. The best Sabbath album since Vol.4 in my opinion, and one of the best in their lenghty carere. I will not review track by track, but Heaven and Hell, Lady Evil and Walk away the best from here, the rest are also good too.5 stars and one of the best albums ever in music in general. Essential to any serious listner.

Report this review (#144336)
Posted Saturday, October 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars For the very time of their existence, a member of the "Sabbath" original line-up was sacked (mainly for his drugs abuse). Dear Ozzy had to leave and Dio came in the place. I have mentioned already that even if Ozzy was not a great singer, he WAS "Sabbath" 's voice. All their emblematic songs were written while he was there and their later production won't be as fruitful.

"Heaven & Hell" is better than their last two studio albums "Technical Ecstasy" and "Never Say Die!" but it is not exciting. Dio does a good job but most of the songs are just average hard-rock. If you except "Neon Knights", the great opener (but we are used to this with "Sabbath") and "Children Of The Sea" which are both very good hard-rock songs; you won't find any anthems here.

Closing part of the title track "Heaven & Hell" features a great Iommi (once again) but it is a bit "short" to use the same (and only) artifice again. The poppier side shines on with "Wishing Well". An AOR good piece of rock. This album reminds some "Rainbow" ones. Average hard-rock with little inspiration and rather anonymous if it weren't the name of the band or leader. Songs as "Walk Away" is fully like this description. Ther closing number is better and can be regarded as a highlight mostly thanks to the great work of Iommi.

But it pleased the fans since it peaked at the ninth spot in the UK charts (Nr. 28 in the US). But I do not belong to them. Five out of ten, but this time, I will downgrade it to two stars.

Report this review (#144432)
Posted Sunday, October 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Right after the release of "Technical Ecstasy" album Ozzy quit the band and replaced for some live dates by former Savoy Brown singer Dave Walker, then Ozzy returned in January 1978. In June 1979, Ozzy quit the band for the second time for a solo career, replaced by former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio (b. June 10, 1949). Also during this period, keyboardist Geoff Nichols became a regular part of the band's performing and recording efforts, though he was not officially considered a band member until later. There was again, another major shift in the music of Black Sabbath. This was mainly due to the vocal quality of Dio had been a major trademark for Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. Having known Dio vocal characteristic, Black Sabbath tried to suit the music so that in this album the music is much harder than any Sabbath album before which typically starts with something slow / bluesy. This can be heard even from the opening track "Neon Knights". But the second track "Children of the Sea" (5:30) brings back the traditional Black Sabbath music especially through the riffs and drum work. I can sense that with this track the blend of Dio into Black Sabbath has worked perfectly well. The third track "Lady Evil" (4:22) demonstrates powerful bass lines by Geezer Butler.

"Heaven & Hell" (6:56) is a very nice song with an intro combining Iommi's typical riffs with Geezer dynamic bass guitar work to accompany Rainbow-like singing style. Geezer bass guitar work is quite obvious throughout the track. "Die Young" (4:41) starts with an ambient nuance demonstrating keyboard and guitar work followed with a hard rocker rhythm which accompanies Ronnie James Dio singing in relatively fast speed tempo. It's quite interesting rock track with nice musical breaks exploring keyboard and vocal line. "Lonely is the Word" (5:49) concludes the album beautifully, because the music flows naturally with some bluesy touch.

The result was a commercial resurgence. In the U.S., the album was a million-seller; in Britain, it was a Top Ten hit that threw off two chart singles, "Neon Knights" and "Die Young." (At the same time, the band's former British record label issued a five-year old concert album, Black Sabbath Live at Last, that was quickly withdrawn, though not before making the U.K. Top Five, and reissued "Paranoid" as a single, getting it into the Top 20.)

Overall, it's a very good hard rock music with combined styles of early Black Sabbath and Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, mainly due to Dio vocal characteristic that had become Rainbow's trademark. I recommend this album for those who love hard rock music. Keep on rockin' ..!

Peace and earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#146321)
Posted Sunday, October 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 sarts really!!

With Ozzy now out for good, the band had to think about its future with Wazrner Bros pushing the group for their tenth album. Torn between LA and England, the group eventually ended up in France in their tax-exiles (so the H&H album was partly recorded at Criteria studios in the UK and Studio Ferber in France), but personal problems also plagued Butler and prompted him to head back home to sort his problems (see later in the review).

Produced by Martin Birch (but not wearing the usual Birch Purple-sound), Black Sabbath's comeback album is one of the most impressive and influential albums of the 80's, as the group headed a Heavy Metal Revival, with Judas Priest (British Steel) and Motorhead's ascension to fame as well (Ace Of Spade), just in front of a wave of new groups that will be called NWOBHOB; Having secured RJ Dio on vocals (and bass), the group started rehearsing, with Geoff Nichols on bass (as well), because Geezer Butler was busy in his divorce case. Once the original bassist returned (therefore wiping out any legend that he didn't play on H&H), Geoff Nichols remained with the group but concentrated on whatever keyboards sounds were needed. Dio's new ideas mixed Iommi's writings created the new fresh approach ion the album, and the album's general ambiance is a huge part of its success.

Starting on the hit single Neon Knights (one of Sabbath's most up-tempoed tracks ever), the group charged heavily on the dramatics, developing to goosebump levels on the longer Children Of The Sea, the H&H title track and Lonely Is the Word tracks. With another two shorter tracks like the "anthem" Die Young and the abrupt Wishing Well, H&H is a stunning metal album, and strangely enough one of the last one (chronologically and historically-speaking) this writer will really consider highly. Butler's usual superb bass playing is still a very important feature, but Ward's drumming is a bit less mightier than in his early days. Superb closing track in Lonely Is The Word, as well.

While I wouldn't call H&H a progressive album per se, it certainly became the emblem of a new era for metal music, even if (IMHO) it's never been bettered by any metal group since.

Report this review (#146838)
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Before I even start on this review, I wish to make one thing clear: this is one of my top 10 albums of all time. So, yes, I am biased, very much so, and well aware of it....That, however, doesn't mean I consider "Heaven and Hell" to be anywhere near a masterpiece of prog - the progressive elements, if any, are few and far between, and the album definitely was never as influential to the development of prog-metal as Black Sabbath's Ozzy-era offerings. However, it can hardly be denied that H & H is a masterpiece of classic hard rock/heavy metal, signaling the band's return to sparkling form after the severe decline shown by their late Seventies albums.

At the beginning of the Eighties, Sabbath underwent what we could call a total makeover. Gone was the muddy, uncertain sound a of their earlier albums, to be replaced by Martin Birch's state-of-the-art, crystal-clear, diamond-hard production, which allowed every instrument to shine - Geezer Butler's and Bill Ward's thunderous rythm section, Tony Iommi's legendary riffing, but especially new guy Ronnie James Dio's awe-inducing roar. The latter's addition to the lineup made the real difference in the band's performance: though Ozzy's distinctive, vaguely disturbing wail had been Black Sabbath's trademark for nearly a decade, Dio was simply one of the best vocalists ever heard on the rock scene.

Obviously, such changes couldn't help altering the band's sound in a rather substantial way. As a matter of fact, "Heaven and Hell" sounds quite unlike their Seventies output - less chillingly menacing, more crushingly powerful. Album opener "Neon Knights" (to these ears, one of the best opening tracks of all time) sounds like a statement of intent right from the very beginning, brimming with Iommi's towering guitar riffs and Dio's soaring bellow. Things slow down for the second item on the tracklist, doom-laden "Children of the Sea" - one of Dio's career-defining vocal performances together with Rainbow's immortal "Stargazer". Though not one of the album's highlights, "Lady Evil" is a catchy, uptempo song, punctuated by Butler's booming, dynamic bass lines.

Strategically placed at the end of Side A when the album was originally released, the title-track, is a crushingly heavy cavalcade bolstered by Butler's thundering bass and Iommi's manic riffing, with Dio's voice soaring and swooping above the din in true epic style. As a sort of release of tension, another catchy tune follows, the almost poppy "Wishing Well" (no relation to the Free song of the same title) - perhaps nothing to write home about , but a song I've always been partial to. On the other hand, "Die Young" can be counted as another of the album's high points - a classic, powerful, keyboard-laden hard rocker, it sees another cracking vocal performance by the inimitable RJ Dio, and sterling guitar work from Iommi.

While the slightly nondescript "Walk Away" is in my opinion the only real filler on the album, closing track "Lonely Is the Word" most closely resembles Sabbath's earlier output with Ozzy - a sinister slice of doom driven by Iommi's positively monstrous riffing, and featuring at the end what is probably his best solo ever, while Dio's vocals sound pleading and commanding in turn. Without the shadow of a doubt, one of the band's undisputed milestones, and one hell of an album closer.

Not a masterpiece of progressive music, but a masterpiece all the same, "Heaven and Hell" deserves no less than five stars in my book. if you are into great music, regardless of labels, do yourself a favour and grab a copy. You won't regret it.

Report this review (#152624)
Posted Sunday, November 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars.This is one of my top three SABBATH records, and yes I have quite a history with this one. I bought it in the early eighties on cassette and it got plenty of air play as I drove around the beaches comfortably numb. Dio is one of my favourite vocalists, and this is the record where I like him best. He wasn't just their new singer though he also wrote the lyrics putting his stamp on BLACK SABBATH in more ways than one. The cover art of angels playing cards and smoking is one of a kind. I heard Kim Mitchell (MAX WEBSTER) recently on the radio talking about playing(solo) at a festival in Sweden last year and watching Dio(solo) play later at the same show, and just being in utter amazement at how good he was. He couldn't believe what he was witnessing. Coincidently Kim, Ronnie James and I were all born July 10th.

"Neon Knights" hits the ground running,an absolutely killer opening track that SABBATH has become famous for on their classic records.This is uptempo and relentless. Dio is freaking incredible. Iommi rips it up 2 minutes in. "Children Of The Sea" is my favourite track on here. It opens with acoustic guitar as Dio sings softly.Ward pounds his way in as Iommi's riffs come crashing in. Butler's bass is punishing as Dio belts it out. Iommi is so fluid 3 minutes in. 4 minutes in the intro acoustic guitar is back but this time with synths, as Dio again sings softly. Check out Dio 5 minutes in along with the powerful riffs from Iommi to end it. "Lady Evil" is a mid paced tune with some nice guitar work from Iommi. This one and "Walk Away " are what keep me from giving this 5 stars.

"Heaven And Hell" is my second favourite track and the longest on here. This is in the classic SABBATH mold, dark and heavy. Dio sounds so menacing. Some atmospheric guitar 3 1/2 minutes in, a minute later it becomes so powerful as the tempo picks up. This is insane ! Ward is leading the way as Iommi starts to shred. It ends with acoustic guitar melodies. "Wishing Well" is a brighter, uptempo track with more atmospheric guitar 2 minutes in. "Die Young" is a top 3 track for me. It sort of follows the pattern of "Children Of The Sea" with the contrast between calm and loud. It opens with synths as guitar rises out of it almost crying. Drums come pounding in as Iommi lights it up. Dio is very passionate here in this fast paced section. Calms right down after 2 minutes again with soft vocals. They're kicking it again a minute later. Iommi offers up some blistering solos to end it as Butler's bass throbs. "Walk Away" features a powerful vocal display. Ward is busy in this catchy song. It's ok I guess. "Lonely Is The World" is dark and heavy with great riffs. Iommi's solo after 2 1/2 minutes goes on and on as synths come in. Ward is great and so is this song.

This really is essential BLACK SABBATH and should be in every metal-head's collection.

Report this review (#162228)
Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Sabbath catches the Rainbow

With their lead voice Ozzy gone and a couple of albums coming in before this one that didn't hit as hard as their earlier material, Sabbath really had to regroup on this effort. Clearly, recruiting someone like the legendary lungs of Ronnie James Dio of Rainbow would do just the trick, and it did. This effort is far and away from most anything that Sabbath has done before, and the change is a breath of fresh air. With the force of Sabbath's overwhelming dark nature with their evil lyrics and doom guitars combined with Dio's excellent vocals and fantasy style lyric and music writing the band molded into a whole new beast. Obviously one to be reckoned with as well, as it's easy to see while looking back on this disc just how much it impacted the face of metal coming into the 80s with the sound of the albums seeming to have paved the way for influential acts like Iron Maiden. Sabbath may have been a driving force in metal already, but with this album they really defined the way the genre would go over the next decade, and even until now. In fact, but many this is considered ''the first power metal album''.

While Sabbath's sound was often defined by heaviness and a kind of overwhelming sea of music it's been changed here. While the riffs still fill the air the music is more evened out by Dio's voice giving it a dimension that it never had before. Whether this be good or band is really up to you, but this album really seems to be coming after you instead of expecting you to be immersed by the waves of guitar. This is evident right off the bat from the time Dio's voice comes in and brings us to the first refrain of the stellar opener, Neon Knights. Other songs on the first side maintain the old Sabbath feel with the very traditionally Sabbath Children Of The Sea which is likely the most immersed you'll get by riffs listening to this album. Dio's voice still acts a driving force, bringing us further into the album.

The second half of the album is just pure power metal. While this may not always been 100% attractive to the normal prog head the music here is performed just so damn good that it's easy to overlook. These guys are amazing musicians, so even tunes like the strangely upbeat Wishing Well make for a great listen thanks to flying guitar solos and a crazy drum beat. If the first half of the album had a very Sabbath feel to it, this half almost has a thick Rainbow feel to it. Listening to a tune like Die Young you can really hear where a young Iron Maiden would have been listening and getting ideas with it's prominent bassline and ripping guitars.

The biggest standout (and most progressive song) on the album as to be the title cut. Heaven and Hell is a tour-de-force of amazing guitars, vocals and all around instrumentation wrapped up in a short seven minutes. Starting out dark and chugging like a normal Sabbath this one explodes into full blast at the middle of the song with a full shift in time and tone making for a very, very satisfying song coming into the end. Sinkadotentree likely described this section of the song best in his review of the album when he said, ''This is insane!''. I really couldn't put it better.

While not purely prog as the 70s would have us believe, this album is still progressive in the sense of what it would soon do for metal music in general. The playing is sharp, every song is a killer and Dio's voice is always satisfying. This one has to get 4 black winged angels out of 5. Absolutely essential to any metal collection, and an excellent addition to a prog collection. Fans of Prog metal will be delighted, and anyone who likes metal in general certainly need to check this one out. Highly recommended!

Report this review (#176613)
Posted Sunday, July 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars After releasing some rather weak records and losing Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath surprised everyone, releasing the very good"Heaven and Hell", an album featuring the amazing Ronnie James Dio on vocals. The first thing you got to know about this album is that it isn't a traditional Black Sabbath album. If you are expecting "Heaven and Hell" to be a skull-crushing, heavy and doomy record, better search for other things. "Heaven and Hell" is different than "Paranoid" and different than, say, "Master of Reality".

First of all, while the guitar riffs are still heavy, they are played faster, giving to the album a more true heavy metal sound. Check out riffs like the main one on "Neon Knights" or "Lady Evil" and you will understand it. The drumming is simple, even giving to this album a strange AC/DC flavour, since Bill Ward seriously overuses the "kick-snare-kick-snare" beat. The bass is audible and provides an extra groove to the majority of the songs.

About the vocals... Dio is the main responsible for the drastic change of the band's sound, first of all because he is a singer that can do almost everything with his voice (Ozzy isn't, you know), delivering some beautiful vocals on "Children of Sea" and, most of all, on the beginning of "Die Young" and sounding pretty aggressive on songs like "Neon Knights". He also wrote the majority of the lyrics, so they are also extremely different from the traditional Sabbath ones (the ones dealing with evil, Satan, etc). This time, they mainly deal with fantasy, even giving to this album a strange proto-power metal sound, since the bands of that genre generally write all their lyrics about fantasy and such.

The opener "Neon Knights" represents the new sound of Sabbath perfectly, being a relatively fast song, filled with an unforgettable chorus and some simple yet effective, straight-forward drumming. In fact, this isn't the only song that carries a catchy chorus; the catchiness is, indeed, one of the main characteristics of "Heaven and Hell", which is a very varied record too. Even though the majority of the songs is straight forward, there are two "ballads"/calmer songs here to be found: "Children of the Sea" and "Lonely is the Word".

Anyways, highlights? The afore mentioned "Neon Knights" is a clear winner, of course. "Children of the Sea", a song that resulted from the first jam Black Sabbath ever made with Ronnie Dio, is another great song, the "green" lyrics fantastically interpreted by an inspired Dio. Got to love that ending too ("look out!!"). "Die Young" is the best track of the album though, that keyboard beginning (even reminiscent of Pink Floyd's "Shine on you Crazy Diamond") accompanied by the fantastic Dio... Awesome! Then the song explodes and Iommi unleashes one of his crushing riffs, ahhh, perfect! "Lady Evil" is another song that I like, especially because of the goofy lyrics, apparently Lady Evil is a "magical woman, the queen of the night, who can freeze where you stand!". Hell yeah, cheesy power metal lyrics + Black Sabbath = win!

However, one of the mysteries of metal, at least for me, is how the title track is so praised out there. It surely is a classic, a kick-ass song, but it isn't the "magnificient, amazing, awesome, beautiful, masterpiece of a tune" that many people say it is. A strong song, nevertheless. The only songs that harm the whole listening experience are the last two, at least they sound a bit uninspired for me. Without them, I would give this album some more points, but meh, I'll have to remove some because of them. I like the long guitar solo of "Lonely is the Word" though.

So, a catchy and heavy album by the metal godfathers. That's right, Dio really brought a fresh sound to this band, it's a shame that he had to left the band after "Mob Rules" (a pretty good record too). The good thing is that he is right now reunited with Black Sabbath and they are planning to release an album this year (at least that's what Dio said).

Best moments of the CD: -the last part of "Heaven and Hell". -the beginning of "Die Young".

Report this review (#176661)
Posted Sunday, July 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Sing me a song, you're a singer

Ronnie James Dio joins Black Sabbath here and starts a new chapter in the band's career. Heaven And Hell has become something of a classic and it is admittedly a strong album, perhaps even up to par with some Ozzy-era albums. However, having been a fan of the band for some years (even if I wasn't born until one year after this album was released), I remember being less than impressed when I first heard this album. I have come to like it a bit more since then, but some of my initial misgivings still stand.

First of all, this album is certainly not as obviously Prog related as Sabotage or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or even as some of the Jazz-Rock/Fusion inspired tracks on Never Say Die. I would even say that the Dio-era is the least progressive of all of the band's different eras. There are some slight progressive touches in Heaven And Hell as well, but if you want to find them you must look very closely. The loud and quite elaborated bass lines from Geezer, the discrete keyboards in the background, the Gothic, choir-like backing vocals and the mystical lyrics are some features to pay extra attention to.

The keyboards are played by Geoff Nicholls here for the first time and while he contributed to every album from this one onwards plus following them on tours, he was never recognized as a full member. This man deserves some credit for being there!

Heaven And Hell alternates between longer and more interesting pieces and shorter quite conventional Hard Rock songs. The excellent Children Of The Sea is followed by the straightforward Lady Evil; the classic title track is followed by the similar Hard Rock song Wishing Well and the superb, Queen-like Die Young is followed by another one of those straightforward songs in Walk Away. The album being book-ended by the powerful Neon Knights and the slow, heavy Lonely Is The Word.

The title track and Children Of The Sea both became a live favourites, and rightly so. These are classic Black Sabbath songs as are Die Young, Lonely Is The Word and Neon Knights. However, this album is not very varied. There are no real ballads to speak of or even semi-ballads like there were on many previous and later Black Sabbath albums, neither are there any instrumentals (apart from the all too brief but lovely acoustic outro to the title track) like the ones that enhanced some previous and subsequent albums (remember Embryo, Orchid, Fluff, Don't Start (Too Late), Scarlet Pimpernel, etc.).

Heaven And Hell is a good and solid album and for Black Sabbath fans this is essential. However, it is hard for me to raise very much Prog-enthusiasm over this album. Especially if I compare this with previous albums by the band like Sabotage or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, or the best of Ronnie James Dio's previous work with Rainbow (i.e. Rising) for that matter. Hence, the three start rating.

Report this review (#177992)
Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Heaven and Hell is the ninth full-length studio album by UK heavy metal act Black Sabbath. The album sees the first lineup change since Black Sabbath began their recording career with their self-titled debut in late 1969/ early 1970. The inevitable exit of lead vocalist Ozzy Osbourne was a result of clashing egos, musical differences and an extensive drug and alcohol abuse. The latter reason meant that rehearsals for their ninth studio album were drawn out for nearly a year and the work was done in an unpleasant atmosphere. As a consequence of the animosity and fighting guitarist and main composer Tony Iommi made the decision to fire Ozzy Osbourne from the band in 1979. Former Elf and Rainbow frontman Ronnie James Dio was brought on as the new lead vocalist in Black Sabbath and finally the band started working on writing new material for what was to become Heaven and Hell. in addition to Ronnie James Dio keyboardist Geoff Nicholls was also added to the lineup. He was initially brought in as a replacement for Geezer Butler on bass as Geezer Butler left the band for a short while during the sessions for the album. When Geezer Butler returned Geoff Nicholls shifted to keyboards.

The music on Heaven and Hell still sounds unmistakably like Black Sabbath. Ronnie James Dio is a powerful and very skillful singer and compared to the last couple of albums by Black Sabbath where Ozzy Osbourne sounded rather uninspired and tired, Ronnie James Dio´s performance here really ignites the dying spark in the band and re- launches Black Sabbath´s career. It really sounds like they quit the drugs and ate some vitamines instead because this album just oozes of the joy of playing music. The songs are all powerful heavy metal tracks and a few of them even have an epic edge to them I can´t remember hearing in Black Sabbath´s music before. Songs like Children of the Sea and Heaven & Hell are really majestic. The only song I´m not that fond of is Walk Away which has a bit of AOR/ soft heavy rock feeling to it. But it´s not really bad. Songs like Neon Knights, Lady Evil and Die Young just blow me away. Raw power and great songwriting. Note how fierce yet melodic Tony Iommi´s guitar solos sound on this album. Talk about a resurrection.

The musicianship is absolutely outstanding. The best performance up until then in their career. There´s so much bite and will to work for a great result that it´s breathtaking.

The production by Martin Birch ( Deep Purple and Iron Maiden among others) is powerful. A very professional production that suits the music perfectly.

I wasn´t mature enough when I listened to this album fifteen years ago and dismissed it for being soft heavy rock which at the time was of no interest to me. Heaven and Hell has really grown on me ( or I´ve grown up) and today I regard it as one of the best albums by Black Sabbath and a classic in the genre. It fully deserves a BIG 4 star rating. It´s highly recommendable to fans of heavy yet melodic heavy rock/ metal.

Report this review (#208904)
Posted Friday, March 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Of course my favorite Sabbath album.

Dio is easily a more capable and technically gifted vocalist than Ozzy. The songs rock really hard, although Sabbath loses a bit of their doom edge for a clearer more melodic sound.

But Iommi, who rarely ever let out with an awe inspiring solo, lets loose on almost each track here. And some of the solos are almost in a direct "shred" style. Fret flying work. Dio fits well enough, and the lyrics seem to be a bit better written (if not a bit more high fantasy driven)

Neon Knights is a rocking opener, but it doesn't do much for me. Perhaps I am biased against pure hard rock. But the song does well enough, and Dio's vocals make me like it a bit more than Paranoid.

Children of the Sea is quite epic. Powerful metal. With the soft intro, and Dio's entrancing vocals, possibly my favorite song, here. Oh wait, I am not even past the second song. This song is ferocious, and The operatic Dio slams into your head with goose bump evoking brilliance. Did I mention the ripping solo? the song has some progressive leanings, and the eerie synthesizers I hear in the background are wonderful touches to this classic.

Lady Evil comes after. Thumping bass line, and all. This is another more commercial song, but with fancy guitar slinging action via Iommi. A dark hard rock song, but the lyrics take a hit. Memorable, heavy, thick, and strong, but not amazing. The writing for this song is plain and simple, although the playing and execution keep it form being boring.

The title track. This song is perhaps my favorite Black Sabbath song of all. The doom metal opener, the iconic bass riff, the angelic vocals, the imagery-laden and deep lyrics, the hypnotic synthesizer lines... This song is a masterpiece. Then Iommi shows what he can do with an absolutely vicious solo in the middle. This is the highlight song of everything post Ozzy Sabbath. The thick crunching riffing, the powerful operatic hooks. I love this song so very much. Everyone in the entire band just tears it up with this track. This album should be purchased for this track, alone. And the entrancing acoustic outro...

Wishing Well is more quick and upbeat. This sounds like something you'd hear on Dio's first releases. Power/melodic metal. I can see why die hard original fans of Sabbath might dismiss the Dio years (and anything else Sabbath did), but I don't see why they could so easily overlook so many good songs. Although Wishing Well has to be the song I like least on the album. It is so generic and Dio doesn't seem to shine for me on this on. A decent enough song, thought.

Die Young is strong and melodic. Dio roars on here, and it goes between quiet atmospherics to blistering heavy rock attacks. Again, the solo is fantastic. I enjoy the synthesizer work in the background. It adds a nice touch to the song, and to the overall diversity of the album.

Walk away follows the suit of the rest of the album, in its heavy blues rock/metal approach. Dio's vocals soar, the guitars dance, the drumming is solid, and the lyrics don't offend (but they could be much better). Nothing to complain about, but nothing to be amazed by.

Lonely is the Word ends the album on a strong note. the funky and melodic power rock is pleasing to the ears. The it turns into Tony's strutting ground, for an amazing inspired solo. The light synth in the background to a solo that feels straight out of a Pink Floyd (later years) song. Magnificent close.

In all, the album revitalized Black Sabbath, and did wonders for melodic metal. The title track being evocative and masterful. The album suffers from some same sounding songs, lack of progression, and a few lyrical dips, Excellent addition, and essential to power metal/melodic metal fans. Four Stars.

Report this review (#212334)
Posted Friday, April 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Hey-Black Sabbath on "Progarchives"site! I don't think they are proggers at all, but they play good music, it's for sure!

"Heaven and Hell"is their first LP with Dio instead of Ozzy, and it is the best Lp for Black Sabbath Mk.II! Yes,it is very different from Ozzy years, but brings it own heavy-romantic atmosphere. Never before or after Dio was so good, mainly because of strange mix of his melodies,"dragon myths" and strong BS music. His voice is as perfect as always, but in combination with cold,doomy and hypnotic BS music it makes THE result: yes, it works!

I can compare this LP with "King Crimson"s "Discipline" ( not in sense of music, of course): we can hear the renewed BS there, which is not better or worse of BS Mk.I, it is just first and best LP of totaly new group!

Report this review (#233335)
Posted Friday, August 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The early Ozzy years will forever remain the most relevant in the history of Black Sabbath. Ozzy's morbid tone combined with the awesome wall of sound that Iommi produced made Purple and Zeppelin sound like innocent school boys. Metal was born.

The formula didn't remain successful though. Ozzy became a wreck and the creative well where Iommi used to unearth one majestic riff after another seemed to have dried up after a few albums. In the second half of the seventies they released, like so many other icons of the first half (Yes, ELP, Camel,?), some of the worst albums in rock history.

Out went Ozzy and in came Dio of Rainbow fame. And while he was never accepted by many Sabbath purists, no one can deny that he completely reinvigorated the remaining members and propelled Sabbath into the 80's with a vengeance. The basic formula hasn't changed that much actually. The music is direct, heavy and straightforward, but still smart enough to remain interesting for a whole album. The sound does luckily not fall into 80's trappings. It is clear, dry and heavy. Much like Master Of Reality sounded.

Neon Knights kicks off the album in full gear (well at least for Black Sabbath) and has everything a classic metal song needs: catchy riffs, solos, great epic melodies and a heavy dark undertone. It is an 80's upgrade of Paranoid and the result is much better. Children of the Sea is the heaviest track on the album, featuring one of Iommi's famous chugging riffs, dueling with a slow bass/drum groove. Lady Evil is a nice hard rock tune, not unlike Rainbow's Run With The Wolf. Heaven & Hell is the epic monster. Dio's excellent vocals fight for dominance with Iommi's sustained background guitars to a most stunning result. The track goes crescendo and builds up to an extensive climax. Wishing Well and Die Young are less well know but nevertheless very competent hard rock. Walk Away is Dio's typical slip song. But it doesn't bother me much as there's still one major winner ahead. Lonely Is The World is a very powerful and emotive ballad with an entrancing guitar loop that is both dead heavy doom and beautifully ethereal. Especially so Iommi delivers his most beautiful solo on the album. Wonderful what this man can do with his axe. Less is more!

Iommi has that magical gift to craft perfect songs from just a few basic ideas. Add the power chords of Dio on top of that and you end up with one of my favorite hard rock albums.

Report this review (#237512)
Posted Sunday, September 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars Black Sabbath Light.

Ozzy was sent packing and in came Ronnie James Dio. Black Sabbath also added Geoff Nicholls on keyboards. That and a new sound and a new approach.

Punk had come and gone. AOR was the dominating stadion filler with Foreigner and Journey. Kiss was packing in the stadiums too. Van Halen was the big new thing, followed by some other US bands. Iron Maiden and new generation of heavy metal bands set a new standard. So Black Sabbath adapted and changed too. Copied others, that is.

Ronnie James Dio is a brilliant vocalist. I am a fan of his. He is the flicker of light on this album. But I do not like Black Sabbath's adaptations of the new sound. They went from doom metal to AOR in the 1980s and this is the first of their AOR albums. The innovators became meek followers and just that. Only on songs like Children Of The Sea and the title track showcases the Black Sabbath I like. Those two songs are great. The rest of the album is AOR songs where both Ronnie James Dio and Tony Iommi is restricted to nodding along on these poppy AOR songs. The quality of this album, with the exception of the abovementioned tracks, is pretty dire. A song like Wishing Well is nowhere near the standard I expect from a band like Black Sabbath.

This is a dire album, not even saved by Children Of The Sea and the title track. The rest of this album is best forgotten.

2.75 stars

Report this review (#259736)
Posted Thursday, January 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars DIE YOUNG?!

Let me dedicate this review to Little Big Man, Ronnie James Dio, who passed away at 7:45am 16th May 2010. This message is very sad fact for me and for all his fans over the world.

I think "Heaven And Hell" is one of the best Black Sabbath (or generally Heavy Metal) albums ever and one of the best albums where Dio sang. What can I remember, this was a very fresh change after dark and obscure sound of Osbourne´s Sabbath. Voice of Ronnie was suddenly crystallic clear in trebles but still rough, technically perfect. Iommi´s guitar riffs and solos and Butler´s basslines seems different too because Dio brought fresh air, tuniness and lyrism into a BS general sound.

I like "angel" choruses here. I like mysterious atmosphere of songs like "Heaven And Hell" or "Die Young". Amazing mellodic tracks are "Children Of The Sea" and the last "Lonely Is The Word". 5 stars concededly!

Dear Ronnie! Rest in Heaven And Hell with the choir accompaniment of Children Of The Sea!

Report this review (#282294)
Posted Monday, May 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Black Sabbath is a Giant! We all know that!

In the 80's they had returned as 'new band' after Ozzy Osbourne departure. Keyboards were always present in their records (for instance Rick Wakeman Aka Spock Wall on Volume 4 album), but this time they brought in Geoff Nicholls for the whole album.

But of course, the thing in Heaven And Hell (1980) are the vocals. Ronnie James Dio (who sadly died a couple of years ago) was now in the band, and he brought a new sound to the band. We can't deny this fact. Ozzy will always be THE frontman from Black Sabbath, but you just can't ignore Dio (and you shouldn't do that anyway) just like Ian Gillan on Born Again (1983) (another great record pos Ozzy).

'Die Young' alone probably could make the album resist the test of time, but Heaven And Hell (1980) have so much more, enjoy!

Report this review (#285039)
Posted Saturday, June 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I know what you're thinking - here is another of these hardcore Ozzy fans who dismisses any other Sabbath lineup! To that I can only say; shame on you for being so prejudice and... please keep on reading!

The addition of Ronnie James Dio to the original instrumental lineup was probably one of the best vocalist substitutions in rock music's history! The only other one I can think of right now is that of Bruce Dickinson joining Iron Maiden. For Black Sabbath, this obviously meant a fresh new start where the members quickly started experimenting with new types of songs and arrangements. Among these were the fast-paced Neon Knights and dark semi-ballad Die Young which would have never worked in Ozzy's repertoire.

So why the whole good, but non-essential rating then? Simply because this is the weakest out of the three Dio-era studio albums (including Dehumanizer!). Most of the time the material works just fine but then there are those really weak tunes that just never appealed to me. Among these are Lady Evil and Walk Away which clearly show the band's inexperience as a collective. It's not that Sabbath weren't trying new things, on contrary, they did a lot of experimentation where some stuff worked and other simply didn't. The main reason for that would be the fact that the lineup had not yet come into their own and haven't learned the optimal way to incorporate Dio's vocals into Sabbath's repertoire.

Even though Heaven And Hell features great classics like Neon Knights, the album's magnificent title track and Die Young, the overall experience and fan reception reminds me a lot of Paranoid where the album is judged as a sum of its highlights while completely ignoring the grey areas. Fortunately it didn't take long for the band to blossom and Mob Rules is a great example of just that!

***** star songs: Neon Knights (3:51) Heaven & Hell (6:58)

**** star songs: Children Of The Sea (5:33) Die Young (4:43) Lonely Is The Word (5:53)

*** star songs: Lady Evil (4:24) Wishing Well (4:05) Walk Away (4:24)

Report this review (#297647)
Posted Monday, September 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The finest Black Sabbath album ever made. Yes, even with the history behind gems such as Paranoid, Masters of Reality, and Vol. IV, this is the one that I return to more often than any other.

Ozzy had run into the arms of the Arden clan, and eventual worldwide celebrity status, and was replaced by Ronnie James Dio, who had fallen out with Ritchie Blackmore. Dio brought his unique brand of sword & sorcery lyrics, added them to a bit of the "dark side", and, hey presto, we have a classic rock album on our hands. What this album did was rescue Sabbath from the pages of history, certainly after the cocaine fueled nonsense which had preceded this album, and gave them new impetus. Sadly, it wasn't to last very long.

In all of their illustrious career, I don't think that they came up with better tracks than Neon Knights, a rip roaring opener, Children Of The Sea, with its distinctly proggy acoustic opening & mid sections, and the title track itself, an anthem to heavy rock, and indispensable for any fan of the genre.

However, it is Die Young that is, to me, the crowning achievement of this album and, indeed, the band. Featuring some magnificent keyboards by Geoff Nicholls guesting, it is probably deliberately intended to parody Ozzy's madcap lifestyle at the time. The vocals by Dio are incredible, but it is Iommi who really steals the show with a roaring performance on guitar. I just love the opening dreamy solo, before he and the band go crashing into the main section. Just about the finest hard rock track ever made.

The four tracks I have raised above are most definitely the template for a whole host of what we now call prog metal. In those days, we just called it heavy rock, of course, and I'm not altogether sure just what the band would say to being included on a prog dedicated site.

The other four tracks are great slabs of heavy rock, but do suffer a little bit in comparison with the four absolute masterpieces here. I especially enjoy Lonely Is The Word, which features a delicate performance by Dio.

Nevertheless, this is an incredible album, and is, by any standards, an excellent addition to any rock collection.

Four stars, but 4.5 in reality.

Report this review (#322192)
Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars After two shakey albums with the possibly drug induced, Ozzy Osbourne, bandmates Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward deceided to kick him out (with Ward on the way). The band, struggling to find a singer, found Ronnie James Dio; ex-Rainbow and Elf, and one of the (soon to be) most respected rock singers of all time. Both of Sabbath's albums with Dio were excellent, some of early prog metal's best.

1.Neon Knights - The classic Dio track, with it's proto-thrash beat and heavy riffing, it's one of the best. The vocals from Dio are so fierce and intense, and his sense of melodies were much better than Osbournes, shown well on this track. Butler rocks his bass, as his riffing his totally murky but thrash at the same time. The mysticism in the lyrics is excellent as well, showing the new energy that was found within the band. (10/10)

2.Children of the Sea - One the epic tracks on the album, emotion has never flown through the band quite like this. Instrumentation from Iommi, Ward and Butler are at their highest, and the passion in Dio's vocals are unheard of nowadays. Totally dark and menacing type of track, with huge and catchy chorus that only a pop band could make are now being made by a heavy metal band. Some great stuff on this track. (9.5/10)

3.Lady Evil - Though a grooving track, isn't anything special. The cut itself isn't very consistent and is a total experiment. Great lyrics and melodies, but the instrumentation and vocals don't really mesh with each other and can sound otherwise awkward in some situations. The typical 80s chorus is also here. (7.5/10)

4.Heaven & Hell - Easily the best and most well known of the tracks, is a dark tale of the mysteries of Heaven and Hell. The lyrics are excellent, and not to mention how proggy and epic they are. The music is even better, the dynamics are excellent, as the movements from quite and dark to heavy and aggressive are seamless and can totally send chills down anyones spine. Dio's vocals are at their best, as he belts some of the most meaningful words in rock history. A true classic. (10/10)

5.Wishing Well - A more ubeat track, almost pop metal. The song really dosen't work with the rest of the album, as the lyrics don't really connect with the fast music, as the fairy and rainbows don't mix well. Good instrumentation just dosen't work with the lyrics, but the vocals from Dio are at their best. (7/10)

6.Die Young - A experimental as every, but works even better than the other tracks. The synthesizers are excellent and very dramatic; major part of the music. Iommi's guitar playing is epic, and very emotional. Bass riffing has never been better, as Butler sends the bottom end to a new realm. The drumming from Ward is exceptional as well, as his fast- paced beats are heavy and trippy. The vocals from Dio are amazing, and the lyrics are excellent as well. The mood changes are excellent for such a short track as well. A classic track. (10/10)

7.Walk Away - Another poppy track from the album, is not as epic as previous track, but its a well crafted pop cut. The bassline especially is excellent on the track, and the fast buildup is well appreciated. Overall, not a standout track, but it definatly isn't a weak track, with the catchiness and great melodies. (8/10)

8.Lonely is the Word - The perfect way to end an album. Heavy metal at its best, as the riff and slow beat make the dark cut even better. Dio's vocals are lower than usual, but are powerful and are excellent. New chords are added hear an there, which adds to the intensity of the track. Lyrics are great and the rhythm section is totally rocking, with it's unusal beat and great way of keeping the uniqueness of the album high. A great closer. (9.5/10)

Though the album has a few faults, it's extremely consistent. Great playing from all members, especially newcomer Ronnie James Dio. A 5 star effort, as you truely do need this in your rock collection or prog collection.

Report this review (#335607)
Posted Friday, November 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars While its progressive elements are minimal, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more solid, entertaining, and rock-solid slice of metal excellence than Heaven and Hell.

Many of the elements that come to mind when thinking of Black Sabbath are absent here-- the doom, gloom, psychosis, etc. has been left behind in favor of upbeat, melodic, and catchy rockers, thanks no doubt mostly to the incomparable Ronny James Dio, whose lyrics and vocals here are some of the best in his career. Dio sets the bar very high here with his characteristic gruff, masculine, and powerful dynamic. Although the content is pretty standard for Dio, his mix of mysticism, gypsies, hellfire, and being awesome just seem to work, without any hint of pretense. While somewhat anachronistic, this is the sort of metal lyricism that I love-- over the top, fun, and badass.

But while Dio almost steals the show, its the original Sabbath crew that really makes Heaven and Hell the success it is. Iommi's guitar playing is revitalized on these tunes, cranking out massive riffs, solos, and melodies throughout. From the chugging might of the opener "Neon Knights" to the soloing over tempo changes in the title track-- Iommi provides the wall of sound which crushes the listener with this album's heaviness. The rhythm section gives an exceptional showing as well, laying down solid foundations of bass grooves and crashing drums.

While all the songs on this album are at least fun listens, "Heaven and Hell", and especially "Die Young" stand out to me as essential metal songs of the '80's. While the "new" Sabbath may not appeal to those who cling to Ozzie's style, but for those of us who love to rock and feel the speed of life on our faces-- Heaven and Hell is an excellent addition to our music libraries.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Report this review (#438121)
Posted Saturday, April 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars After a run of five classic studio albums, one patchy but still quite good piece (Sabotage) and a couple of albums best forgotten, the Ozzy-fronted incarnation of Black Sabbath finally disintegrated for good. Luckily, Iommi, Ward and Butler had been having a good time jamming with Dio of late, and took him on as their new vocalist - a crucial moment for the careers of both Dio and the band as a whole.

Wisely, Sabbath do not try to mimic the sound of the Ozzy-era albums, instead taking the opportunity of their new lead singer to update and rejuvenate their sound and show those NWOBHM whippersnappers how it's done. The result is a confident and capable album which might not be as starkly original and groundbreaking as their first releases, but still represents a striking return to form after a fallow patch in the band's fortunes and a refreshingly new sound for the group.

Particularly striking is the way Iommi is able to weave guitar solos in his own classic style into fast-paced tunes like Neon Knights, which in their pounding rhythms and Dio's dramatic delivery rank compare favourably to the sort of material produced by Iron Maiden or Judas Priest at around the same time. Meanwhile, Dio proves he's capable of handling slower, doomier material like the title track, Lonely Is the Word, or Children of the Sea. These slower tracks take on a more operatic tone than the sledgehammer-heavy dirges of early Sabbath, but this is only appropriate for Dio's vocal style - which is on top form this time around.

On the whole, this album is probably more closely aligned to Dio's early solo style than the classic early 1970s Black Sabbath sound, so if you're fond of the former but aren't so keen on the latter, don't be put off from giving it a try, while if you love the early Ozzy sound don't expect more of the same with a different vocalist here. Of course, if you love both early Sabbath and solo Dio, you'll probably end up giving this album heavy rotation anyway.

Report this review (#563964)
Posted Monday, November 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ronnie James Dio breathed new life into what was becoming a falling star. After the lackluster Technical Ecstasy and the experimental-but-widely-panned Never Say Die the band really needed some sort of boost. Original vocalist and front-man Ozzy Osbourne had been kicked out due to excessive intake of alcohol and controlled substances. In fact, he said that after the deaths of Keith Moon and John Bonham he thought he was going to be the next one to go. I don't think it was that Ozzie indulged more than the rest of the band, but rather that he could not maintain his career as well as the others. So out he went, perhaps as a scapegoat, perhaps as the weakest link (which I always thought he was), and in came Dio, straight from Rainbow. The loss to one band was the gain of another.

The album opens with what had by now become a typical rocker, Neon Nights. Immediately we hear a freshness, a revitalization we haven't heard from Sabbath in years. Iommi delivers some blistering guitar leads here. This is followed by Children of the Sea, a mid-tempo powerhouse. Listen especially to Geezer Butler's bass on this ? it is some of his best. His bass also stands out for Lady Evil. The bridge on this one provides a nice surprise. What was originally side one ends with Heaven and Hell, one of Sabbath's best songs ever. It features what has now become a typical Dio crunchy drive, but this is the first time I have heard it. Both Iommi and Butler sound great on this one. The riff is powerful, the lead is exceptional and dramatic, and the bass is a force to be reckoned with. This song plows on with both dynamics and bridges. The majority is mid-tempo, but it leads to a fit of Sabbath fury to a blistering climax, and fades out with some classical guitar. The song also has one of my favorite lines by Dio, one that is printed on the back cover (at least on the lp): "The world is full of kings and queens who blind your eyes and steal your dreams. It's Heaven and Hell." So true. This parallels American James Branch Cabell's motto for a fantasy series of his: Mundus Vult Decipi. The world wants to be deceived. I played this album for a girl who I knew in college who was a major Led Zeppelin fan but had not heard much Sabbath. She even named a plant of hers Robert. Bad pun, but good for a few laughs. After hearing the first side, especially the title song, she was speechless, even stunned. She said she had never heard anything like that, not even from Zeppelin.

If second half of the album were as good as the first, this one would be a contender for Sabbath's best album ever, but alas, it was not to be. This is not to say the second half is not good, it is, but it is not quite at the same level. Close, but not quite. The energy of the album remains the same, however, and these songs will rock your socks off, yet there is nothing that reaches the same heights of the first half. The only one I will mention is the closer, Lonely Is the Word, which provides and anthemic ending greatly enhanced by Iommi's send-off of a solo and Geoff Nicholls keyboards. I have named every band member so far, except for Bill Ward. The music on this album is not as complex as much of what they had done in the past, so Ward is not given the opportunity to help the band shift gears and play his crazy fills. He does, however, get the opportunity to pound those drums and he does so with an almost reckless abandon. His playing is rock solid throughout. The song structures are not simple, though. This is not punk, nor is it the new wave of British heavy metal (although there may be some influence from that movement here). No, this is old school metal by the godfathers of the genre. They do not disappoint.

A friend of mine had seen this line-up in concert on tour promoting the album. When I asked him how it was he said, "I love Ozzie, but Dio makes him look like a fool." Now, it is not my purpose to diss Ozzy, but as I said before, I always regarded him as the weak link of the band. Dio is a much better vocalist, what with his greater range, pitch, and power. And Dio delivers here in spades. Heck, everybody delivers here. This is the album that put Sabbath back on track and back on the map. This rocks, oh man, how it rocks.

Report this review (#571990)
Posted Sunday, November 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Heaven And Hell' - Black Sabbath (8/10)

Black Sabbath have made some of the best heavy metal albums I've ever heard. Both "Paranoid" and "Sabotage" have claimed their rightful thrones as masterpieces, and even the relative 'lesser' of Sabbath's early works were still excellent. Alas, the band hit a brick wall, the brick in this analogy representing a ton of drugs and petty argument. By "Never Say Die!", Black Sabbath ironically felt dead, not in an atmospheric or morose way, but in that it was clear that music was no longer their number one priority. With this, Ozzy Osbourne left to pursue a successful solo career, and a Mr. Ronnie James Dio came into play. Then best known for his work in Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, Dio's operatic style was a sharp contrast to Ozzy's more nasal, down-to-earth voice. This shift also made for a big risk on the band's part, but it was one that they needed to take. "Heaven And Hell" is now seen as the return to grace for Black Sabbath, although it bears little resemblance to the classic Sabbath sound.

Disregarding the fact that I'm visiting this album a good three decades after it was released, I would not have believed that Sabbath would have sorted out their [&*!#] and gone back to recording passionate music after "Never Say Die!". In a way, the 'classic' sound of Black Sabbath seems to have died with "Sabotage", but then again, Sabbath were never a band to stay in the same place for long. Although Ronnie's solo work would not be out for a couple of years yet, "Heaven And Hell" tends to sound more like a Dio creature than the signature sound of Iommi and company. Although I may have preferred to hear a doomier incarnation of Sabbath here, Dio's contributions are impressive and work in the favour of a band that sounds young again.

Although "Heaven And Hell" would be the most refined and polished Black Sabbath had yet sounded, it has a deeper grounding in heavy metal than most of their previous work. Iommi's riffs are a little less massive than they had been in the past, and as Sabbath albums go, the sound is pretty homogeneous. Although it was commonplace to hear ballads, experimental interludes, and metal screechers all within a single Sabbath record, the songwriting and tone lean towards a theatrical, upbeat energy, with the occasional call for mellowed rock instrumentation. Though this makes "Heaven And Hell" more difficult to distinguish on a song-by-song basis than albums from the band's golden era, this is arguably the most consistent the band had ever sounded. Highlights include "Children of the Sea" and the immortal title track, but one thing is for sure; "Heaven And Hell" is the return of passion for a band that had lost their way.

Report this review (#763239)
Posted Monday, June 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars After the disappointment that I felt after Sabbath's releases of "Technical Ecstacy" and "Never say Die" they rammed me with this release. "Sabbath" was again on the top of my "to listen to" list. What a comeback and what an album to start that comeback with. Once more Sabbath was in prog metal territory in spades. Dio's voice persuaded me that I still needed Black Sabbath in my life after the Ozzie's departure and the music was again sublime. This album has to be one of the top hard rock / metal releases of all time thus far. I loved Dio in Rainbow and I loved him in the new Black Sabbath Mk2. The track "Heaven and Hell" is up amongst the best that Sabbath have ever recorded - it is a giant of a track. The rest of the album is damn good but doesn't equal the title track itself. The only problem that I had with Dio's voice is that everything else seemed to pale in comparrison and it seemed that any band who he sang with became his backing band. Dio, to my mind, was easily one of the most powerful voices in rock music. To Sabbath's credit their own brand also shone in this release aside from the powerful vocals. A very solid 5 stars from my perspective.
Report this review (#939540)
Posted Friday, April 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars The band says that Ozzy was too much into drugs and they kicked him out, but Ozzy says that he was sick of the experimental direction the band was taking after "Technical Ecstasy" and "Never Say Die" and wanted out of the band. Whatever the reason, it was Sharon Arden that introduced guitarist Tommy Iommi to Ronnie James Dio (previously the lead singer for the bands Elf and Rainbow). Sharon Arden would later become Sharon Osbourne....interesting how things work out. The move to put in Dio turned out to be a wise decision for both Dio and Black Sabbath. This revitalized Black Sabbath's sound and introduced the band to new fans, the type of fans that love the 80s style metal that Black Sabbath started to emulate instead of following their old doom metal sounding formula which also had more prog elements than the new sound did. It is also interesting that with Ozzy leaving that the "experimental period" also ended with the band making more accessible heavy metal than before.

So, this album was a huge success. People liked Dio's vocals because he was right in line with what was happening in the hair metal scene that was evolving. Dio's method of singing was much different from Osbourne's. Iommi said that Dio opened up new possibilities because he sang against the guitar hooks where Osbourne insisted on singing along with them. What I find interesting yet disheartening is that the days of the multi-movement songs that was prominent in Sabbath's music was also gone. This lost a lot of the dynamics that were previously a huge characteristic of Black Sabbath music up through the "Sabatoge" album. To reflect this, the songs on "Heaven and Hell" are a lot more commercial than before.

This is not to say that "Heaven and Hell" is a bad album though. For Dio, this was probably his least commercial album that he was involved with, but it was also Black Sabbath's most commercial album to this point. While with Rainbow, Dio would dabble a little with prog elements, but for the most part, his overall sound was the same. So Dio brought commercialism to Black Sabbath, and the band brought popularity to Dio's name. For this album, the change in the vocals is welcome and it is a good mix of heaviness and commercialism that did rise above a lot of the hair band sound that was out or coming out at the time. "Neon Knights" and "Heaven and Hell" are staples of Black Sabbath and both excellent tracks, and some of the secondary songs are even great rockers, but they are not progressive at all, and unfortunately to me, become less interesting faster. Still, it's a worthy album and a great on for the Black Sabbath discography. Besides the obvious highlights, "Lady Evil", "Wishing Well", and "Die Young" are all better than most of the heavy metal being made at the time and "Lonely is the Word" is actually my favorite highlight of the album, so yes this is a Black Sabbath album that deserves to be in your collection.

The next album "Mob Rules" also featured Dio as vocalist, but also fell to being more commercial than ever, and suffered for it. In the meantime however, this album is not quite up to the standard of the best Ozzy era albums, but it is still great enough to get 4 stars. The part that bothers me is that it really isn't a prog album, so for the purposes of this site, it must get 3 stars.

Report this review (#1411391)
Posted Sunday, May 10, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised to find that my snooty, know-it-all assumptions about a classic band are unfounded. For decades I brushed off Black Sabbath as being nothing more than a one trick pony that made a name for themselves by merely being loud, brash and controversial. I didn't give them much credit for being all that talented because all I ever heard on the radio was 'Iron Man' and 'Paranoia' and neither song did anything for me. (Ironically, when I finally got around to listening to the LP those tracks are part of I realized there was a lot more going on than I anticipated hearing and I felt obligated to give it a favorable review. Who'd a thunk it?) While my taste in prog still leans heavily toward the symphonic and jazz fusion ends of the spectrum and always will, there's a part of me that enjoys high-quality hard rock quite a bit. Especially when there's plenty of creativity and imagination tossed into the mix. 'Heaven and Hell' fits that description to a tee.

According to what I've read, the boys in Black Sabbath (despite their own share of destructive hang-ups) got their fill of Ozzy Osborne's dreadful habits after making eight albums with him commandeering the mike and kicked him out the door. It just so happened that singer Ronnie James Dio was unemployed and pleased as punch to step in when the invitation was received. Within the first few seconds of the opening cut, 'Neon Nights', one can tell it was a near-perfect, serendipitous match made in, well, heaven. The tune features a driving Deep Purple-ish, Highway Star-like motivating riff that doesn't waste time making a bold statement of purpose. When Dio opens his mouth it's a done deal. He pours uncompromised energy and excitement into the song that announces the group's timely resurrection from the doldrums of burn out mediocrity. But what shocked me most was Tony Iommi's guitar solos. They sizzle and pop like wet bacon on a hot skillet. I wasn't expecting that at all. 'Children of the Sea' is next. Its subtle opening leads to a weighty progression that might've grown tiresome if not for Ronnie's awesome vocal tour de force. And, once again, I was knocked silly by Tony's blazing guitar lead. They also display admirable arrangement skills by letting the track die down a tad in order to set up a power-packed ending. 'Lady Evil' sports a more traditional, straight-ahead rock & roll vibe that does a fine job of keeping the momentum ball rolling at this juncture. The lyrics are pretty lame but who cares? This foursome sounds like a band that's firing on all cylinders. 'Heaven and Hell' follows and, while it starts off like a throwback to their earlier minimalist productions, Ronnie jumps into the fray and gooses it with a freshness and vitality that can't be denied. They rev up into speed metal mode for a spell and then finish with an unanticipated Spanish guitar segment that I found delightful. Overall, this terrific number shows off a great deal of maturation in their songwriting acumen.

'Wishing Well' is a tight rocker from the get go. I get the feeling Mr. Dio brought some of what he learned from fronting Rainbow into the sessions as far as how to structure tunes like this one in a way that isn't overly predictable or patronizing. 'Die Young' benefits from sideman Geoff Nichols' dreamy keyboard contributions and the contrast they add keeps the proceedings from turning stale. (I'm a big fan of variety so the fact that each cut has its own character is a major plus in my book.) The middle section is nice and proggy, too. Gotta say it's hard not to be constantly blown away by Ronnie's incredible range and intensity. The man was one of a kind. 'Walk Away' is next and Iommi's switch to a slicker guitar tone comes at just the right time. It distinguishes this tune from the others right off the bat. It erects a much more radio-friendly aura yet it doesn't detract from the album's central mojo at all. Instead it demonstrates efficiently the versatility that helped keep them relevant in that era. They conclude with 'Lonely is the Word'. Tony, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward combine to present a knock-down-the-walls, bang-your-head arena rock riff that could satisfy any crowd of rowdies anywhere and Dio's voice slices through the din without any difficulty whatsoever. I really like that they tossed in a brief jazzy interlude along the way. Humbly I find it necessary to reiterate that, to my amazement, Iommi had by this time turned into a monster guitarist that I would've bragged about to my friends had I been paying attention. A little late now.

Black Sabbath was either fortunate beyond belief or extremely wise to recruit Ronnie James Dio when they did because together they made a damned good record. The musical landscape was changing rapidly as the 70s came to a close and a lot of their contemporaries were deteriorating into starving dinosaurs as Punk and New Wave were fast becoming the rage. By bringing new blood into their band and letting him contribute and blend his unique artistry into their foundational sound they were able to give their reputation a huge boost as they entered the 80s decade. 'Heaven and Hell' reached #9 in the UK and a respectable #28 in the States, no small feat for an established-but-aging rock outfit in that uncertain era. Sadly, the Dio/Black Sabbath marriage didn't survive past their follow-up LP together but they can be super proud of this one. I can't find a darn thing wrong with it so I give it a solid four-star rating. This is how sledgehammer rock is supposed to sound, kids.

Report this review (#1723915)
Posted Friday, May 19, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars 1. Neon Knights with Ronnie on vocals, yes it was inevitable that Ozzy would act up and leave; well you know I didn't like his voice in the group so that suits me; hard rock with the solo that goes well with it, fast 2. Children of the Sea with the delicate acoustic intro... come on it doesn't last the killer riff that comes reminds us where we are on DIO, yes finally BS but Ronnie is so sure that we're there Misunderstand, it will take the guitar solo to tilt; in the meantime, this riff is simple but it's effective plus backing vocals from up there; the return to the original verse gives the change, it feels like prog metal before its time 3. Lady Evil for the consensus hard title; good sound, good rhythm but no diversion, for proguous go elsewhere 4. Heaven & Hell and the piece with a latent musical tram; the intro which announces the minimalist verse, Geezer and Bill still providing this pantagruelical, or phallic, or dreamlike or ecstatic bass; in short, the captivating piece which denotes a progressive atmosphere through the different drawers offered inside; the central break with an aborted solo, the guitar which returns, which takes a position, Bill who gets involved to bring the riff higher, further, heaven and hell is one of the two; its finale with the acoustic guitar like at the beginning of 'Childre', hard finesse 5. Wishing Well for a good hardcore with DIO sauce, parenthesis to recall his tone of voice and his presence, the solo seems soft here 6. Die Young with its magnificent entrance from Tony, its energy, its angelic vocal break and the cover with the appearance of Geoff on keyboards, a first for BS, the 80s are there 7. Walk Away consensual hard title without much particularity except the guitar solo, latent, a climax, laying out its scales 8. Lonely Is the Word with this initiating riff reminding me of the BS from before, the original one when Ozzy was working; a characteristic catchy riff; Barely 2 minutes in and a Sabbathian solo falls upon us, a melancholy atmosphere with its share of suave notes, making us believe in sweetness, well Ronnie returns before a last exploration and final guitar-synth, pre-prog metal?
Report this review (#2312164)
Posted Sunday, February 2, 2020 | Review Permalink

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