After dividing fans after replacing Ozzy Osbourne with Ronnie James Dio, Black Sabbath produced one the greatest records of their career with 1980’s ‘Heaven and Hell’, an albeit different sounding record than any of the earlier records from the Ozzy era. Dio infamously had to put up with mean-spirited, hostile crowds on the subsequent tour to the ‘Heaven and Hell’ record. Needless to say, Dio eventually won them over. After winning over the majority of the detractors, and rightfully so, Dio and Sabbath quickly went back into the studio to pump out this almost equally great classic from 1981.
The Dio era of Sabbath is much different than the Ozzy era. Dio, who had been in Elf and Rainbow, might have seemed an odd fit for a band like Black Sabbath. Fortunately for all of us, the pairing worked flawlessly. Dio did take on most of the songwriting duties upon joining the band, which had previously been mostly handled by Geezer Butler. Dio and Geezer are pretty fundamentally different songwriters, though. Ronnie James Dio, as many are aware, is credited with bringing fantasy elements into heavy metal music. What some people may not be aware of is just how deep and philosophical his fantastical literary allusions truly were. Dio was always, without a doubt, metal’s best songwriter AND best singer, for that matter. The question going into this record is whether or not the newly rejuvenated Black Sabbath could continue the magic that had been spawned on ‘Heaven and Hell’.
The opening track, “Turn Up the Night”, starts off the record in similar fashion to the way the previous record had opened with “Neon Knights”. Both songs started their respective records off charging. A truly interesting moment on this record occurs after the epic “The Sign of the Southern Cross” in an instrumental piece called “E5150”. If you didn’t already know that Black Sabbath were the band that composed this piece, you might think it were Pink Floyd. This comes as in interesting interlude before charging into the title track, where once again, Ronnie James Dio, the wise wizard, spins us an ethical tale dressed up in a way which only he can. Even on lesser known tracks, like the following track, “Country Girl”, we are given one of Tony Iommi’s signature doom-laced guitar riffs. Oh yes, the mastermind of the metal riff is up to his old tricks on this record once again. As we get closer to the end of the record, with “Falling Off the Edge of the World”, which has a very similar to vibe to “Lonely is the Word”, from the previous record, it becomes clear that, for the most part, ‘Heaven and Hell’ and ‘Mob Rules’ are similarly structured records. There isn’t a whole lot of change between these records, save for “E5150”, which was mentioned earlier. This record doesn’t feel contrived in the least, though. In fact, it’s damn near equal to the previous record. One might feel more compelled to proclaim the previous record to be superior overall, but it’s real close. It certainly isn’t comparing apples to oranges.