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Black Sabbath has probably been the most imitated band in history, which is a consequence of pioneering any genre of music, let alone one containing so many sub-genres. 1992 is a significant year for this subject as it was loaded with bands that were trying to recreate the spirit of this band during the Ozzy Osbourne years; many of them failing miserably in the process yet were embraced as amazing successes. However, even amongst better imitators such as Soundgarden and Alice in Chains in the grunge scene, all one need do is compare the students to the master and see how big the contrast is.
Dehumanizer is extravagant not in that it tries to paint as bleak of a picture as possible by focusing solely on the negative (which is what Alice in Chains’ Dirt did), but in that it deals with darkness with an intellectual and musical flair that is more fitting to metal and all that falls under its umbrella. For example, many grunge bands took to the more doom and gloom approach to religion that was established on Metallica’s rather forgettable MoP song “Leper Messiah”. By stark contrast, the lyrics to “TV Crimes” takes a quasi-satire approach to the issue of televangelism, and paints the less flattering picture of the TV bible-beater as a 2nd rate conman. Voltaire would definitely be proud of this one.
Throughout the entire listen we are treated to a variety of lyrical themes that are quite a departure from RJD’s earlier work with Sabbath. From the futuristic technological tyranny of “Computer God” to the egoistic anthem “I”, we get songs that are poetic, yet still catchy and easy to sing along with in the concert hall. We also get a taste of older Sabbath themes from back when Ozzy was still fronting the band such as the somber introspective song “Too Late”, and the social commentary included on such tracks as “Letters from Earth” and “Sins of the Father”.
The music contained on here is a rather brilliant combination of several eras of Sabbath. “After All (The Dead)” sounds a good deal like “Disturbing the Priest”, while “Buried Alive” has an introductory riff that reminds a good deal of “Zero the Hero”. “TV Crimes” and “Time Machine” could almost pass for faster tracks from the earlier RJD era of Sabbath, although the riffs do contain a darker tinge that keeps them in line with the subject of this album. “Master of Insanity” is definitely similar to some of the darker tracks from the Ozzy era, and contains one hell of an evil sounding bass intro.
Some of the music on here is a bit more original sounding, though still in line with the precedents set on previous efforts. “Too Late” starts off with a sad sounding acoustic guitar intro that sounds a tiny bit like “Odin’s Court” off the last album, only to kick into some rather evil sounding electric guitar riffs that seem more in line with the dark title track to “The Eternal Idol”. “I” has a very blues inspired intro that could pass for Sabbath’s debut album in 1970, though the rest of the song sounds similar to some of Dio’s later solo work.
If I had to pick the best standout track on this album it would have to be “Computer God”. Although I am a Sci-Fi junkie and am thus partial to the lyrics of this song (TV Crimes is a close second), the true power of this song for me comes from the riffs. Tony Iommi really outdid himself on this one, both in terms of the grand collection of great rhythm guitar lines and two rather amazing solos. Geezer Butler and Vinnie Appice also deserve credit for their efforts on this one, and of course kudos to Ronnie for the dramatic vocal performance.
In conclusion, this was and will forever be the greatest album of 1992, nothing else that was going on musically during this time period even hopes to come close to this. It is unfortunate that this reunion was short lived, but on the bright side both Dio and Sabbath would go on to have solid releases in 1994. This album is recommended highly to all fans of Sabbath and all fans of metal; it stood tall and told the masses in one gigantic shout what metal was all about, despite the fact that many of the ears that they were shouting at had been deafened by the noise of Nirvana’s Nevermind and a host of other bands vomiting out musical debris.