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Is there someone to be trusted with my mind? - 92%

joncheetham88, August 16th, 2010

Iommi and Dio split for several reasons, but over the following decade it became clear that one of them was a desired divergence in style. Dio pursued his taste for epic rock'n'roll, while Iommi restored the blues to his music in style. When these two mighty forces met again in 1992, their various sprawling catalogues were again forced to bottleneck.

It is clear what Dio was drawing on for Dehumanizer - the angrier, rougher vocals and thumping song textures of Lock Up the Wolves led smoothly into the reunion album's throaty attack. Iommi however, in a rare show of artistic capitulation, collapsed the majestic power metal of Tyr to augment Dio's dark lyrics and increasingly complex songwriting with almost thrashing guitar riffs and cold, dirgelike, doomed atmospheres. Perhaps this is where the album earned its name - the sound of Sabbath here is less personal, less direct, instead dwelling in worlds of technical apocalypse and the abusiveness of humankind both lyrically and in its harsh aesthetic.

With all that said, the composition on Dehumanizer goes far beyond just angry, doomed sounding riffs. The staccato first half of 'Computer God' lurches like a stop-motion monster into a mournful, epic acoustic section not a million miles away from Martin-era Sabbath before rebooting into Mob Rules style heroic soloing. Besides being an absolutely spot-on assault on TV evangelism 'TV Crimes' infuses the trotting pace of Dio-Sabbath favourites like 'Turn Up The Night' with the hard guitar sound and acerbic vocals of fairly early thrash, as does the more sinister 'Time Machine.' While 'Master Of Insanity' is an interesting rocky take on the dark sound at large here, 'I' is like nothing recorded by the band before or after. The distorted intro never fails to excite, before the thrashing march of the guitar riffs comes in. Dio sounds almost too enraged to sing coherently, and Iommi's playing is more precise and heavy than an A-level maths teacher. Absolutely anthemic - you won't find anything like this.

"What do they do with your soul? Is it just lying there busted?"

The production sets this album apart, with its dry, clattering impression of open space and distance. This seems at first to give the tracks a sense of uniformity, especially with the low, rumbling bass dominating as much during the AOR-sprinkled "Sins of the Father' as it does on the huge, screwdriving head-smashing doom of 'Buried Alive' which brings the album to its sudden death. It's almost a death metal production - loose, crashing kit, thrumming bass pared away from the buzzing guitars - sounds like early '90s stuff to me. But despite this Dehumanizer covers all the bases for a diverse album of Sabbathy goodness. 'After All (The Dead)' is the best doom song gone long unnoticed, with Dio's vocals sounding evilly triumphant in his philosophical commiserations, and enormous cliff face-like riffs crashing behind. 'Letters From Earth' is a lumbering but catchy bit of Sabbath doom, classic Iommi riffs driving it all forwards - predictable, but it's a satisfying climax to the slower, more doomy songs of Dio's preceding decade. 'Too Late' has the quintessential beautiful acoustic opening with tender singing from Ronnie, before rousing itself to an epic scale and noble visage to rival 'Sign of the Southern Cross.'

Dehumanizer was a huge, harrowing return to the bleak bludgeoning riffwork of very early Sabbath, with an injection of modernism. It boasted both Iommi's talent for stylistically matching and musically challenging any singer he works with, and fits seamlessly into RJD's smooth and career-spanning development of his sound and lyrics. Each song on here is a varied-paced steamroller of jagged guitarwork and classic vocals - not to be missed for those who love either of these two central chaps, and a fine introduction to Sabbath if you come from the harder side of metal.

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