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This single, this song, was basically the first breath of a resurrected dragon that had been thought slain by the arrow of a lost front man. And like the first breath of any living being that has been resuscitated from the brink of death, it is a violent one that quickly rushes oxygen to all the extremities of its body just before the pulling itself up from the ground. “Die Young” is somewhat ironically titled when considering all of this, as the song was the first step in a rebuilding of the Sabbath name that occurred quite quickly, spawning the legendary “Heaven And Hell” album and setting a whole new era of Sabbath into motion without the need of the prince of darkness following along with the riff.
This song essentially begins serenely, in somewhat of a similar fashion to that of “She’s Gone” off of “Technical Ecstasy”, but with a heavily synthesized sound rather than a natural string orchestra. Then a lone guitar comes alone with a weeping melodic lead line that would later be repackaged on Iommi’s 1986 flirtation with the mainstream “No Stranger To Love”. But then things kick into high gear as one of the fastest and most aggressive songs ever to be heard at that point in history pours in with the drums driving, the bass wandering, and the guitar crunching out power chords like crazy. In the midst of it all is the voice of Ronnie Dio, like a tragic hero in a Wagnerian opera, shouting almost as much as he is singing, and filling the entire arrangement with a combination of woe and splendor. Iommi showcases his newly found sense of virtuosity here as well as he flies through lead break after lead break, loaded with rapid paced licks and pentatonic runs that are double the intensity of his most adventurous leads in the 1970s. It’s all there, then it goes away for a brief moment of serenity for launching back into a triumphant conclusion.
Accompanying this is an early live version of the future album’s title track, “Heaven And Hell”, performed in its entirety, changed up a bit vocally by Ronnie to give it a more unique character, and spending a bit of time encouraging audience participation, but otherwise a near perfect rendition of the full studio version. It stands in stark contrast to the abridged version that would often get thrown into medleys with either other Sabbath songs or later with Dio’s solo offerings when he performed the song on tour. The only flaw in the performance is that Bill Ward has ceased to be a really active force in the arrangement, opting just to stick mostly to standard rolls for fills and otherwise keep the beat. This newer style that the band adopted definitely required a much stricter rhythm section backdrop, but it seems as if Ward is being a bit stiff even within that more limited approach to drumming.
This is a consequential slice of Sabbath history, that is, if you can find it. Nearly 30 years of time passing has been the death of many a great single or otherwise non-studio album, and this is now a bit hard to come by. There are still copies of it floating around on eBay in vinyl form, but baring some sort of release of a collection of rare performances from the Dio era of the band, this is probably not going to be easily found. It’s the prelude of an amazing album, but only an obligatory purchase for the most rabid of Sabbath/Dio enthusiasts.