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From Hell To Heaven - 95%

Metal_Thrasher90, May 1st, 2014

The past decade ways were no longer effective, it was vital for every surviving classic rock band to reinvent their sound and attitude towards the severe changes of the early 80’s scene. Some were too stubborn and remained stuck in the old-fashioned clichés as Thin Lizzy on Chinatown or UFO on No Place To Run, making their future uncertain while young acts of the NWOBHM like Mythra or Marseille were becoming serious rivals. Black Sabbath were aware of the need to change and evolve, the addition of ex-Rainbow lead singer Ronnie James Dio was part of that plan, though it wasn’t just a matter of replacing a vocalist because musically Heaven And Hell also showed notable modifications in contrast with the Ozzy stuff.

From the very start, the record features a renewed current sound, ideal for those times of direct heavier music. The opening cut “Neon Knights” and “Die Young” are constructed on clearly loose rhythm bases, one of the essential elements of 80’s heavy metal, denying the obsolete weighty common tempos of the preceding decade. Riffs are straighter as well, deprived of complexity or excessively advanced alterations, more than ever before, at times reduced to basic palm-mute riffing. So their music has got slightly faster, even simpler. On other hand, they’re still disciplined and refined, getting specially tender and polite on “Children Of The Sea”, which alternates sweet verses and acoustic guitars with tough low-tuned riffs. Soon the voice of Dio makes Sabbath’s usually dark intense music achieve another level, emotional and deeper on the unforgettable title-track with its exquisite leading melody combined with majestic heavy guitar lines, or the absolutely touching ballad “Lonely Is The Word”, on which Tony’s epic lengthy pickin’ becomes the main attraction. There’s a good balance between vigor and melody the group didn’t reach before. The remarkable potential, charisma and modulation of Ronnie definitely made this material way more varied and richer than anything else these guys conceived before. Even explicitly accessible tunes like “Wishing Well” or “Walk Away” (does that one remind you of Kiss?) are immaculately executed, no matter how easy their configuration is. The band isn’t actually afraid of getting commercial, casual, pushing away the mysticism and wickedness to design cheerful compositions as “Lady Evil”, for instance. They have always been competent on making good music from total simplicity; this album was no exception and became instantly successful.

Dio surprisingly fitted the concept of Black Sabbath, even contributed to make it diverse, challenging and refreshing, which was exactly what the band needed urgently to not become another clumsy rock dinosaur stagnant in the past. The rapid rhythms and the technically simpler schemes and riffs were basic to deny the exhausting progression and scandalous lack of inventiveness of Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die!, elements these guys introduced suggested by early NWOBHM acts, which set the rules for the new decade sound, so it seems Sabbath were then learning something from their disciples after all. Since punk exploded in the UK and people like Motörhead and Judas Priest showed a clear predilection for aggression and velocity, nobody seemed to be interested on symphonic rock, cheesy funk or bluesy hard rock anymore, making things for Uriah Heep or Genesis hard. Iommi and co. could’ve ignored those signs of change in the rock scene, they could’ve made the same stuff comfortably because being a cult band guaranteed record sales anyway, but they preferred to improve and face the new times with creativity and ambition. Maybe these numbers aren’t technically pretentions, though these guys show a resolution for adapting their music to the circumstances and compete with the promising British movement instead of repeating their usual formulas. Some compositions rock hard, in the style of what early Angel Witch or Fist were doing (more or less) while others give melody complete control, proving Sabbath’s intentions weren’t exclusively concentrated on being heavy and obscure, a sign of versatility most NWOBHM bands lacked. You see the group is being itself after all, taking necessary external inspiration from those new acts without refusing their identity. Dio was original too, never intended to copy Ozzy, he just did it his way, something that deserves recognition if you think about the huge responsibility he had (like Ian Gillan afterwards).

This is one of the most iconic albums of heavy metal, the resurrection of a legendary group that became seriously uninspired and decadent by the end of the 70’s but luckily managed to get up and rise from its ashes. Future couldn’t look brighter for Iommi and co., they started the 80’s with a total masterpiece and an unique vocalist in their line-up, surviving to the expulsion of Ozzy. Sadly, we all know the success wouldn’t last long, soon they’d go through problems, Dio would leave starting a brilliant solo career while the band got predictable and unoriginal again by the late-80’s, becoming an Iommi solo project…However, Dio made a cracking start back then.

Ride The Black Rainbow. - 84%

Metal_Jaw, March 26th, 2013

Black Sabbath is and always shall be one of those truly legendary bands, not just in metal, but in music all together. It's hard to believe that at one point in time they were about to fall off the map completely. After the late 70's misfires of "Technical Ecstasy" and "Never Say Die", the group went into hibernation for a couple years, ultimately culminating in the removal of the one and only Ozzy Osbourne from the ranks. But in 1980, a little man from over the rainbow took the ozzman's place, and the result is one of the most talked about "rejuvenation" albums in heavy metal's history. Me personally I don't think it's that fantastic, but we do have a pretty good album here.

The two top dogs on "Heaven And Hell", as with on pretty much any Sabbath record, are Geezer Butler on bass and riff god Tony Iommi taking on guitars as always. Geezer's bass is fuzzy and prominent, making for a nice balance/counter-balance to Iommi's rhythm riffage. Some of Iommi's finest leads are found on this particular album, while the separate riffage, while strong, are not as great on here as many of his numerous earlier efforts on the Sabbath classics. Bill Ward's usually spiffy and energetic drumming sounds on here rather mundane and pentatonic. The man was beginning to suffer from alcoholism at this time, and since this is what was most likely affecting his work, I guess I can cut him some slack, even though I personally hold little sympathy towards alcoholics. But the big name here, the big change to Black Sabbath's sound, is the only and only late great Ronnie James Dio at the mic. Dio's replacement of Ozzy is one of the great examples of a band's new singer being massively superior; Dio's booming mid range, sweeping howls and emotional clean vocals wipe out memories of Ozzy's tuneless, whiny squawking with little difficulty.

Iommi and Dio worked side by side during the creation of "Heaven And Hell"; with Dio's vastly different vocal style they didn't even bother to hide that fact, and instead began composing work more suited to the new vocalist's style. The final result is cleaner, less doomy and drugged out heavy meal more comparable to the power metal movement later in the decade. My main gripe with this album though is that even though this is Sabbath, and not only that but Sabbath without useless interludes and PCP musical progressions, there isn't as much as one would hope for in the way of big, memorable riffs. I mean there is, but there should be more. Plus I always thought a lot of the songs on here just went on and on or when they didn't they still weren't very interesting. Plus, not nearly enough faster material either.

At least things start off with a bang. Opener "Neon Knights", ironically the last song composed for the album, is pure starter fuel metal. Dio's righteous vocals, Iommi's charging rhythms and the boisterous bass of Butler make this a killer starter. The more balladic "Children of the Sea" follows, a slowish, melancholic rocker with nice, fuzzy guitars and a series of great riffs, particularly the moody acoustic moments. The rather bland and forgettable "Lady Evil" gives way the the titanic title track; a bit overrated ( I think the following album's "Sign of the Southern Cross" is far superior), but it's still pretty damn good anyway I guess with the crawling mood and unforgettable main riff (one of Iommi's finest). "Wishing Well" is also kinda forgettable but gets a pass from me for being a but catchy. The aggressive "Die Young" with its ballady middle part is pretty worthwhile but doesn't stick to long after the initial listen. I find the following song, the rocking "Walk Away" with many a catchy guitar lines, to be superior. "Lonely Is The Word" closes the album on a solid enough note.

Overall, I think "Heaven And Hell" is a little overrated. Many of the songs don't stick as well as one would hope, and there really should be more attitude and riffage than what we got here. But the work and still effortless energy of Iommi and Butler are still to behold, as is the raging and always dependable vocal work of Mr. Dio. Incredible for the musicianship, decent on the actual music. Worth a few listens but keep your expectations in check.

Black Sabbath resurrected. - 80%

ConorFynes, June 4th, 2012

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 shit 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.

Sabbath return to relevance. - 80%

Warthur, November 11th, 2011

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.

Wizards of the Waiting Room - 69%

marktheviktor, March 24th, 2010

I have been familiar with this album for many years but there was a time when I used to sit around having casual conversations with guys around my age and when the topic of Black Sabbath came up. Their faces were met with delight and enthusiasm. I remember asking several different mates on three different occasions if they liked the band when they had Ronnie Dio and the reaction was uniformly identical: a slow but decisive sway of the head from side to side before the end of my question. It was amazing. Was I the only one who had taken interest in this part of the band's career? Was John "Ozzy" Osborne really the be all end all of Black Sabbath? Where I have lived, it seems these Dio early Sabbath years has enjoyed a renaissance in the last dozen years. They are now older and old rules in the heavy metal world. In my opinion the songs on Heaven in Hell always had that "old days", growing up in the seventies and early eighties charm to me and I want to explain how. That being said, while I think this is a very good start of a new era, it has its shortcomings when compared to many of the band's other albums up to 1983. I think those dismissive smirks from my youth might have been thinking of Heaven and Hell when they thought of Dio fronted Sabbath. Find out why..

That this album was a major house cleaning is old, old news. Anyone can tell just by listening to it. I'm just going to flat out acknowledge what everyone else it seems is afraid to say in so many words: This album is "Rainbath". Please, that's not a pejorative description in this instance. Yes, it implies the same thing as the whole "Van Hagar" idiom when Sammy joined Eddie V's band but in this case it would not be negative like that one(to most). It's just the most direct way of getting across the fact that you can tell by the direction and harmonies that Dio was co-captaining this ship fresh off from his stint with Rainbow. And a more important difference, it only applies here to this album and this one only. It's a merger of Black Sabbath's sound and Rainbow's. That's all. I think this release was the made with the best of ambitions and optimism by all involved. And considering it was made in a relatively short period of time with some hectic personnel issues before hitting the recording studio says alot about the professionalism heard on the tracklist.

As I sit here, I'm looking at that list right now. Eight songs. All very neat and tidy; each hovering in and around a consistent runtime. It's a compact design although its length is normal for the day. Nothing too top heavy or unrefined which is something that couldn't be said about Sabotage and Technical Ecstasy. A conscious choice was made to not allow that here. The choice of producer was probably brought in at Dio's recommendation. Martin Birch's handling of this album is the reason why it sounds so shiny. Like with Whitesnake, Blue Öyster Cult and here with Black Sabbath, his studio mentoring is very hands on where on Iron Maiden's albums his role as producer was more on the George Martin custodianship side of things as well as engineering.

Tony and Ronnie worked closely to make Neon Knights work as best an opener as possible. It might not have been the first song written but it was tailored and tweaked specifically to be the starter. This track is a self referential inauguration to announce this new stage of Black Sabbath; the fresh brightness of a neon light for the eighties. Were they being self prophetic with the lyric 'hold on good things never last'(acrimonious breakup two years later) and 'nothing's in the past it always seems to come again' (Dehumanizer and recent reunion under H&H)?

This would be the first release where Tony Iommi adopted a more modernistic change to heavy blues riffing from before that brought a mystical quality to accompany Dio's operatic style of singing. Gone are the straight doom riffs where everything else was written around those. In the previous lineup Tony would have to take charge of everything to get an album written but when Dio joined room had to be made to acommodate his creative experience with textured melodies. It's the reason why Heaven and Hell is not an all encompassing doom laden Sabbath album like before.

That also meant there is more separation. Since it's less of a spoke and wheel system, the bass has to assert itself more on it's own. No longer can Geezer's bass follow the riffs once the richer sense of placement for solos and Dio's operatic foundation are factored in. As a result, I think Geezer did a great job on here. I'm near certain the elevation to more complexities for an independent bass was at the encouragement of Birch as I noticed it was a style of playing later renowned of Steve Harris from Killers onwards.

However, I cannot say that Bill Ward adapts very successfully on the album. His drumming is only adequate here but somehow sterile and perfunctory on half the songs especially on Neon Knights. His transitional rolls on the title track were catchy but on the slow beats at the beginning of the song they seemed lackadaisical and unenergetic.

Lady Evil and Wishing Well are filler songs. The latter I've sort of grown to accept because it is rather catchy. Since Ronnie does bring alot of the Rainbow sound, this is one if those songs that sound like it. And as for Lady Evil, it's easily the most filler. The bass is the only standout part but you won't be calling for this song at any Sabbath concert. Very forgettable. Since the album is relatively compact, it's disappointing that there are two filler tracks like that.

Die Young isn't the most popular song in the band's catalog but I think it's an underrated little gem. It's more or less what power/speed metal would sound like a couple years later. It has a break of a mini-ballad in the middle of it that was very nice to hear. I've heard Rob Halford, Ian Gillan and Glenn Hughes sing their rendition of it and all of them sounded bad at it. This is Dio's song and everyone else should not try it. Walk Away is an almost straight rocker that sounds even more Rainbow-ish than the two filler songs(especially with the backing chorus) but Geezer's bass brings that old Sabbath sense to the upbeat track. Don't walk away from it. It should be good enough to grow on you after awhile.

I meant what I said about Heaven and Hell not being top heavy. Lonely is the Word is great way to end the album. It's a testament to how well produced the record is. If the song had not ended up as the one to come out of the bullpen to close the game out, the album wouldn't be as good. That super eclectic riff that opens it is a beautiful thing of heavy metal! Overall, the song is a melancholic doom-y ballad. I love the soft, jazzy solo that Tony plays at the two minute mark because it has a quaint atmosphere of loneliness from the grave. Its sounds identical (but more downtrodden and abridged) to Mick Abrahams' solo on the 1968 Jethro Tull song Cat's Squirrel. With this closing track, I guess it's the right time to mention the keyboard work done on Heaven and Hell. Only were keys used sporadically on previous albums. While they're only a little more present than before, it's noticeable enough when you go up and down through the playlist. They decorate the production nicely and enhance the luster of a brand new sound going into 1980.

Alot of people have made up their minds when it comes to how they view this album. I'm glad it's gotten more appreciation so many years since after it was released. It's not their best,no. It's worthy but hardly addictive next to other Black Sabbath albums.There was a time when a heavy metal diehard had to be a closeted fan of this recording. Are there still many of those who have yet to make the decision? You know what decision...Get off that carousel and ride the well.

When Dio Saved Sabbath - 97%

DawnoftheShred, April 10th, 2009

With their albums becoming increasingly weaker with each successive attempts and their last tour featuring a supporting act called Van Halen that blew them out of the water, Black Sabbath was a metal dinosaur on the verge of extinction. And when they were forced to kick out frontman Ozzy Osbourne, well that appeared to be pretty much it. But then one of those unprecedented, magic moments occurred and ex-Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio (whose career needed a bit of saving itself) was recruited as Ozzy’s replacement. The result was an absolute about-face in the band’s sound and popularity and one of the best metal albums ever released by Dio, Sabbath, or most anyone else for that matter.

I can’t say for sure if the remaining Sabbath members came up with the sound on Heaven and Hell all on their own, if Dio had a direct hand in writing the music, or if it was simply a natural evolution with Dio’s strong melodic vocals as catalyst, but one thing is unquestionably apparent: the sound was brand new for Black Sabbath and essentially updated the band for the new decade. While the later Ozzy-era Sabbath records leaned heavily upon progressive rock territory (without ever actually stumbling into it), Heaven and Hell is both a steadfast return to heavy metal and an almost complete departure from their doomy past.

Some have described the sound as NWOBHM, and while I lean more towards the proto-power metal explanation, there are plenty of moments here to support the former. The quicker tracks (“Neon Knights,” “Die Young”) are closely relatable to the early works of Iron Maiden (listen to Geezer Butler’s bass on the latter). The addition of Dio’s melodicism and experience working with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow add a certain ‘catchy’ element to the band’s sound, something that was not entirely lacking on the Ozzy stuff, but was far less explicit. This is a good thing, as plainer numbers like “Lady Evil” and “Wishing Well” shine on like diamonds anyway, thanks to Dio’s excellent voice. Tony’s riffwork is just as efficient as ever, but it is his leadwork that really profits from this new melodic edge. Geezer is Geezer, so there are no worries about the bass guitar presence being anything except magnificent. Similarly, Bill Ward is Bill Ward, though his playing is not as heavy or as frantic as on early albums. Indeed, with the frequent keyboard accompaniments, Heaven and Hell is not as heavy as the early Sabbath records, but it flourishes nonetheless because of the flawless musicianship you’d expect from Sabbath, the powerful vocals and intriguing fantasy lyrics you’d come to expect from Dio, and the excellent songwriting that, prior to this record’s release, I don’t think anyone was quite expecting from the unlikely pairing.

Much of the record consists of the straightforward, catchy metal anthems like “Walk Away” (which actually borders on hard rock) with the occasional speedier number. However 3/4 of this band was present for the recording of immense, atmospheric heavy metal like that which is found on Master of Reality and Black Sabbath Volume 4, so it is to be expected that they will achieve sublimity when playing at slower tempos. Nowhere is this more comprehensible than on the title track and writing a review for this album without dedicating a reasonable portion of words to the praise of that masterpiece would be criminally negligent. Can perfect be an understatement? From the immense opening riff (the second coming of “Snowblind”), through the bass-driven atmospheric verses, to that awesome post-chorus vocal thing, to the heavenly guitar solo, to the hellish, climactic speed section, to that somber classical acoustic bit that, while it officially ends the track, far from concludes the purposefully ambiguous tale Dio spins before it, “Heaven and Hell” is one of metal’s timeless anthems. The power of Dio’s voice is well suited to a track like this, while sort-of member Geoff Nichols provides the perfect keyboard compliment. Ideas developed here would resurface on the group’s next effort to similar (but not quite equal) effect, as well as on Dio’s own solo material with cheaper “Heaven and Hell” knock-offs like “The Last in Line.”

However the title track is not the only track with an emphasis on atmosphere. “Children of the Sea” is also pretty impressive, based off a nice clean riff and featuring one of Dio’s more emotional performances. The chorus reminds me of “Imagine,” but the track is not weakened because of it. Other notable departures include the bluesy “Lonely is the Word,” particularly the outro bit of it, and the interlude part of “Die Young” (once again, thanks to Geoff Nichols for his undercredited role as keyboardist on this and many other Sabbath albums).

If you don’t own this record already, you’re missing out on one of the best classic heavy metal experiences there is. It is so well-crafted and accessible that even if you’re a diehard Ozzy-era fan, you’ll have no hang-ups with the new vocals and different sound delivered by this lineup. And yet, it’s deep enough that you’ll find your artistic elitist happily listening to the album right next to your weekend headbanger. Enough said.

Rejoice, children of the sea! - 100%

nibblemark, March 10th, 2009

There seems to be an inevitable occurrence in music regarding truly great bands – before they break up they start to make crap, and after they break up they continue to make crap. Well, that’s what happened to Sabbath during the last few years of the original lineup. Here were four tired, bored, spoiled asses producing what asses produce. Crap. With the exception of a few great songs here and there, the incredible, powerful and magical band that had struck fear and wonder across the land just five years earlier was completely gone. So Ozzy left and the remaining trio recruited a new singer. Here is where it gets interesting.

Against all expectations, both Ozzy and Black Sabbath, after going their separate ways, managed to rejuvenate their music and make some of the most memorable, classic recordings of all time, each in their own unique way, capturing the essence of heavy metal. Such is the case with Sabbath and their singer Ronnie James Dio, who produced an opus for the ages, “Heaven and Hell”.

Like the first four classic Sabbath albums with Ozzy, this is not just a record. It’s a friend.

The first track, the universally acknowledged metal classic “Neon Knights”, showed the band at its finest: tight, fast, powerful, energetic and bonding beautifully with their new singer. Old Sabbath fans were introduced to a new sound. And it was good. I wholeheartedly agree with an earlier review by ChildOfTheSea who describes this record as NWOBHM. It is not old school Sabbath. It is metal for (what was then) a new decade, a new era. And although metal very rapidly evolved into heavier, faster and more aggressive sounds, the root of all evil can be found here.

The band sounds amazing! All of them. Bill Ward never sounded better, no bullshit, tight and bright and strong. Geezer Butler was brilliant, a great musician, probably the most underrated bass player in all of metal. Listen to those elegant lines in “Wishing Well”. Absolutely beautiful. As for Tony Iommi, he is the undisputed riffmeister. Personally I have always been critical of his soloing, which I found rather amateurish, but here he matured a great deal, and his playing never sounded better. As for Dio? Well, yes old Sabbath rules and Ozzy rules, that charismatic lovable lunatic went on to bigger and better things himself. But after all is said and done and all the heads have been counted, Ronnie James Dio is arguably the best heavy metal vocalist of all time.

There is nothing bad on this album. The songwriting is mature and refined, while managing to retain the aesthetic appeal and the essence of what we love as heavy metal. Many new bands could, and should, go to school with this disc. My favourite track is “Children of the Sea”. I could listen to this song over and over until I puke, and while I puke I would turn up the volume so I could still listen without missing anything.

If you’re from the older generation of fans you love this. If you’re among the younger metal fans, make an effort to understand and appreciate this record. Once you do, you will be forever grateful.

A different Sabbath - 84%

Nhorf, June 27th, 2008

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”.

The album that got me into heavy metal - 99%

Danowar666, April 8th, 2008

Back when i was at the tender young age of 14, still immersed in the world of 70's hard rock like Queen and Aerosmith, I decided to listen this band i had heard of called Black Sabbath. I was intrigued. Being a member of the newer, more technology-driven generation, I searched for this band on itunes, and I decided to listen to this album called Heaven and Hell. (Being the inexperienced kid I was, i thought that was still Ozzy on vocals...my how far i've come.) The title track basically tore my head off. I listened to this song obsessively. After hearing this, I said to myself, "hey, this heavy metal stuff is pretty cool, i'm going to listen to more of it." And here I am today.


Naturally enough, I went on to buy the whole album. The opener, Neon Knights, is easily my favorite track after the title track. It has such a driving riff, catchy choruses, and lyrics you just couldn't forget (I had no clue what Dio was singing about but i could care less--come to think of it, I'm still not totally sure; I just know i love it).


Children of the Sea gives you a bit of a rest after the opener. This band can set a mood, let me tell you. Then, of course, the full song kicks in; if you don't love it, you don't love heavy metal.


Lady Evil has more of a straight up blues/rock feel to it, but it's still a great track. Not my particular favorite but still excellent.


Then it happens; "Sing me a song, you're a singer, do me a wrong, you're a bringer of evil." The opening riff just hits you right in the mouth. It's a classic, genre-defining riff. Then, as with Children of the Sea, it goes into a quiter setting, perfectly accented by Dio's amazing performance and Iommi's passionate, emotion-filled solos (great use of delay, by the way), which the song follows for about four minutes (give or take), until Vinnie and Geezer push it into overdrive. Tony keeps it going, then, "They say that life's a carousel, spinning fast you've got to ride it well. The world is full of kings and queens, who blind your eyes and steal your dreams it's Heaven and Hell." Words simply cannot describe the excellence of this portion of the song. It is perfect. Iommi delivers one of the most impressive solos I have ever heard, and just when you think it's done, a dueling acoustic line ends the song perfectly. Classic.

Then, in true heavy metal fashion, the band says, "ok, we have them calm, now ATTACK!!" And just like that, you are immeresed in the driving riff of Wishing Well. This is a very catchy song with a memorable riff (like many of Iommi's riffs). Again, Dio is fantastic, the acoustic guitar in the background adds quite a bit of depth (in my opinion), and again, Iommi makes great use of delay in his solo.

Die Young is another mood-setter. It starts off slowly with a revolving, flange-y sound effect with dueling guitar harmonies to set you up for another driving riff. This song is just another reason why this album is a genre-defining classic. After a few moments of intensity, the song goes into a slower, acoustic/clean part with more flange and delay, with Dio's voice raising hairs on the back of your neck. A few fills by the band, and it's into an Iommi solo. Bloody excellent.

Walk Away also has a 70's rock-ish feel to it. It's probably the most upbeat of the songs. Perhaps not the most memorable track, but still a great one.

Lonely is the Word is a slower one, another great mood-setter. Some great soloing by Iommit and a powerful performance by Dio. A fantastic closer to an excellent album.

Move Over Ozzy...Sabbath Is Here - 99%

Luvers666, February 11th, 2008

I first discovered Sabbath in 1983 with the Born Again album, strange for someone who listened to metal as far back as 1975. Immediately I got into the band and the first album I ever purchased by them after BA was this one, in 1984, before ever hearing an Ozzy era song/album.

I validate that this is a great way to be introduced to the band, they're loud, hard, heavy, fast, demonic and crushing, all the elements that give heavy metal it's identity, and who better than to start the 1980's decade than a rejuvenated Sabbath. After 1975's masterpiece, and only Ozzy era Sabbath album to deserve a perfect rating, the band pondered through two good but confusing albums, before Ozzy left/got fired. Instead of running into the night Sabbath got veteran vocalist Ronnie James Dio, who in his own right, had just got done rewriting the face of metal two years earlier while in Rainbow. So it comes as no surprise that a vocalist of Ronnie's caliber teaming up with Sabbath. a splendid album was in store.

Neon Knights, the albums lead off track, surpasses all expectations and reveals right off the bat, this is not the same Sabbath. This is not the same band of middle aged men with a vocalist who's vocals were becoming more and more embarrassing with every passing album. No this was a band of middle aged men playing half their age and a vocalist who's vocals soared higher than his height and slapped in the face all those critics who had written the band off as dead. This was Sabbath refusing to break to the pressures of the business, instead grabbing it by the balls and laughing as the critics groaned in agony at the sheer bliss for which the album offers.

Neon Knights could have been the one and only track here and it would still deserve a rating higher than at least five-thousand other metal bands. Just listen to how Dio sings, "Bloodied angels, fast descending. Moving on a never-bending light". That entire section, beginning at 1:28 and ending with a demonic NEON KNIGHTS at 1:48, is beyond description, and gives the album fifty points simply by itself. Throw in the kick ass solo and an appropriate time length, no overkill here, and you got simply one of the bands all time best tracks.

Children Of The Sea is a bit slower, beginning acoustically and with Dio singing softly about mysticism. The song becomes heavy but never truly gets fast, instead remaining melodic and even returning the opening sequence a few times, it's amazing how many different styles Dio uses to perfection here. So while not as fast as the opener, it shows Sabbath did not lose it's versatility with Ozzy's departure, instead broadening all those otherwise untouched ideas.

Lady Evil is a good song with a good bass-driving rhythm, but due to it's placing, that being before the title track, it pales in comparison. The title track begins with the thunderous tone of the opener with a speed similar to the sophomore track, before leading into a grueling bass line. Right off the bat you know an epic has started and you have no choice but listen to Dio's voice, it works so well in tandem that it's authoritative. A ton of riffs and sharp guitar licks are thrown in with some ethereal keyboards for good measure, forcing the song deeper into your psyche. The previous uncharted territory begins two minutes in when a slow gradual build-up sends the song into the next phase, never getting old, instead being pleasurable to the ear every second. The tempo increases as does the dark swelling atmosphere, never taking away from Dio's haunting reverberated voice. After this awesome verse everything quiets down and you know what is coming, God himself to make sure you remember who invented all of this. The first two notes drag on with a purpose few songs can describe, waving and interweaving through the stratosphere you are cast in by the never ending bass line. Blissful licks all played with extreme amount of taste and phrasing sends the song into the next section, drums begin the build up before Tony returns with another solo. Then out of nowhere the final phase kicks in with more kick ass lyrics delivered by a passionate voice Ozzy could never touch.

Because Wishing Well follows the title track, it suffers the same thing Lady Evil does. In fact some could argue that the entire second half falters because of this, especially since the two weakest songs, in the form of Wishing Well and Walk Away, are located here. But that thinking would be false as while the aforementioned songs do take up the second side, so does another superb track and the best song on the entire album, Die Young and Lonely Is The Word respectively.

Die Young is a mixture of the first two tracks, Neon Knights tone and heaviness with Children Of The Sea's grace, melodic and progressive elements. A ton of fine synthetic are thrown throughout, each with a purpose, that purpose is to give the song an extra dimension of emotion. Dio's vocals continue to be in top notch form, just listen to the second time he sings, "Gather the wind, though the wind wont help you fly at all" for proof of this.

Now we come to the closer of such an extraordinary album, the bluesy reflective piece otherwise known as Lonely Is The Word. There is so many styles of music here, with a touch of waltz and country & western in the percussive patterns, though you don't notice. Your too captivated by Tony's crushing yet soothing guitar, Dio's evasive yet strangely relate able lyrics, Bill and Geezer's off-balance rhythm. If you do not feel your heart bleed, your eyes water and your deepest, darkest and saddest emotions come to the surface when Tony begins his first solo just shy of the two minute mark, then you never will. Close your eyes, let him and the deep atmosphere consume your spirit and comfort your most depressing moments, Tony certainly was when he did this. Another verse comes in at the three and a half minute mark and while still evasive, they seem to make so much sense, with Tony's breath-taking fills and Bill's heavy drumming completing the purpose. The next two minutes Tony plays in such a dramatic fashion you could accuse him of just showing off, but you'd be a snot nosed newbie to metal. Each and every note played means something, another attack on emotions, crushing defeat, financial burden, lonely night. Every possible demon comes to the surface here and he just destroys them all, leading you to a much happier place, at least for almost six minutes of the songs duration.

It's no surprise that the band who, in 1970, laid the blueprint for all metal to follow, and forged ahead throughout the entire decade. Would come down and write another chapter not only in their own history book but Metal's in general. I should not have to recommend this album to you, for you certainly must have it, if not you do not deserve the title of a 'Metal Fan'

A great piece of NWOBHM! - 90%

ChildOfTheSea, July 12th, 2007

I am emotionally attached to this album; it’s the first Black Sabbath album I ever purchased in the early ‘80s. Earlier I had only listened to a few tapes with some “greatest hits” of Ozzy’s era and I was familiarized enough with the early Sabbath sound.

In my humble opinion there are actually two heavy metal genres: the slow one and the fast one. The slow (today labeled as doom metal) has been pioneered by Sabbath, whilst the fast one has been popularized by Judas Priest. The artistic and commercial success of the latter inspired the great NWOBHM in the late ‘70s – early ‘80s. Although Black Sabbath have given us unforgettable pieces of the “fast” genre (remember “Paranoid”, “Children of the Grave” etc.), they are generally admired for their heavy, pondering, doomy works (“Black Sabbath”, “Iron Man”, “Hand of Doom” and others). But with Dio as their frontman, whatever remained from their early doominess is gone! “Heaven and Hell” is fast, melodic, elaborated and - occasionally – even poppy (“Wishing Well” and “Walk Away”)! In other words - it’s NWOBHM!

Nonetheless “Heaven & Hell” is not merely Sabbath’s attempt to succeed in the genre they invented; it is a great album itself. Iommi performs magnificently – the guitar work is probably the best he ever produced. The guitar intro to the “Children of the Sea” is recognized by listeners with no particular interests in Metal. In fact it’s their most recognizable song, coming second only to Paranoid. Yet, the album is rightly credited to Ronnie James Dio. Not only is he a singer (technically speaking, by far superior to Ozzy and arguably the best male Heavy Metal voice), but also an unusually talented songwriter. His literature interests are of course different than Geezer’s, therefore the lyrical themes of Heaven & Hell are equally different that Sabbath’s early works. The “Children of the Sea” is a superb poetic metaphor (obviously my favorite song), but the album is not beyond criticism: “Lady Evil” is apparently the opposite of Rainbow’s “Lady of the Lake”; “Neon Knights” is also supposed to be a metaphor, but it is practically meaningless. And talking about “Heaven & Hell” (the track), what the hell is the “dancer”? Apparently a random word to make a rime with the “answer”? Pity, for otherwise the track justifies its reputation and popularity.

Let me conclude this short article with a few words about Sabbath’s cover art. The “Heaven and Hell” cover art has been created by some Lynn Curlee; the painting was not originally purposed to be a cover, yet it fits perfectly and it continues a Sabbath tradition. There are various dreadful Sabbath covers (“Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, “Black Sabbath”, “Mob Rules” and “Born Again”), but this one is humorous, without lightening the seriousness of the content. Black Sabbath are also well reputed for the names and covers of their live albums – but let me come to this subject when reviewing “Live Evil”!

I am glad that this album also appeals to my teenager son. I let him pick from the store today’s trends, i.e. weird Scandinavian bands with similar names, covers, lyrics and sounds. But take a piece of advice from a veteran: if you really want to enjoy and understand the genre, buy Black Sabbath (up to and including “Born Again”), Judas Priest and Iron Maiden (their first four albums). Very little has been added since then (I recognize the originality and inspiration of thrash metal, though it’s not my preference).

Recovery from the Abyss. - 100%

hells_unicorn, September 5th, 2006

After about 4 years of meandering about musically, odd experimentation resulting in dead ends, and a rather lackluster pair of albums in "Technical Ecstacy" and "Never Say Die", Sabbath emerged with a new singer and the recaptured spirit that originally made them great. The new singer, Ronnie Dio (who has since become a household name with his own solo band) delivers the performance of his life on this fine gem.

Many of today's Traditional, Power and Progressive Metal acts site "Heaven and Hell" as a pivotal influence in their work. Axel Rudi Pell is probably the most blatant of this albums enthusiasts, as underscored by his equally long hommage "Disciples of Hell" off of his 2004 album Kings and Queens. Furthere back in the mix, Iron Maiden's 1988 album "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" also can not escape sounding similar to this album on many tracks. In addition, Queensryche's 1984 release "Warning" has several similar elements, particularly on the closing track "Road to Madness". Other more recent Power Metal bands sounding similar to this release at times include Gamma Ray, Iron Savior, Gaia Epicus, and Iron Fire. Meanwhile, Progressive and Symphonic acts such as Symphony X and Rhapsody take more influence from the lyrics.

The sheer amount of variety in the songs is reminiscent of Dio's work with Rainbow before he signed on with Sabbath, in addition to some spooky lyrics that fit well with the original theme of the band. Such fantasy driven songs as "Neon Knights", "Wishing Well", and the poetic "Heaven and Hell represent the new injection of Rainbow's rather progressive rock/metal. Meanwhile, slower tunes such as "Lady Evil", "Lonely is the Word", and "Walk Away" are a bit more bluesy and reminiscent of classic Ozzy era Sabbath (though with very different vocals).

The production of this album, especially considering the year, is quite stellar. The guitars in particular have the right amount of crunch to them to stand out from the more traditional rock acts of the time such as AC/DC and Deep Purple. The bass is highly present and always active, something that has always been the exception and not the rule with older metal acts such as Judas Priest and Riot. The drums are probably the least raunchy sounding of the bunch, though Bill Ward does make a decent racket on "Heaven and Hell" and "Children of the Sea". But the true strength of this album are the vocal tracks, which are perfectly clean, and blend together perfectly during the harmony sections.

Tony Iommi's soloing on this album is nothing short of amazing. He delivers a killer thrill ride with the solo to "Die Young". His long-winded improvisation on "Lonely is the Word" rivals the insanity heard on such extended Jam sessions as Free Bird and some of Jimi Hendrix's live material. There are strong elements of story telling found in his solo work on "Children of the Sea", "Heaven and Hell", and "Wishing Well". And the leads he provides on "Lady Evil" take me back to the glory days of such tracks as "Fairies Wear Boots".

In conclusion, there are no weak links on this album, there are no avenues that are left unexplored. This album functions not only as an early pioneer effort that injected more power into the NWOBHM, but as a manifesto by which today's current Metal faithful continue to wage their war for the greatness of the genre. I can't recommend this album more strongly, if you haven't heard it, get yourself to your local CD store or onto Amazon.com and get yourself a copy quick.

Heaven indeed! - 98%

westknife, August 11th, 2004

First of all, this album has one of the coolest covers ever. In fact, it is SO cool that Van Halen decided to rip off the idea for their 1984 album. Boo! But seriously, I have a T-shirt of this cover (home-made, of course!) and I think it rocks. Almost as much as the music.

“Neon Knights” – Aaaah, I’m so glad Sabbath is alive again in 1980. This song is enough to prove that the band was back in action. It starts with a nice fast rocking riff, almost similar to “Back Street Kids,” but without the crappy overproduction. And then, as soon as Ronnie James Dio’s voice hits your speakers, you know this match was meant to be. Dio is undoubtedly one of metal’s greatest vocalists. This does not necessarily mean a recipe for success (see Born Again *shudder*), but here it works perfectly. This song has everything a metalhead could want: abstract, thought-provoking lyrics, atmospheric riffs, and a fast hard beat. Also, the lead in this song is amazing; it really is one of Iommi’s best guitar solos ever. This was my favorite Sabbath song for awhile, and it’s still one of my favorites.

“Children of the Sea” – Containing one of the most beautiful intros in all of metal, this song unexpectedly bursts into a brutal sludge fest. It is based mostly on Dio’s melody, instead of the usual dependence on Iommi’s riffs. Of course, the riffs are prominent as usual (especially the opener), and the strengths of both mix together magically. The guitar solo starts out very nicely, with some chorused vocals to back it up, but then ends kind of awkwardly. Iommi seems to want to play as many notes as possible, and since he’s not the fastest guitar player in the world, this makes for a strange sounding solo. But otherwise, this is one of Sabbath’s, and Dio’s, best songs. “It’s never never never coming back, look out!”

“Lady Evil” – This song makes good use of an excellent mid-paced groove, and incorporates some guitar fills from Iommi that are so badass, it’s not even funny. The chorus is very strong, and very sing-a-long-able. The lyrics are some of Dio’s very best; about, well, you guessed it! An evil lady. And then the solo! In my favorite Iommi solo ever, he uses the wah pedal like it’s never been used before! This song is obviously influenced by Judas Priest (it has that “bad ass” sound to it), but not too heavily that it sounds like a clone. This is entirely Black Sabbath, and yet another highlight of a strong album.

“Heaven and Hell” – For many, this is the high point of the album, and it certainly is an amazing song. This is an epic in the best way possible; it is loud, heavy, and LONG. Riding a galloping bass riff for much of the beginning, Dio’s voice is in top form here. The contrast between the subdued verses, and the guitar-driven choruses is wonderful. The section with Dio’s chorused vocals is incredible; this is truly what heavy metal is all about. Every single element of this song is amazing! Every riff, every note is perfect. The song also contains possibly one of the greatest, most monumental guitar solos in history, with some awesome use of delay effects. I’m talking about both parts, the slow part, and then the later fast part. The fast part at the end is the ultimate climax, with Bill Ward’s furious drumming, Geezer’s bluesy bass fills, and of course Iommi’s ethereal guitar playing and Dio’s tremendous voice. Ending on a delicate classical guitar piece, this song is the only reason I need for saying that Dio was right for Black Sabbath.

“Wishing Well” – Another great melodic rocker, Geezer Butler stands out particularly in the beginning with his manic bass playing. This song also has magnificent use of acoustic guitar, overlayed onto the distorted electrics. “Dream onn….” Another creative guitar solo, and overall superb playing from this great band.

“Die Young” – This song sounds a little cheesy at the beginning, but as soon as that first guitar riff comes crashing in, they fully redeem themselves! This is probably the most overlooked song in Sabbath’s entire catalog. Such power is held within the notes of this song! The “Oooh!” in the beginning (you know what I’m talking about) sounds so fucking sweet, and the leads are otherworldly. The “military” riff in the middle is insanely good, and leads back perfectly into the song’s refrain. Oh, the magic! If I could listen to only one mix CD for the rest of my life, this song damn well better be on it.

“Walk Away” – Ok, they had to do it. An attempt at a pop single. Somehow though, it doesn’t sound cheesy or forced, like previous attempts (“Changes,” “Am I Going Insane?”). The song still rocks relatively hard, and has quite a strong melody and structure. The lyrics are a little below the rest of the album’s standards, but overall this is a very good song. Luckily, the style of the song isn’t too much of a departure from the rest of the album.

“Lonely Is the Word” – Allegedly one of Tony Iommi’s personal favorite songs, it’s easy to see why. He had an admitted affection for the blues, and this is bluesy as hell. Also, there is a quite extended solo section that sounds accomplished. The whole song sounds like such a dirge, depressing and heavy the whole way through. This song has an emotive quality that earlier Ozzy Sabbath didn’t have. Instead of sounding creepy or dark, it sounds human in a way never before expressed by Iommi. While it isn’t a highlight of the album, it still is an excellent song, and a great way to close the album. And what could possibly compare to the first batch of songs on this album anyway?

This is one of my very favorite Black Sabbath albums. Here, in their new refreshed state, they achieve a glory that they hadn’t seen since their Paranoid days. The instrumentation is pulled back a little from the previous few releases, making for a much more guitar-driven record, much like the Black Sabbath of the past. There still is some acoustic guitar, and even synths, but they are restrained. This is a hard, heavy metal album that states clearly what the genre is all about. Not liking this record is like not liking food. It just doesn’t make sense. If you don’t own this already, buy it! Really, it’s one of the best things that ever happened to my CD collection.

A rejuvenated Sabbath - 90%

OlympicSharpshooter, August 2nd, 2004

...and here is where Sabbath pulls off the greatest trick in their grim metal existence, (seemingly) effortlessly switching singers without skipping a beat, in fact vastly improving themselves when all is said and done and dragging themselves from the mire of Technical Ecstasy (essentially the overblown logical conclusion to the train of thought proposed by Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage) and Never Say Die (uninspired wastrel of a record) to a new metal plateau once more at the forefront of the genre.

This is a totally new Sabbath, nimble and forceful to a degree that belies their years, this looming maturity and new-found zest for life leaving virtually everything else released in the year 1980 in the dust, smoking the NWOBHM, steamrolling the new simplified Priest, really only AC/DC's landmark "Back in Black" and Ozzy's "Blizzard of Ozz" (honourable mention: the first Maiden) matching it's longevity and quality.

It's also a Sabbath tired of experimentation, more concerned with making a shiny, rock-solid album that will bring them back to prominence and succeeding unreservedly.

Heaven and Hell hits the back of the net at least five times on this one, and though one song could be called a stumble ("Walk Away") it's engulfed in the sheer brilliance of the rest. "Die Young", "Lonely is the Word", "Children of the Sea", "Neon Knights", and high upon high title track "Heaven and Hell" are in that rarified class of pure musical genius, all five easily finding their way into the top one or two hundred rock songs ever released in my book.

This album is great for many reasons, all of which are centered on the band. Tony Iommi is writing light-years away from Sabbath and ahead in time, pre-power metal derived more from Purple and Rainbow than anything else and also with a real epic feeling that Sabbath had never had, even on their considerable epics like "The Writ" and "War Pigs", a feel of cinematic scope that was the realm of basically Priest, Rainbow, and a burgeoning Maiden alone and screaming in the night (okay, Purple, Heep, and particularly Zeppelin did contribute quite a bit to this field as well) that this is the way metal SHOULD feel. Ward is tight as a drum (ironically) despite his horribly wasted state, more of a standard time-keeping player than the progressive drumming monster last seen on Sabotage. Bill Ward is as dynamic as ever sporadically, like Ward more inside the box (probably something to do with Ronnie's writing) but just amazing within the confines of a normal band. Last but not least, the short little feller filling in for the Ozz is a breath of fresh air, Dio being an obviously more talented singer and a writer and a half, his usual magic making this band more Rainbow than Sabbath, more modern than retro, more brilliant than ever.

This album would be worth it for the title track alone, probably my favourite song ever, out of all styles and all times. There's no use talking about the thespian grandeur of it all, the incredible slow-build and the level of BAM!-connection that is instantaneous and unshakeable. In short, it's the crowning classic of both the Sabbath catalogue and the rock genre entirely, that's how much I fucking love the song.

"Lonely is the Word" is the most insistently metallic track on the album, otherworldly soloing powerful vocals, and most pertinently a raw scraping guitar tone that cuts the ear and wrings the neck. "Die Young" is emotional and unconventional speed metal, the soulful (!) vocals of RJD in the slow break and the passion of Iommi's playing lifting this soaring and piercing speedster into the pantheon and above the whole wallowing power metal genre struggling to reach this high and be this damn good. "Neon Knights" is like a cleaned up "Symptom of the Universe" or "Kill the King" (Rainbow) part 2, hyper and clean with some amazing soloing from Tony and catchier-than-thou melodies up the wazoo.

Okay enough, I don't want to repeat the obvious. If you want more (and why wouldn't you...), e-mail me or something and I'll talk your ear off about this or any other album I've reviewed and a good many I've yet to. Suffice to say, Heaven and Hell is the last Sabbath classic (there are a few more good ones to go though) and maybe just shy of being the best damn thing they or anyone else ever recorded. Just buy the damned thing, it's essential Dio, Dio at his best, and also Dio in the middle of quite possibly the greatest hot-streak in metal history.

Pretty damn impressive - 84%

UltraBoris, August 26th, 2002

This is where Black Sabbath really gets their shit together, after wandering aimlessly through the desert for five years. Before that, there was the godly Sabotage, and before that five LPs that are historically unquestionable, but at times full of noise. Sabotage seemed like a real start, but then there were the two after it, which drank heavily from the jar of What the Fuck. Starting here, they'd release a series of albums that varied in style somewhat, but all were consistently very good.

Enter Ronnie James Dio, and we get a collection of songs that are at worst average, and at best immensely spectacular. We start with "Neon Knights" - with Dio on vocals, the band sounds much more power-metal. This is possibly the best album that Dio has done vocals on - very powerful, and the riffs are quite marvellous, thus I prefer it to his solo career, which also started out pretty well. Total speed metal, and Iommi also throws in a very cool solo. Then, the ballad "Children of the Sea". The best song on here - though the first time I heard it is still the best: with Rob Halford on vocals from 11/15/92 - I strongly encourage you to track down that version, it is quite amazing.

"Lady Evil" is a bit more pedestrian, and then we get to the title track, which comes in a very close second for best song nominations. The guitar solo, especially the first few seconds, is completely out of this world. "Wishing Well" is kinda ordinary but not at all bad, with some nice guitar work again (Iommi's best solos are definitely on this album), and then we get to "Die Young" - the fastest song on here (well, except the "someone stopped the flame" section, which is slow and has keyboards, but still works brilliantly). Dio's vocals are in top form - just runs rings around Ozzy, enough said. Then, "Walk Away" is decent, and "Lonely is the Word" is actually quite nice - it is long, but not overlong. The last 2 minutes or so are all soloing - maybe it borrows from Stairway to Heaven (I read that somewhere, I haven't heard the two songs in close enough proximity to notice), maybe it does not... in any case, as I said, the best lead work Iommi has ever done, combined with some awesome riffs and Dio's killer vocals, make this an indispensable Sabbath album.