without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
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.