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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.