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In the late 1970's, the legendary creators of heavy metal, Black Sabbath, were going through some rather tumultuous times. They had released two lackluster records, were dealing with Ozzy's antics and drinking problems, and were overall struggling with a serious lack of inspiration. After Ozzy was given the boot, one would think that Black Sabbath would be doomed. That is until the almighty Ronnie James Dio takes the helm for their 1980 comeback album: Heaven and Hell. Heaven and Hell was a massive achievement for the band and is arguably one of heavy metal's grandest moments. But what about its 1981 successor? A lot of people forget about Mob Rules, and rather unjustly so, as it is still a great album in its own right. Is it as good as Heaven and Hell? Not at all, but this record is not without merit. I happen to enjoy it very much, and I find it is rather underrated.
The structure of this album definitely can be related to its predecessor, the songwriting is on almost as high of a level, and the riffing and rhythm section are largely similar. What separates this album from Heaven and Hell is that this one is a lot darker in subject matter and tone. A lot of the songs are reinforced by eerie keyboards or dark and menacing riff work. The guitar tone is also a lot thicker and more menacing, unlike Heaven and Hell's brighter, crisper tone. Take the prechorus of the title track, the chords Tony plays are thick, muddy, and atmospheric giving a wicked wall of sound. He does this all over the album, on almost each song. Another notable example of this is on "Falling Off the Edge of the World", which features lots of thick, menacing reverb packed guitar chords.
There is also a good helping of diversity on the album, with a collection of faster tracks, mid paced ones, and some longer epics; even a ballad. Tracks like "Turn Up the Night" and the title track show off a lot of energy reinforced with a refreshing aggression delivered by Dio's vocals, while songs like the fan favorite "The Sign of the Southern Cross" and my personal favorite, "Falling Off the Edge of the World" feature longer running times and more involved compositions. Generally, the album is quite diverse, featuring lots of different arrangements and riffs.
One of the albums most attractive traits is its very heavy, crushing musical approach that just kicks ass. It never gets old hearing the satisfying assault of those thick distorted power chords delivered by Tony. A great example would be the track "Voodoo" that begins with a rather unique guitar riff that works extremely well, then the song kicks in to gear with Vinny's classic hammering drums that really make the song a blast. It wouldn't be fair if I didn't mention the famous title track, which starts off with a pretty iconic riff before the unleashing of a classic Dio scream. While Heaven and Hell had more of a refined and focused sound, I think the best way to describe Mob Rules is aggressive. The album (with the exception of the ballad) has a pretty aggressive tone to it that keeps it in its own little musical niche.
The aggressive and dark sound that this album has is reinforced by heavier and thicker production. As I said earlier, the guitar tone is a lot thicker and sludgier, but even the bass is thicker as well, providing a great means of delivering crushing riffs in the classic Tony Iommi style. The production on Heaven and Hell is more crisp with an edgier sound that was supplemented by subtle use of keys when needed. The production here is largely similar, but leaning towards a chunky sound that is supplemented by dark and eerie keyboard work. The production style fits the music quite well. Take "Falling Off the Edge of the World" for example, the intro to this track is very dark and menacing, featuring eerie keys and a melancholic guitar line led by Dio's softer singing voice. After this section ends, the song smashes you in the face with thick and powerful chords and crushing drums. This part is one of my favorite parts on the album before exploding with a very fast guitar riff accompanied by a wicked bass line. It gives a great taste of the album as a whole, I suggest listening to this song for a sample of what Mob Rules has to offer.
The musicianship is fantastic here, and if you were a fan of the musicianship of the previous album, you'll dig this. Tony brings another set of great riffs and some killer solos, while Geezer's bass lines are active and inventive like they were on Heaven and Hell. Geezer even has some distorted lead dueling licks on "Slipping Away" that are a real treat to hear. The biggest difference on this album when it comes to the instrumentation is the change of drummers. Bill Ward had left the band prior to this album, so Dio brought in Vinny Appice, who would later appear on many other Dio-led records. Bill's drumming was more groovy and intricate, full of fills and interesting accents here and there, while Vinny has more of a straightforward drumming approach that changes the direction of the music a bit. Instead of more intricate and groovy drumming, we have a very heavy hitting and simpler style. It is not bad, but I actually prefer Bill to this. Dio's vocals are absolutely fantastic as always, he literally has never had a poor performance on all of the album's he's performed on. He really was the king of heavy metal, truly spectacular. His songwriting is top-notch as well, and he does a great job of leading the band for this record. My favorite vocal performance on this album is "The Sign of the Southern Cross", in which his voice takes the forefront and comes about with a mesmerizing delivery.
Overall, Mob Rules is a great album that is quite underrated by many. This deserves the admiration that a lot of other Sabbath albums receive, while it is not quite on the same level as a lot of them. The majority of this is amazing, but tracks like "Country Girl" and "Over and Over" keep this from breaking the 90% mark. If you liked Heaven and Hell, you'll like this one too, heck I even know somebody who prefers this album to that one. If you haven't heard this one yet, check it out, but this is the weakest of the three Dio Sabbath albums. The song "Falling Off the Edge of the World" is in my top 5 Black Sabbath songs, and is definitely worth checking out, it's by far the best track here. All in all though, this is a great album. It is dark, heavy, well written and well played with some great production. Mob Rules deserves a little bit more attention in the heavy metal world, I have always thought of it as kind of an unsung classic.
"Never, no never again!
Listen to me and believe what I say if you can
Never, this is the end
You know I've seen the faces of doom and I'm only a man
Help me, tell me I'm sane
I feel a change in the earth, in the wind and the rain
Save me, take me away
You know I've seen some creatures from hell and I've heard what they say!
I've got to be strong
Oh, I'm falling off the edge of the world
Think you're safe, but you're wrong!
We are falling off the edge of the world!"
No point dressing it up, or hiding it behind a long intro paragraph: while this album is really competent- definitely the technically best Sabbath record they'd done up to this point- it's also really boring. It used to be an album I rather enjoyed- my favourite Sabbath album, even, but as the early Ozzy records grew on me to the point where I genuinely really liked them (as opposed to some "appreciate for historical value" bs), Mob Rules is revealed to be what it is: a rather boring album, an album that sounds like it was made by studio pros for studio pros, an album with little in the way of energy and with about as much atmosphere as the moon.
Some songs do rip a bit- Turn Up The Night sounds half finished, but the main riff and chorus is cool, Falling Off The Edge of The World is a real Iommi-by-numbers deal but has nice parts (until the main riff gets driven into the ground), and the title track does actually have a bit of bite to it, one of those rare actually-heavy Dio Sabbath moments. Three songs out of nine songs, though, and the rest, well. It's competent, but also rather comatose- mid paced, sleepy hard rockers with excellent vocals, riffs that have been played before and in much cooler ways, boring ballads with excellent vocals, boring everything! Boring boring boring. With excellent vocals.
Whether it's Voodoo's profoundly half assed main riff that never seems to end, Slipping Away's profoundly half assed main riff that never seems to end, Country Girl's profoundly half assed main riff that never seems to end, or The Sign of The Southern Cross's profoundly half assed main riff that never seems to end, entertainment value is really hard to find here, unless if your idea of a good time involves slow/mid paced riffs with the energy of a coma patient. One wonders if the limitations of working with someone like Ozzy were actually necessary for Iommi and co. to come up with cool shit- that otherworldly, rather nasal whine that required similarly otherworldly riffs and ideas to compliment it. Without it, or perhaps, with a competent singer who could hold his own, there's a slide into a comfort zone, into mediocrity, into fuck-man-i'm-super-bored territory.
And look, it certainly "sounds good", don't get me wrong. The guitar tone is delicious, the rhythm section sounds great, the use of synths, effects etc is tasty as; it's a big sounding album. But those are comments that you could apply to nearly any album by a big band. If anything, a rougher production could've done wonders for the album; lending it a bit of the rawness and heft that it so desperately needs. It's all polished, it's all just there, without doing anything more.
To conclude, then: I've said "boring" a few billion times in this review, so allow me to rephrase: it's a really unexciting album, full of nothing-ish hard rock riffs that an Iommi 10 years prior would've never bothered to record. Turns out the dudes who are all "only Ozzy sabb is real" actually have a real point!
Heaven And Hell was the resurrection of Black Sabbath, turning from a clumsy rock dinosaur into a current competent band that tried at all cost reinventing itself to prevail during the new decade, getting stuck in the same formulas would've been disastrous. Many fans had serious doubts about the convenience of choosing Dio as a replacement; at first they thought he wouldn't fit the dark nature of the group…those lovely skeptics. The 10th studio album meant also the beginning of a new era for these guys, initially promising and bright, though soon they would suffer a relative decline (in case you interpret Gillan, Hughes and Martin material as bad records). Before all of that, Dio recorded his second album with the band, another unfairly underrated jewel in Sabbath’s discography.
So Black Sabbath were still rockin’ in the 80’s, trying to adapt to the requirements and trends of the metal scene, paying attention to what the NWOBHM acts were doing and the preceding release took a distinct pattern from the Ozzy years stuff already, a determination that remains untouched here, as “Slipping Away” or “Turn Up The Night” certainly demonstrate. They’re constructed by omnipresent direct riffs, catchy melodic choruses and simplified structures, an efficient methodology for those times of heavier simpler music. However, Sabbath provide their music here of a much noticeable touch of melody, immaculately added by Dio’s classy vocals and Tony’s cheerful guitar lines which ain't down-tuned mostly. So tenderness is a constant element during the tunes, in particular the charming ballad “Country Girl” features clean arrangements, melancholy verses and that seductive voice of Ronnie. Although the most emotional moments are yet to come, the band saves them for the last, both “Falling Off The Edge Of The World” and “Over And Over” are absolutely emotional, dramatic, bringing back the sentiment of the unforgettable “Lonely Is The Word”, instrumentally and lyrically touching with the group proving clearly their versatility and grace. You see melody takes control generally, but that doesn't mean exceptions can’t be found because we got some powerful riffing and cruder vocals on “Voodoo” and “The Mob Rules”, that last one increasing the vigor of its tempo, both surprisingly dynamic and rough, including as usual polite mellow choruses that keep the refinement present among the aggression. That’s not the only exception, I said there’s an evident determination from these guys to refuse tiring complexity and difficulty, the obsolete ways of the 70’s had died but “The Sign Of The Southern Cross” breaks that uniformity in its own way with its rich varied structures, elaborated instrumental configuration and greater ambition.
They did a solid album once again, not specially different from Heaven And Hell but quite original and refreshing. The biggest distinct characteristics with the previous LP are the much more explicit presence of melody and that excellent richer production of Martin Birch. It sounds way better and cleaner this time, properly for melody to take control and being notable, determining the essence of these numbers. Those few orchestral arrangements, acoustic guitars and mellow keyboards would’ve been a discreet addition if they didn’t sound as they should. Not only instruments are remarkably immaculate on the final mix, Dio’s voice is extraordinary, its emotion, modulation, charisma and strength reached peaks like never before here, no matter what those rumors of him retouching his vocals parts in the studio during the recording would say. In fact, that is said to be one of the reasons why differences started showing between Ronnie and Iommi & Butler. Tony himself admitted: “We were all going through a lot of problems at that time, most of it related to drugs. The whole thing fell apart for very silly reasons - we were all acting like children”. However, all those negative circumstances didn’t hurt the sound of the record that much, because musically these compositions are still strong, professionally constructed and executed, including mighty riffs, energy and power too in reasonable balance with melody and sophistication. As I said, they don’t need to be complicated to be good, in general riffs are leading the pack with simplicity, without many variations during the cuts, designing the few different sequences and instrumental changes. Some parts are vocal-based, those numerous lyrics and repetitive choruses make it clear, in contrast with the rather limited, at times non-existent instrumental passages, it’s only guitar pickin’ and few riff alterations what break the uniformity of the music. More or less that’s a pattern the band has mostly followed, with exceptions like “The Sign Of The Southern Cross” in this case.
Among Black Sabbath’s big discography catalog, there are many terribly underrated records people ignore and relegate behind the classic basic first 6. This is one of the most brilliant inspired attempts of these guys, as memorable as Heaven And Hell itself, it’s just that the senseless vituperation and criticism against it from some people inevitably influenced the negative analysis of others too, not the first time that’s happening to a Sabbath record actually. So you will definitely enjoy it if you’re not close-minded and intolerant with the decent post-Ozzy stuff. The band did admirable albums that remain as hidden treasures, forgotten behind the iconic early 70’s material; it’s up to you to discover them.
"Heaven And Hell" made a heck of splash in the metal community, for better or worse. There was (shit there probably still is) people out there who just won't accept the greatness Black Sabbath re-emerged with on their 1980 effort simply due to a cleaner sound and a new singer. It's too bad, because then that mean they would have missed out on the superior followup album, 1981's "Mob Rules". This album takes what was good about "Heaven and Hell" and makes it better. Sadly this album tends to remain trapped in the monolithic shadow of its predecessor and to this day still remains an underrated gem in Sabbath's entire discography.
The crew from "Heaven And Hell" returns with a vengeance, albeit with a new drummer on board. Bill Ward was totally unable to commit to his drum work at this point in time due to numerous problems in his personal life. His replacement is future longtime Dio cohort Vinny Appice, who's energetic double bass, fills and numerous lightning quick drum rolls are very much welcomed. Dio's vocals are still on fire, ever unstoppable and vigorous. But Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler still steal the show with their respective guitar and bass skills. Iommi's riffage and leads in particular I've always found more inspired and memorable on here than on "Heaven and Hell". Geezer is still Geezer, his bass always notable, present and strong.
One thing I want to mention is the production, which I forgot to mention in my review of the last album. Both were produced by Martin Birch, a respected producer who also worked with Deep Purple, Rainbow and Iron Maiden. His work is very, very good, all instruments get their dues and then some and Dio's vocals sound unbeatable. The whole thing has a clean, vibrant but at times appropriately dark feel.
The songs on "Mob Rules"...well...rule! I always found the numbers on here to be much consistent than on the previous album, not to mention far more memorable overall. This is potentially due to that the songs feel more upbeat in delivery and are a bit more streamlined than the more harrowing, lengthy structures of ""Heaven and Hell's" tracks. We start with "Turn Up The Night", which clearly tries to recapture the speedy goodness of "Neon Knights" but fails to be as good as that particular song. Still, it's a fun one, complete with especially booming bass and patented Iommi shredding. The more mid-paced "Voodoo" follows; it's most comparable to a more melodic take on that kind of heavy metal Accept is best known for. The utterly fantastic "Sign of the Southern Cross" comes next. This is one of Sabbath's best songs EVER! THIS is what the title track of the last album should've been! A light acoustic intro gives way to meaty, immense as hell riffs and bass while Dio belts out lyrics weaving a tragic tale of religion's icy grasp; awesome song! Heck, I even like the instrumental followup "E5150"; it's pretty creepy and surprisingly heavy, similar to the group's earlier work or the oddness that would permeate the infamous "Born Again". Keyboardist Geoff Nicholls gets to strut some of his stuff on this track as well. This dark instrumental then gives way to the short, furious title track, which exists little more than to kick your teeth down your throat!
Side 2 isn't really bad, but definitely more lacking . "Country Girl" mostly hangs on one big hook that never really leaves the song; catchy, but it gets old after a while. The rocking "Slipping Away" is a bit better with energetic guitarisms and drumming, but isn't too memorable after the fact. "Falling Off The Edge of the World" plays like a little brother to "Sign of the Southern Cross", and is almost as good; very dark but it gets nice and energetic around the 3 minute mark. "Over and Over" closes the album on sadly something of a low note; it's just a kind of generic slow song.
Overall, the mob does indeed rules, and so does Sabbath. While the 2nd half of this record does loose some steam after the ass-kicker title track, it's still pretty listenable. Additionally, the veterans are as great as always, as are Dio and Appice in their respective roles. While Black Sabbath's world would only get more complicated from here on out, "Mob Rules" will always be here. A memorable, underrated effort well worth the time of anyone into classic metal, and the name Black Sabbath...
Sabbath's "Heaven And Hell" not only brought their music into a new decade, it also saved them from an inevitable death. The two final albums of the Ozzy era were a sharp boot in the face to the six albums prior that had built the band up as one of the most respected in hard rock and heavy metal. With a new singer and more upbeat sound, Black Sabbath were reinvigorated, and "Heaven And Hell" enjoyed the first sounds of inspiration Black Sabbath had felt in a couple of years. "Mob Rules" doesn't necessarily push this new sound any further, but it proves that "Heaven And Hell" was not a fluke. Although not quite as consistent as its predecessor, "Mob Rules" is a great way to wrap up the first Dio era.
As was the case on "Heaven And Hell", the addition of vocalist Ronnie James Padavona changes the band's sound more than I would have expected. Although Sabbath's style had fluctuated a bit during the Ozzy era, the songwriting had generally been based around thick, heavy riffs, courtesy of Tony Iommi and his distinct approach to the guitar. Although Iommi's trademark doom did peek its head up occasionally, it sounded more like Dio's future solo career than anything the band had done in the past. "Mob Rules" does not deviate much from this course, but a little more of the traditional Sabbath cracks through. "Country Girl" is fueled by an incendiary Iommi riff that wouldn't have sounded out of place on "Master of Reality". "The Sign of the Southern Cross" is another song where Sabbath harken back to their more downtempo roots. For the most part however, Sabbath go for faster-paced metal tunes; "Turn Up The NIght" and the title track "The Mob Rules" are both memorable exercises in fire and brimstone.
Although I would have thought Black Sabbath were defined by the riffs, it's remarkable how much the music has changed with replacement vocalist Ronnie James Dio. While I thought Ozzy Osbourne had some great pipes on some of their earlier albums, Dio's voice is notably more powerful, effortlessly pulling off operatic belts that would have made Ozzy cower. With that being said, I think Ozzy's drug-addled charm could have added something to these songs that Dio's flamboyant delivery does not. As far as skill is concerned, Sabbath have certainly benefited from the vocal replacement, but Sabbath sound less distinctive than they used to, and a little more like the horde of their contemporary metal bands.
"Mob Rules" is not the remarkable statement that "Heaven And Hell" was, if only for the fact that "Heaven" did it first. Although it does sound as if Sabbath are trying to recall a little of their past sound here, it is for the most part a recreation of the previous album, albeit less consistent and powerful. Suffice to say, Ronnie James Dio brings a very different angle to Black Sabbath, and though I do not find this material to be as memorable as the Ozzy material, this era is a refreshing new sound for one of heavy metal's greatest bands.
There it stood on the display shelf. Monumental. Flanked and almost camouflaged by other gaudy but less maverick looking records. If I was describing something this lucid and capturing during adulthood, it would probably be about that one glowing femme fatale in a gin joint guarded by two girlfriends each of strategically polarizing physical qualities for balanced protection. But no, in this encounter I was not be inhibited by the lame games of later life. Sure, this album whispered something but not of the devious sort of chatter that a woman in a bar would to her two social sentries about you looking her way "..so if a stranger sees you, don't look into his eyes 'cause it's Voodoo.." I had no idea what the album was or who it was by. All I knew was, it was diabolical looking and heavy; a herd of executioners regarding me with baleful persecution through their bloody robes with no heads. Did this album find me? As a child, going to the record store was among the most enjoyably fascinating experiences. Perusing through all those exotic looking album covers of some newfangled movement in music alien to me after only after having access to whatever hackneyed feminist singer-songwriter or once-on-the-fringe of revolution(yeah whatever) rock albums my mother kept in the armoire . But the record shop was the armory when it came it to checking out the real booty. Well, one Friday night my father took me to the mall "..turn up the night, it feels so right!.." This was around early 1982 and I was just a scrawny six year old with a stringy mop cut wearing Lacoste polo shirts so I am retroactively exempt from any undue accusations of encountering metal in a shopping mall. Anyway, if going off alone under the album's seductive trance potentially put me in danger of becoming the next Adam Walsh, then so be it I was enthralled; helpless to its charms of danger and depiction of bedlam.
Welcome to Mob Rules: Black Sabbath's second best album after Master of Reality. Does my nostalgic value color my opinion of it? Yes, but so what? Most hardcore metal fans strike me as the drippy crowds for yesteryear anyway which is why newer metal material isn't as respected. And besides, it's got tremendous songs and fervor when you get right down to it. I agree with most everyone that this album is back to the classic doom metal sound but still die cut from the Heaven and Hell record which explains why most each track feels like it's a sequel of sorts to a respective song from that 1980 album. But this is a formula that works very well. It's a better album. It's an upgrade. I'll never agree with the many who think Heaven and Hell is better than this "..you're all fools, the mob rules!.." While their previous album was quite good, it sounded too much like a hybridization of Rainbow and Black Sabbath. And really, I had no problem with even that for a first get together. Mob Rules is a more confident and consolidated piece of work. The band drew from their strengths from Heaven and Hell and improved on it here with more aggressiveness and bite.
You got the first song of Turn Up the Night with a thickset and chunky exuberance. Tony Iommi's riffs are pretty feisty on the song going into a colorful and spin happy wah peddle. The band seems to be playing in good cheer for the start of this new release. Voodoo slows things down a little. It was a song that reminded me of Hell’s Bells since the beats and riffs resemble it. With this song, I noticed Geezer Butler goes back to the style of trailing Tony’s guitar. I like how Dio sings this song. Wailing and howling the simple chorus with energy. It was this song that made me pretty sure this was album was going to be even better. There’s no filler on this record. There should be at least one but I can’t say there is. That is not mean all the tracks are equally good but it sure is close packed and alas, the sum equals the whole. I enjoy it as a whole album taken altogether and at the same time it’s packed with a couple very strong tracks to anchor it all together.
Another reason why I find it amazing that Mob Rules is underrated compared next to Heaven and Hell is because with this lineup on this very album, Black Sabbath brings back the doom metal sound but yet still manages to retool it as their own unique style and even bring influence to other doom bands who used Mob Rules as their calling card influence of doom; most prominently Candlemass. Listening to that Swedish doom band, I am always reminded of this album with the songs The Sign of the Southern Cross, Country Girl and Falling Off the Edge of the World in particular. Heaven and Hell was sort of doom-y but more in line with the power metal genre while Mob Rules is influential to epic doom as again Candlemass or Solitude Aeturnus “..You know I've seen the faces of doom..”
The little instrumental interlude has returned. I know E5150 might be one of the band’s more disposable items of the sort but I thought it was a quite cool and heavy bridge between Sign of the Southern Cross and the title track. You hear that high pitched electronic sound creeping in at the end of Sign of the Southern Cross’s fadeout and it only enhances the feeling of impending doom coming right at you. Just to give you an idea of how well this works, my friend had this album ripped onto his mp3. He was playing the album through one day but with the way the entire record was uploaded, there would be a noticeable gap of like one second off between the songs as though it was loaded track by track with no discernable continuity for the actual master spacing. So when Sign of the Southern Cross was fading out you could hear just a little bit of the E5150 at the very end of the track but then it there was that second or maybe even only half second gap cutoff into the next song proper. It totally threw everything off. I was pissed. The effect was ruined. Even though E5150 does not seep into the title track, there the timing was still thrown off again for it because the song The Mob Rules actually comes in very suddenly and sooner than expected so then for that one there is yet another delay.
Speaking of the title track, The Mob Rules is one of Black Sabbath’s best head banging songs. How could anyone not enjoy such a rambunctious and energetic track like this? I like the title tracks for heavy metal albums like these to standout and be among the most memorable and this is one of those glaring examples. E5150 and this title track are featured at the beginning of the Taarna segment of the 1981 film Heavy Metal and that was the best part of the movie. Falling Off the Edge of the World is another splendid epic doom song with Dio’s gentle singing for lament to start it off until it comes back up full throttle into aggressive tritone goodness. When the song ends, Over and Over cuts in almost as fast as the title track did with E5150 which is a detail in of itself that almost makes me think it’s a better end song than Lonely is the Word was for Heaven and Hell. I know one of Ronnie’s influences as an aspiring singer growing up was Sam Cooke and on this last cut, he uses a lot of that Philly soul influence when he sings on Over and Over. If I had to decide though I would say this song is not better than the very similarly styled end song from the previous time out only because Iommi’s solo on Over and Over is nothing special. I will say however, that this song is one of the tracks that showed Vinnie Appice’s drumming to be a very good replacement for Bill Ward on the album. I thought he sounded a lot like Ward’s style and to top it off, he did a better job here than Bill did on Heaven and Hell.
As I stared at the record (or was it staring at me?), some rock music was blaring very loudly on the store’s speakers. They were not playing anything from this sinister album. I would not hear the album until many years later but the seed of what heavy metal was was planted in my mind at that moment even though at the time I did not know it. My first encounter was a visual one but even if I did not get to hear what was inside it, I didn’t have to at that time for this is one of those albums that just speak to you and it was no leap of faith “..there's a message inside as we build a new life from the past..” If I stared long enough at it, a burning smoke would rise out from all around the album. A crackle and a cloud forming an image of a skeletal hand forming what looks like devil’s horns…
Any metal fan who ever felt that Sabbath was no longer Sabbath without Ozzy definitely missed out on some classic, epic heavy metal when the boys from Birmingham teamed up with Ronnie James Dio. The fusion of the two has always released good quality material, period. Bottom line.
It was an absolutely perfect line-up, but with one fatal flaw: both Iommi and Dio are strong, creative personalities, and you can only have one creative force in a group, not two very young egos fighting for control. A creative split was inevitable, and it occurred the year following this release, a split that would last nine years until the release of another great disc, “Dehumanizer”, and of course their current incarnation, Heaven and Hell. C’mon, these guys were made for each other, like Siegfried & Roy, but without the cats and cockplay.
“Mob Rules” is a shining example of why Sabbath and Dio are a perfect fit. Although it’s somewhat overshadowed by its predecessor, “Heaven and Hell”, which has better continuity overall, this release still has some of the best, most time tested metal there is. It even offers one of Sabbath’s finest moments, a track called “Sign of the Southern Cross”, true epic metal for the ages. A classic. Beautifully written, structured and recorded, with a main riff so heavy it will haunt your dreams.
The opening track on the disc, “Turn Up the Night”, is a fast-paced, chugging freight train similar to “Neon Knights”, although not as good. This leads you to think the whole thing will be a repeat of the previous disc. But no, give it a chance, and you find a heavy metal jewel with a sound and style all its own. One thing you notice from the very first note is the lead hip-boot heaviness of the recording mix, which was probably the biggest and heaviest sound of 1981. Overall, the album is most interesting when the band focuses on what they were best at, epic doom metal, rather than blues based rock riffs. “Slipping Away” is the least interesting track, and “E5150” is pointless, unlike the instrumental experiments of older Sabbath classics, which I always enjoyed.
Standout tracks include “Voodoo”, a classic evil Sabbath riff, with nothing new but it sounds totally kick-ass. The title track is heavy, fast and aggressive. The sound is so damn huge and everything is max. “Country Girl” is a classic catchy Sabbath riff similar to the Ozzy era material, with a nice modern melodic touch. “Falling Off the Edge of the World” is another great Sabbath moment. This track is simply awesome from start to finish, with its haunting intro, its slow building doom riff to its fast paced, heavier than hell main theme. The album ends with “Over and Over”, a song that shows these guys knew as well as anybody how to write and play those power ballads that became so popular in the eighties, but with a lot less cheese.
Why did most of this stuff go unnoticed? 1981 was the era of sissy synth-pop on the airwaves, and heavy music was then being conquered by the energetic assault of the NWOBHM, lead by Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Venom and others. Sabbath was an old dinosaur at this point, plodding its riffs from ten years before, looking for lost glory. But time has been kind. Any true metal fan will appreciate some of the finest heavy music ever made.
Pretty similar to its predecessor, “Mob Rules” is the second album released during Black Sabbath's 'Dio era'. As I've already said, all the tunes are pretty similar to the ones that were released on “Heaven and Hell”, but they are a tad weaker, in my opinion; the album is a bit on the inconsistent side, unfortunately.
Everything that made “Heaven and Hell” what it was is here too: the powerful guitar work, the catchy riffs, the inspired vocals, the audible bass and the solid drumming. The songs are generally midpaced but they can contain, at times, pretty fast parts (see the opener, “Turn Up the Night”). Dio is in perfect shape, his screams being awesome and his melodic singing too (check out “The Sign of the Southern Cross”). Worth mentioning is also the inclusion of Vinnie Appice into the band, after the departure of Bill Ward: his performance here isn't that technical nor complex, but still tasteful. As for the bass, it is actually much more audible on “Mob Rules” than on “Heaven and Hell”, which is obviously a good thing.
As for the guitar work, it is the most important thing about this record (together with Dio's vocals, of course): Tony Iommi is, and will always be, the leader of the band and his riffs on this piece are all pretty damn good. His solos aren't that present throughout the record, “Heaven and Hell” contained much more songs with longer solo sections, but hey, that's a minor issue, all in all.
Returning to “The Sign of the Southern Cross”, it is the natural sucessor of “Heaven and Hell” as the long, epic song of the album, and while it is very catchy and solid, the latter is better. It begins very calmly, with some acoustic lines, accompanied by Dio's melodic vocal approach, the song then getting heavier after the mighty, crushing main riff kicks in. A great song, all in all, but it can't be compared to the greatness of “H&H”.
Looking to the other songs, there are two immediate stand-outs: “Turn Up the Night” and the title track, since they both are two of the faster songs Black Sabbath ever penned. They kind of remind of power metal at times, which is pretty surprising, since this band is generally labeled as one of the fathers of the doom metal movement. While “Turn Up the Night” may be faster, it still doesn't beat the opener of “Heaven and Hell” though, the fantastic “Neon Knights”. As for the title track, it simply is an awesome song, great main riff and vocals; the chorus is also extremely well written and catchy as hell. One of my favourite Black Sabbath tunes sung by Dio.
Other highlights include the more midpaced “Country Girl”, with that amazing chorus (like “Heaven and Hell”, the majority of the choruses of this record absolutely kick ass), and “Voodoo” (again, great chorus). “Over and Over” is the closer and can be labeled as the 'ballad' of the album; despite it isn't a masterpiece, it is certainly better than the calm closer of “H&H, “Lonely is the Word”. “Slipping Away” is unfortunately weaker and very forgettable, the same thing going for “Falling Off the Edge of the World”. There's also an interlude present, before the title track, a pretty worthless one I've got to say. It is also overlong, which kind of reminds me of the infamous “FX”...
So, concluding, another good Sabbath album, this one a bit weaker than its predecessors but still a pleasant listening. Recommended to all those who liked “Heaven and Hell”; it's basically the same thing, even though the songs are, unfortunately, a tad weaker.
Best Moments of the CD:
-the chorus of “Country Girl”.
-the beginning of the title track.
"Mob Rules," Black Sabbath's tenth studio album and second to feature former Elf/Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio, sees the band making some changes from it's predecessor, "Heaven and Hell." Most noticeable is the addition of drummer Vinnie Appice, who replaced original drummer Bill Ward. Musically it seems the band is going for faster numbers and tighter song arrangement, although there is no lack of Sabbath's trademark gloom and doom.
Much like the previous album, "Mob Rules" starts off in high gear with the fast-paced "Turn Up the Night." Several classic tracks follow: "Voodoo," "The Sign of the Southern Cross," dark instrumental E5150 and another fast number, title track "Mob Rules" These songs demonstrate just why Tony Iommi was (and still is) metal's premiere guitarist. Not only does he crank out the best riffs in metal, but his lead playing in untouchable. Whether it's a fast or slow number, Iommi knows exactly what notes to play, and this album undoubtedly features some of his best solo work.
"Country Girl" shows Dio's strength as vocalist, contrasting between the raw verses and melodic vocal section mid-song. "Slipping Away," is on the rockier side of things, and next track "Falling off the Edge of the World," although not the best-known number off the album, is probably it's best song. After an acoustic guitar intro featuring violin (played by whom?), the band crashes into a slow and heavy drum-driven section (Appice is a powerful player and fit Sabbath's style perfectly, bringing some renewed energy to the band), before breaking into a full-speed assault on the senses. Dio's lyrics tell a dark tale of rejection and loss, consistent with Sabbath's works from previous albums. The album finishes with "Over and Over' another excellent performance by Dio and one of Iommi's most underrated solos. Listen to the end guitar solo and spot the part where the guitar fretboard actually catches fire! Absolutely amazing playing from Iommi, godfather of metal guitar.
"Mob Rules" may not be viewed as classic in the way that "Heaven and Hell" seems to be, probably because it's impossible to top such a legendary album. But perhaps in some ways it is better. The album certainly contains as many classic songs as "H&H". The crunchier production sound is appropriate for the material contained on the album, really bringing out the guitar sizzle. In any case it is a fine follow-up and another triumph for the revitalized, Dio-fronted version of metal's quintessential band, Black Sabbath.
Black Sabbath have an unusual career arc compared to other long-lived metal institutions, releasing consistently great albums over their extensive career but almost never consecutively. Every other album tends to be a dip (though relatively in many cases, like Vol. 4) between classics and, if we count each era separately and consider Heaven and Hell’s The Devil You Know as an official release, this holds true for all twenty of their studio albums. My preference tends to lie with the odd numbered releases, so following that logic, the second Dio-fronted Sabbath album is weaker than the first, relying mostly on earlier momentum and adding little but a few more likable metal anthems without achieving the same sublimity.
Peering behind the rather disturbing, occultic imagery splattered across the cover, we find a very worthy companion piece to Sabbath’s earlier achievement Heaven and Hell, with fresh drummer Vinnie Appice filling Bill Ward’s shoes in quite the respectable manner given the less ambitious, relatively straightforward nature of this era’s sonic delights. There are a few analogues to the last album that are pretty transparent; for instance, “Turn up the Night” is the cheerier second coming of “Neon Knights.” But there’s a lot of different takes on the metal formula on display. The title track is a more aggressive galloper and an obvious highlight, while “Country Girl” has an irresistibly heavy groove and dynamic counterpoint comparable to that of the classic “Die Young.” “Slipping Away” is more rock-oriented, and almost Zeppelin-esque save the unequaled heavy it brings, while “Over and Over” resurrects the forlorn bluesy pace that made “Lonely is the Word” such an enjoyable finale. As you can see, it’s far too easy to draw parallels to their previous album, leading Mob Rules to look like a little brother than a standalone effort.
New elements include increased synthesizer integration, resulting in skippable tomfoolery like “E5150” but also adding gravitas to the album’s grand, atmospheric diversions “The Sign of the Southern Cross” and the first half of “Falling Off the Edge of the World.” It’s debatable whether or not the former piece outstays its welcome, but I’m hard pressed to find a more emotive vocal performance from RJD than on either of these pieces. As always, despite the obvious quality of their proto speed metal works, Sabbath excels at the slowest tempos. And though Dio’s performance is the highlight of this album, both Iommi and Butler tend to be at their most poignant during the slow ones too.
Dio’s earliest achievements are so colossal, so monumental, that most all of his later works pale by comparison. Each Sabbath album he led is worthy of owning and playing at high volumes, but each loses some magic that its predecessor possessed and is therefore a clear descent. Mob Rules is an excellent melodic heavy metal record, but outside of a few brilliant moments and a general appreciation for the songcraft, it cannot compare to Heaven and Hell and will not get nearly as many replays.
This is the second release that the Ronnie Dio era of Sabbath put out and once again the magic is alive and true. Not much has changed since the previous line-up, other than the replacement of Bill Ward with Vinnie Appice. Unfortunately Mr. Ward was nearing a low point in his life and needed some time to re-assess his goals, but fortunately his replacement fills his shoes nicely and adds a more thunderous tone to the rhythm section of this early metal outift.
Although this album is not quite as influencial as it's predecessor, it contains all the same elements that made the first album great. Fast paced cookers like "Turn up the Night" and the title track, quasi-blues inspired slower tracks such as "Voodoo" and "Over and Over", as well as more epic compositions like "Falling off the Edge of the World" and "Sign of the Southern Cross". There is not a dull moment on this album, everything is made to order for anyone who loves traditional metal.
Iommi's lead work has been ratcheted up even further, at times sounding almost as virtuoso-like as stuff put out by Van Halen. The rabid fire wah pedal fill-ins on "Turn up the Night", the fast paced riffs on "Voodoo", the storytelling on "Over and Over" and "Sign of the Southern Cross" are all treats that have been taken a step further than their predecessors on Heaven and Hell. But my pic for best solo of the album is the one found in the title track, hands down. This song also gets my pic for best main guitar riff and most intense vocal performance by Ronnie Dio on this release.
Two rather unique tracks on this album that give this release a more interesting flavor are that of "Country Girl" and "Slipping Away" The former is a very catchy rock song reminding me somewhat of the thematic elements that made "Iron Man" an instant classic, but with some rather unusual lyrics dealing with the dangers off falling in love with country girls. The latter is more of a classic rock tune with a production that makes it almost sound like it's on a completely different album, but with some great guitar and drum work.
Ronnie Dio's lyrics are pretty much in line with the same magic that he brought to Rainbow and the previous Sabbath release. However, he completely outdid himself when he wrote the words to "Sign of the Southern Cross". What you have here essentially is some masterful storytelling, super-imposed over a beautiful acoustic guitar intro and several minutes of a uniquely textured and driving metal groove.
In conclusion, you can't go wrong with this album. All of the same characteristics that made Heaven and Hell a success are alive and well on this release. It is unfortunate that Bill Ward did not see fit to stick with his mates for one more release, but the fact that he did probably helped to spawn Dio's brilliant partnership with drummer Vinnie Appice after he exited Sabbath in the early 80s.
Highlights (songs for Kazaa before buying the album):
The Mob Rules
Falling Off the Edge of the World
Apart from the cover (which is decidedly more gruesome than ever before), Mob Rules is Heaven and Hell Pt. 2 in many ways. The basic sound of the band has not changed a bit since the previous album, although the production has been kicked up a notch, with a more muscular, driving sound.
“Turn Up the Night” opens with a nice groove that unabashedly mimics the opener of the last album, “Neon Knights”. The song is still excellent though, with precise riffing, an interesting melody, and an overall heavy sound. Tony Iommi has some very nice guitar fills in between Dio’s verses, making good use of the wah pedal. Overall, I really enjoy this song, but because it so obviously stagnates (instead of innovating), I’ll give it an 8/10.
“Voodoo” is one of my favorite songs on here, opening with a sick-ass riff, and not letting up until the end of the song. The lyrics and vocal delivery are near perfect, and that riff after the first verse is downright nasty. Geezer’s bass fills are great as usual, but they really stand out in this song. The guitar solo is very inventive, especially compared to most of Iommi’s other playing from this time period. Also, the extreme use of delay and reverb on everything (especially Dio’s voice) gives the song a dreamy atmosphere. “Bring me your children, they’ll burn!” This song contains the true spirit of metal, and I give it 10/10 without hesitation.
“The Sign of the Southern Cross” has an intro that is a straight knockoff of “Children of the Sea”, and with the epic length and slow tempo of the song, they were definitely going for another “Heaven and Hell”. However, with these points aside, the song is powerful in its own right. Appice’s drumming style actually fits the style of the song better than Ward’s would – but I’d still rather have Ward back on this album! Dio’s voice in this song is at its strongest, he just takes you by the neck and forces you into submission. The synthesizers are a nice touch, I think. The long, rather pointless “trippy” section in the middle is the worst part of the song, along with the unexciting guitar solo. “Gather all around the young ones, they will make us strong…” It’s a good thing Ronnie comes back in to carry the song home. 8/10
“E5150” is kind of stupid and pointless, although I admit it works as a concert opener. Since it’s not really a song, and it isn’t too long (that rhymes), I won’t count it in the rating. It’s a hell of a lot better than “FX”, that’s all I can say.
“The Mob Rules” is definitely worthy of its position as the title track. It does everything a fast rocker should do, and has a great anthemic hook. It’s the kind of song that really makes you want to headbang, which is exactly what metal should do! Containing one of the album’s better guitar solos, and with a bold lumbering drum beat, this song easily scores a 10/10 in my book.
“Country Girl” is certainly an odd title for a metal song, but it’s a hell of a song. Apparently Geezer Butler hated this song, which I don’t quite understand. The riff doesn’t leave him much room for improvisation, but it rocks hard, so fuck ‘im! This is one of those overlooked album tracks that didn’t get a lot of concert time, but I think it’s still a great song. When the lead guitar comes in after the slow part, it’s orgasmic. Seriously, I just splooged on my computer screen. 9/10
“Slipping Away” sounds like a Led Zeppelin B-side (something from Coda, maybe). That’s not entirely a bad thing; it definitely gives the album some variance, breaking away from the usual sound of the record. The instrumental part in the middle is sheer brilliance, and it’s only flaw is that it’s waaaay too short! The guitar/bass solo should go on for at least twice as long. Overall, the song has a great sound to it, and gets a welcome 9/10.
“Falling Off the Edge of the World” is one of those classic songs that is hidden away at the end of the album, kind of like “Die Young” from Heaven and Hell. After a rather weird intro, the song quickly picks up into a song of epic proportions. It’s actually not that long, but it feels epic nonetheless. When that first doom metal chord comes in, the song sounds like it’s on the brink of greatness, and then when that wild fast riff starts, it achieves greatness. I consider this the best song on the album, and the only one that truly matches the glory of Heaven and Hell. 10/10
“Over and Over” is the album’s weak point. It’s not bad, just not that interesting. Again, it is an obvious rip of a Heaven and Hell song: this time it’s “Lonely Is the Word”. It is supposed to be a slow blues song, but the performance isn’t nearly loose enough to work. The band’s tight playing works well on most other numbers, but not here. Vinnie Appice especially sounds like he has a stick up his ass. Why didn’t Bill Ward stick around for this album? I don’t really know, but he should have. Iommi’s obligatory solo doesn’t emotionally wrench you like “Lonely”’s did, and overall the song is pretty average. 5/10
If you don’t have Heaven and Hell, then by all means pick that one up first: this is definitely a not-as-good version of that album. It still has its merits though, and any devoted fan of Sabbath and/or Dio will eat this up (myself included!). Mob Rules is good to listen to once in a while, if you want to hear something like H&H but you need something a little different.
The Dio line-up is less famous than the Ozzy-fronted band, but amongst the metal community it is beloved like little else. Although they only released two albums, both of them were undeniably highlights of the catalogue, stomping flat everything that came after and a good deal of what came before.
While I hold Heaven and Hell in the highest esteem, it really didn't feel like a Black Sabbath record, Ronnie really bringing a whole Rainbow vibe to the proceedings to wonderful results. On album number two though, the band decided to fuse the classic Sabbath stomp with the gothic tones of Rainbow, and for the most part they succeeded.
Opener "Turn Up the Night" is spiritual brethren to "Neon Knights", but where that song is nimble and quick TUTN is slow and moody. Seriously, rhythm section is all mud and the riff is a real earthshaker. Ronnie is rather subdued, the song actually one of my least favourites on the record because it occasionally feels mechanical. But man, those solos are seriously unique in the Sabbath cannon, Iommi going all musical and light in the midst of the titanic murk.
"Voodoo" is a mid-paced cruiser not unlike say, "Wishing Well" from the last album, only much better than that sour note. Still, one of Ronnie's less coherent lyrics is carried off by his performance alone, much more angry and growly this time around, a persona he would neglect until Lock Up the Wolves a decade hence. A nice diddler of a solo, solid again. It seems Sabbath inverted the Heaven and Hell formula and stuffed the front end with weaker tracks while powering up the back end.
"E5150" is like an electric "Fluff" or a second "F/X", both of little purpose except to get us from one track to another. Appropriate then that Sabbath used them to bookend their quasi-legendary Live Evil release. Not much to say, just squealing electronics.
I have trouble calling "Sign of the Southern Cross" one of the great Sabbath songs as some would have you believe. It's a song I like very much, but when you compare it to "Heaven and Hell", it's blown out of the water. And those lyrics are atrocious. When I hear "Southern Cross" I expect the KKK burning crosses, not some besotted ramblings about yet another crystal ball. And there are so many spaces...but hot damn if Ronnie doesn't make you forget it's inadequacies with that wizardry of his, and Iommi's silent death-from-above riff that just gives the chorus the feeling of a roiling cauldron ready to overspill. Bloody brilliant soloing too. And let us not forget the master, Vinnie Apice, ably filling in for Bill Ward with some truly "War Pigs"-worthy fills acrobatically shoving this song along when it might have simply dragged without him. I think this song is just Sabbath doing an epic for the sake of doing an epic, sort of checking off the required epic portion of the record in a hurry to move along to something a little more fun to do.
Now, here's the only track any non-metal traditionalist might have heard of, and deservedly so. "The Mob Rules" is a hot slab of "Kill the King"-y speed metal. Ronnie is top-flight, Geez and Tony metal incarnate, and Vinnie is Vinnie, i.e. a percussion machine. This also has to rank amongst the top Ronnie lyrics, another of his "people be dumb" songs, but at least based on a reality that does not include spell-casting warlocks or dumbass blues light. An unabashed but bashed out classic.
"Country Girl" has all the makings of a terrible song like a notable two songs on Heaven and Hell, but despite it's Elf-ed lyric it becomes reminiscent of "Lady Evil" from Heaven and Hell, one of my fav tracks from that album despite it's insipid blues-gone-wrong lyric. Anyway, "Country Girl" harkens back to classic Sabbath, those iron-y (no pun intended) riffs pummelling the ear and Ronnie doing an Ozzily simple vocal melody that simply follows the riff in a near monotone. And that breakdown is heavenly, or perhaps hell-worthy.
I consider "Slippin' Away" to be the unheralded classic of this record, by hook or by crook sticking in your head, the band tight as a drum, the riff supreme, the singer on top of his game. No chorus to speak of, only a refrain that screams crowd participation. A shame this never really got the respect it deserved.
You may have noticed a pattern of comparison to the last album here, and one of the most direct is "Children of the Sea" and "Falling Off the Edge of the World". However, it's such a great formula that deserves to be repeated (see "Fade to Black"/"Sanitarium", "Hallowed be thy Name"/"Infinite Dreams"/"Mother Russia"/the rest of the catalogue really). Ronnie going back to his grab-bag of tricks to a very "Beyond the Realms of Death" lyric, Ronnie all tragedy and pathos (bathos?) as he details the fate of the isolated and ignored. And damn if this isn't one of the highpoints of this incarnation of the band(really, the last period save for selected Tony Martin moments, that didn't suck).
"Over and Over", well, "Lonely is the Word" smacks this runt and around and tosses it aside handily. It's dull and uninspired, definitely not something to listen to over and over.
Stand-Outs: "Slippin' Away", "Falling Off the Edge of the World", "The Mob Rules"