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I was always skeptical of the post Ozzy Sabbath releases, simply because of the misguided assumption that they couldn't compare to the brilliance of the band's classic material. Heaven and Hell proved me dead wrong, showing that Ronnie James Dio was the perfect vocalist to ressurect the Sabbath sound. Shame on me for thinking he couldn't do it twice in a row. Mob Rules is not as good as Heaven and Hell by any means, but it's a hell of a metal album and it certainly kicks the shit out of most of the albums that would follow it.
The songwriting that made Heaven and Hell so amazing works its magic on this album as well. Iommi's riffing is brilliant and catchy, both clean and distorted. His guitar soloing has risen above the plane of mere mortals, as he now clearly shreds among the metal gods. Every lead moment on the album is bliss. Dio's performance is just as electrifying. Though Ozzy's signature tone provides a chilling atmosphere on the older Sabbath albums that could never really be topped, Dio shows that he is twice the vocalist Ozzy is, delivering a powerful performance throughout. Great lyrics, impressive range, and always expressive, Dio is one of the legends. His sense of melody is truly impressive. The bass isn't as prominent as on earlier albums, but is still quite audible and punctual. The drumming is standard, but it's not bad. Just because Bill Ward isn't playing doesn't mean Sabbath's groove is gone, there's just fewer memorable fills. The instrumental performance on this album is pretty much flawless. Some of the classics include "The Mob Rules," "Turn up the Night," and "Falling Off the Edge of the World."
The album isn't quite perfect, despite my above adoration of the instrumentation. Some of the songs are noticibly weaker than the others. "E5150" is one of those tracks I skip every time, a totally unnecessary 'instrumental.' "Sign of the Southern Cross" is cool, but somewhat drawn out. Finally, "Over and Over" is a pretty boring way to close the album, especially after the epic track that precedes it. The flaws of these three do little to affect the album on the whole, however. This is still one of Sabbath's best works, especially post-Ozzy and an essential listen for even the least inclined of metalheads.
Dio's only failure here is the failure to disappoint Black Sabbath fans, not that we're complaining.