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"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.