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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.