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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.