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Listening to a band like Black Sabbath, sorry, Heaven & Hell, I wonder: why can't all bands just be good? Y'know, I'm fed up of bands going through life adding nothing, attracting a star-dazzled fanbase and then disappearing back up the record label bosses arse two weeks later. Such is the seeming consummate ease with which this group of near pensioners can produce a doom metal record is staggering, with not a jot of cliche nor hint of dollar signs appearing on the horizon. Let me just clarify on the age bit: the combined age of the four here is 237! Eat that you stinking BMTH's of this world...
In my eyes as a Black Sabbath fan of a measly 8 years the professionalism of this group has been to the utmost, resulting in "The Devil You Know" not being lumbered with the same usual hyperbole and sense of occasion that usually bring down such a high profile release. And this is sensed immediately with "Atom & Evil". A lumbering beast of a doom metal tune, it is just huge - Dio's impregnable vocals, Iommi's God-like riffing and the mighty rhythm section of Butler and Appice all in perfect sync with one another to produce a pure majesty that results in doom greatness, not just slow lethargy. The album's lead single, "Bible Black" begins like a certain Led Zeppelin classic and finishes catchy, invigorating and memorable.
Riffs are always leaden weight in the land of Heaven & Hell, and rarely do they dip below the ‘brilliant’. Even if "Rock & Roll Angel" gets a bit tiresome, for every one of these there is an "Eating The Cannibals", a song which recalls not only groovier Cathedral and recent Candlemass but exposes the value in Ronnie James Dio. The little man gives the song new direction where for anyone else it might have been that an upbeat song in the middle. And just incase The Man Who Invented Heavy Metal (the capitals are entirely justified) needed to prove a point, Tony Iommi follows up his flashy soloing in "Eating..." with an "Iron Man" of a riff for next song "Follow The Tears". His work needs no more introduction than this.
This album is of course very different to that of the band's moniker released under the Black Sabbath name in 1980 as the benefit of greater technology has given a considerably weightier production and verve, exemplified in songs like "Atom & Evil". Whilst the missing fragility of "Children Of The Sea" is missing in this new guise with its modern production is a discussion worthy of a thesis itself, the point is that any Black Sabbath fan could hardly ask for anymore. When things could so easily have gone wrong, the old masters return to show the world how to grow gracefully. Well, as gracefully as is possible when doom metal occupies your 60 year old heart...
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net