1980 brought together some of the most well respected members of the Metal/Rock community for what is considered one of the genres shinning moments. It goes without question that Sabbath took the 70’s by storm but Ozzy felt the need to branch out on his own and allowed (whom was front man of Rainbow at the time) Ronnie James Dio to grasp the reigns and Sabbath become something darker, heavier and what many consider two of their best studio albums were released under Dio’s reign of Sabbath. The question as to which was better suited for Sabbath in my opinion is irrelevant. Both Ozzy and Dio suited the music of their time in Sabbath and both are amazing vocalists and both are legends in the genre.
So was I surprised when these boys got back together? Yes, I was completely blindsided when the news that the 80’s lineup was getting back together under a new banner. When the initial shock wore off I was excited when I realized I would get a chance to see this line up live. I went to their show skeptical, hoping to hear all the classics of their time, and I wasn’t let down. Just getting to hear them play “Neon Knights” was enough of a Metal dream come true to leave me satisfied. I went home smiling and waited and waited and waited and finally after many months of anticipation the news broke that Heaven & Hell would be releasing a completely brand new album with all original tracks, I was floored. I expected a best of, or a live compilation but no, years after their last studio album they were going to give their fans a completely new dosage of Dio era Sabbath, under the title of The Devil You Know.
The album kick’s off with “Atom & Evil” A track that is true to the Dio era Sabbath albums. Tony and Geezer are the first to shine on the album with a low riff bordering on the darker side of things which soon turns to pummeling bass lines, slow pounding drum work and some amazing riffing by Iommi. Dio shows fine form from the get go and once you hear his tone you already know this is going to be a quality album, it’s all business in the vocal department, no filler. “Fear” the second track on the album kicks up the tempo a bit with a ripping guitar riff, bombastic drumming and more of those pummeling bass lines but soon Iommi cranks up the speed with some mildly fast paced riffing that shows these guys got some spunk in em even after all this time. The execution is flawless on The Devil You Know and the third track on the album “Bible Black” starts off with some well played acoustics and some mesmerizing soloing from Iommi, Dio’s voice is full and strong and soon the track explodes into one of the heaviest tracks thus far. Geezer puts down some fairly complex bass lines here accented by more crushing riffs by Iommi.
By this point the only one whom hasn’t really shown off his skill is Vinny on drums, but what you do hear from him is quality and every now and then he breaks out some interesting patterns on the cymbals. “Bible Black” is easily one of the ’stand out’ tracks on The Devil You Know and has some of the finest guitar pieces from both Iommi and Geezer. “Double The Pain” begins with some creepy bass work and then erupts into another chugging catchy riff from Iommi. By this song both Iommi and Geezer are on fire throwing out some of the best playing we’ve heard of them in many years. The vocals on Double The Pain are some of the catchiest yet and just when things don’t seem to be able to get better Iommi shreds up his fastest solo yet. The fifth track on the album starts up with similar chugging riffs and some intense grinding bass work accented by Dio’s to the point lyrics and vocals. Half way through “Rock And Roll Angel” comes easily one of my favorite solo’s by Iommi which starts out backed by acoustics but later the riff from the beginning of the song fades in and Iommi finishes out the song laying down some very nice acoustics while Geezer puts down some mellow B lines.
Half way through “The Turn Of The Screw” is an upbeat track where Dio let’s fly some of his finest vocals thus far in the album. Vinny starts to get a little more creative with his patterns towards the end of the track and both Geezer and Iommi accent one another with more upbeat riffing leading into yet another amazing solo from Iommi. One would think Dio would be the member to steal the spotlight but Iommi’s playing on The Devil You Know is definitely the icing on the cake, the man hasn’t lost an inch of skill since his days in Black Sabbath and some parts even rival them. “Eating The Cannibals” turns the pace up even more as both Iommi and Geezer throw down some of their fastest riffs and lines on the album, Vinny continues to use some interesting patterns and then Iommi again steals the show with some incredible soloing in the latter half of the song, this track is yet another stand out but the band isn’t done yet, not even close. The eigth track “Follow The Tears” is easily the darkest track on the album beginning with an eerie organ playing in the back ground as Iommi shreds up some nice riffs, the song erupts into a barrage of chugging thrashy riffs, slow drum patterns and pummeling bass work by Geezer. This is easily my favorite track on the album and has has some of the most addicting riffs and vocals on the album, the track ends with some superb soloing and fades out with the same intense riffing it began with.
“Neverwhere” explodes into a rollicking track with an upbeat atmosphere and has a faster pace not unlike “Eating The Cannibals”. This track is pretty much straight forward Metal with no filler except for some nice soloing and a few complex B Lines from Geezer, overall one of the few tracks on the album that just sounds like your basic old school Rock/Metal song. Leave it to these guys to go out with a band on their debut with “Breaking Into Heaven” which starts out a slow rolling tune that soon turns into a mid paced riff fest between Geezer and Iommi. Theirs a couple parts where Geezer breaks away and his bass over powers Iommi and even Vinny manages some decent cymbal work but it’s Iommi that steals the show again with one of the best solo’s on the album before the band rips out one last chorus and then ends it with a simple fade out as if to say “We don’t need a three minute long finale to blow you away!” and that’s true, I was blown away after the first couple tracks.
I waited outside for four hours to get this album first thing and it was worth every minute. All in all the band is in great form as a whole, nothing but quality music from start to finish. But as in all things there are those that shine on this album more then others. Dio puts down a solid performance, his voice isn’t what it was back when these guys first banded together but still solid vocal’s from start to finish and some extremely catchy and on point lyrics. Vinny on skins was the only one that really felt to be keeping it down a notch though he did manage to toss in a few surprises towards the end of the album. Geezer is still one of my favorite bassist’s and one of few reasons I myself took up the bass as a kid, through out the album he shone as one of the stronger members of the group whether it be his subtle thudding licks or his complex breakaways the man still has it and demands attention. However, the MVP of The Devil You Know is by far Tony Iommi as he shows some of his finest playing to date and some solo’s that make even his earlier work look amateur. He in my opinion is the leader of this pack and he lead them to a triumphant victory, fans of Iommi will be pleased with what he has to offer on this debut and may even surprise some especially being 61 years young.
A history making release that actually lives up to it’s hype. I recommend this to all fans of Rock and Metal alike, I am sure this will become of of 2009’s greatest releases and I for see lot’s of airplay for Heaven & Hell in the coming days, weeks, months and years. Now I just can’t wait to hear these song performed live, the next thing to look forward to from this history making group. Thank you for reading and I hope that my review at least kept your interest for a few moments and ultimately helped at least a few of you to purchase this ground breaking album. If it had helped you please let me know by hitting ‘Yes’ below where it asks Was this review helpful to you?
As an after thought if you don’t already own them I recommend fans of Heaven & Hell to also purchase the following recordings…
Heaven And Hell By Black Sabbath
Mob Rules by Black Sabbath
Live Evil by Black Sabbath
Iommi by Tony Iommi
Plastic Planet by Geezer
Rising by Rainbow
Holy Diver by Dio
All are excellent albums especially the first two studio releases of this line up with Dio as front man, the third Sabbath album is a live album with the same line up and is of excellent quality for a live album of it’s time. To hear some more amazing guitar work by axe wizard Iommi be sure to check out the self titled debut solo album, which features some interesting guest vocalists through out the rock and metal universe. If a fan of Geezer Butler’s intense and often complex style of Bass playing as I am then Plastic Planet is an amazing solo album featuring Fear Factory vocalist Burton C. Bell. And of course are the two must have albums by any fan of metal icon Dio, both of which show him at his best. Again I hope that my review was helpful and gave you some insight into this amazing line up as they once again give a definition of what it is to be a great rock band. We can only hope these guys plan to continue releasing music under the banner of Heaven & Hell and continue ravaging the world with their earth shaking live performances.