BLACK SABBATH — Heaven And Hell (review)

BLACK SABBATH — Heaven And Hell album cover Album · 1980 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Sing me a song, you're a singer

Ronnie James Dio joins Black Sabbath here and starts a new chapter in the band's long career. Heaven And Hell has become something of a classic and it is admittedly a strong album, perhaps even up to par with some of the Ozzy-era albums. However, having been a fan of the band for some years (even if I wasn't born until one year after this album was released), I remember being less than impressed when I first heard this album. I have come to like it a bit more since then, but some of my initial misgivings still stand.

First of all, this album is certainly not as obviously experimental and progressive as the Ozzy-era albums like Sabotage or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or even as some of the Jazz-Rock/Fusion inspired tracks on the previous Never Say Die. I would even say that the Dio-era is the least inventive of all of the band's different eras. There are some slight progressive touches in Heaven And Hell, but if you want to find them you must look very closely. The loud and quite elaborated bass lines from Geezer, the discrete keyboards in the background, the Gothic choir-like backing vocals and the mystical lyrics are some features to pay extra attention to.

The keyboards are played by Geoff Nicholls here for the first time and while he contributed to every album from this one onwards plus following them on tours, he was never recognized as a full member. This man deserves some credit for being there!

Heaven And Hell alternates between longer and more interesting pieces and shorter quite conventional Hard Rock songs. The excellent Children Of The Sea is followed by the straightforward Lady Evil; the classic title track is followed by the similar Hard Rock song Wishing Well and the superb, Queen-like Die Young is followed by another one of those straightforward songs in Walk Away. The album being book-ended by the powerful Neon Knights and the slow, heavy Lonely Is The Word.

The title track and Children Of The Sea both became a live favourites, and rightly so. These are classic Black Sabbath songs as are Die Young, Lonely Is The Word and Neon Knights. However, this album is not very varied. There are no real ballads to speak of or even semi-ballads like there were on many previous and later Black Sabbath albums, neither are there any instrumentals (apart from the all too brief but lovely acoustic outro to the title track) like the ones that enhanced some previous and subsequent albums (remember Embryo, Orchid, Fluff, Don't Start (Too Late), Scarlet Pimpernel, etc.).

Heaven And Hell is a fine album and for Black Sabbath fans this is essential. However, despite a few really great tracks, it is hard for me to raise very much enthusiasm over this album as a whole. Especially if I compare this with previous albums by the band like Sabotage, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Master Of Reality, or the best of Ronnie James Dio's previous work with Rainbow (i.e. Rising) for that matter.

I find this album a bit overrated, but still very good with a few great songs
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