Heaven & Hell? Yeah right… Black Sabbath it is!

There’s two ways to approach this album. You can measure it up to Heaven & Hell (the album), in which case it’s bound to disappoint because, let’s face it, that one is pretty hard to beat. Or you can judge it on its own merit. Which is what I’ll be doing.

The overall mood  of the album is doomy. Think Magica or Master Of The Moon era Dio, only with actual songs and good musicians. Dehumanizer is the other album by this line up that comes closest. The sound is huge. The band produced this one themselves and did one hell of a job.  Heavy yet crisp, organic but defined. Production was what let down Dehumanizer, and it’s good to see the band not making the same mistake twice.

Opener Atom And Evil  is slow and menacing. You would have expected a faster song to open the album, but it does a great job at setting the mood. Fear and Bible Black continue in the same vein, but for fourth track Double The Pain the band ups the tempo . It doesn’t get up to Neon Knights speed though. Pay attention to Geezer’s master class in the background! Rock And Roll Angel sees a showcase performance by Dio, coupled to a standout lead from the master of metal guitar. In The Turn Of The Screw Geezer steps to the forefront in another faster song. Eating The Cannibal continues at speed, putting to shame the accusations that this album is too slow and that all the songs are the same tempo. This is one of the stand out tracks, which is no mean feat on this album. Follow The Tears brings back the HEAVY in a big way. The solo is classic Iommi.  Neverwhere may well be the fastest song of the album, and needless to say it’s another corker.  Last song Breaking Into Heaven wraps it all up, combining all the typical Sabbath elements into the perfect closer with a final epic performance by RJD.

The musicianship is beyond reproach, obviously. Vinnie Appice and Geezer Butler are still the same excellent rhythm section they were in the eighties, laying down a solid foundation and adding flourishes to keep even the slowest song interesting. Tony Iommi is in fine form, delivering crushing riff after crushing riff. His leads add the finishing touch to the songs as per usual. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of Dio’s performance on  this album, and frankly I’m appalled. The little big man delivers a performance that puts singers half his age to shame. There are several lyrical topics and phrasings that we’ve heard before, but everything is delivered with so much conviction it barely registers.

This is my album of the year so far, and something pretty amazing will have to pop up to take its crown. This album proves that Black Sabbath are still the undisputed leaders in the field of heavy music. No matter how they call themselves.

Review by Sancho 
Hot Spots : Hell, the entire album is sizzling hot!!
Rating : 99%


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