Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know Review Album/CD (Black Sabbath & Dio)
The metal gods are giving us a blessing from molting furnaces to allow us Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know. When Ozzy Osbourne rejoined Black Sabbath so many years ago, I thought I would never hear the evil elf voice of Ronnie James Dio with Tony Iommi and company again. Thankfully, it was destined to be.
There aren’t many that don’t know, but for the sake of this review, I’ll give just a brief history of Heaven & Hell. Heaven & Hell is the Ronnie James Dio fronted Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Vinny Appice. Ok, now that we have that over with… After Ozzy was fired from Black Sabbath, Dio was hired to provide vocals and song writing. Black Sabbath with Dio went on to record two of the most highly regarded Black Sabbath albums, Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules. After the release of a live album Dio left the band and went on to a highly successful and influential solo career, while Black Sabbath floundered a bit with many singers, but still managing to produce some memorable albums. Dio rejoined the band for the brutal Dehumanizer and promptly resumed his solo career.
Ozzy rejoined Black Sabbath for a tour that was highly praised and highly successful. Ronnie James Dio, to the dismay of many fans, swore that he would never sing in Black Sabbath again. Fast forward to Heaven & Hell. The parties were brought together for the release of the Dio era Black Sabbath box set. This apparently got the gears turning and the Dio fronted Black Sabbath became Heaven & Hell. They set out on a tour that then became another tour that then became The Devil You Know. Ronnie James Dio has never sung in Black Sabbath again.
If there was ever a guitar player that invented pure heavy metal it was Tony Iommi. If there was ever a singer that defines what is mystical, otherworldly and fantastic in heavy metal it was Dio. Not to leave out Geezer, who has been a creative driving force in Black Sabbath from the very beginning. Appice has payed his dues and is a stall worth drummer of hard rock.
From the opening drum roll and the classic Iommi chug and the weeping voice of Dio on “Atom and Evil”, I know I’m in for a treat. Half way through the first song, I’m scared in only the way that Black Sabbath, er, Heaven & Hell can scare me. Then there is “Fear” taking me on a journey to something foreboding and heavy. There is such a thing as a distorted groove that entangles you bringing up emotions of nightmare. This is Heaven & Hell. I get to relax a bit with the acoustic opening of “Bible Black”, but I know that this is only temporary and I wait with anticipation. Anticipation for the song to rip my soul out with steel talons… The forth track , “Double the Pain” begins with creepy drowning sounds before launching into what I would consider the most commercial track on the album. This is a “nice” catchy song about torture and pain. So, by commercial I don’t mean that you will catch this tune on your local Clear Channel radio station. When you have this album in your collection, go ahead and sing along.
“Rock n Roll Angel” comes on like a classic Dio song with a classic Dio chorus, but Geezer really stands out on this track with a bass line that harkens back to John Entwistle of the Who. On “Follow the Tears” we are treated to some church organ and a military allusion in the drums until Iommi stuns us with his distorted rasp. “Come lie on a bed of nails and slumber/ Rise up but the hands will pull you down/ My sunshine is wind and rain and thunder” are the opening lyrics of maybe the best song on the album. Dio’s lyrics are the most poetic and powerful allowing me to create images in my head like a waking dream. Iommi may provide the best solo on this song, but let’s face it, solos aren’t why we listen. It is the atmosphere and the emotion and the things that he stirs in our souls. The album closes out with “Breaking into Heaven”. This may be one of the most memorable songs on the album just for the chorus. I think that Dio and the band may be delving into a heavy subject matter. As with most Black Sabbath and Dio songs, the meaning is what you might think it is. This is probably a social commentary, but I will let you decide that. One of the beauties of this band’s songs whether it was with Ozzy, Dio, or someone else, you are always allowed to do your own interpretations. That fact remains true.
Heaven & Hell – The Devil That You Know is an amazing album that belongs in your collection of Black Sabbath and Dio. There is no filler material here. Each song has its merits and as an album, it works masterfully. Time will only tell if this one becomes a classic. I suspect that it will. Dio’s voice is not at its most powerful, but his writing may be at its most consistent. The only thing that I miss is the heavy metal epic like “Sign of the Southern Cross”. If you are a heavy metal fan, bow down to the masters on this one.