In 1979, the stars aligned for the greatest of all heavy metal bands and the greatest of all heavy metal singers. Black Sabbath was a band without a frontman after sacking Ozzy Osbourne, and Ronnie James Dio was a frontman without a band, having quit Rainbow. By chance, Sabbath’s guitarist Tony Iommi met Dio one night in LA, and on the first day they worked together, the magic happened…
Iommi had a riff. He always had a riff. Dio pulled a melody out of the air. He had a gift for that. The result was a song of power and beauty, named Children Of The Sea. It was a new beginning for Black Sabbath: a new sound that would be developed in two monumental albums, 1980’s Heaven And Hell and 1981’s Mob Rules.
Heaven And Hell is the masterpiece that Dio cited as the pinnacle of his career. Bassist Geezer Butler considers it equal to the definitive Sabbath classics: the first six albums. Dio had created music on an epic scale with Ritchie Blackmore in Rainbow, and so it was with Heaven And Hell, his poetic lyrics steeped in ancient mysteries, his voice phenomenal in its power and range.
Most of all, it was his melodic finesse that brought a new dimension to Sabbath. Iommi’s solos have an emotional intensity unlike anything he had recorded before, and along with the heaviness of Sabbath legend, there is a sense of grandeur and high drama in the album’s key songs: Children Of The Sea, Die Young, the colossal title track, and the thunderous Neon Knights, arguably the most heroic heavy metal song of all time.
Mob Rules is almost as great. A new line-up, with drummer Vinny Appice replacing the great Bill Ward, delivered head-banging fury in Turn Up The Night and the title track, and epic pieces with a darker atmosphere in Falling Off The Edge Of The World and Sign Of The Southern Cross.
The new Deluxe Editions of both albums are different to those released in 2010, but while Heaven And Hell includes previously released live material, Mob Rules has a USP – a full live set from 1982, when Dio was about to quit the band he had done so much to resurrect.
The story would continue, with and without Ozzy and Dio, for decades to follow. But never again would Sabbath make albums as great as these.
The Deluxe Edition of Mob Rules is released on November 18.