"Heaven and Hell" is the 9th studio album by British heavy metal band, Black Sabbath. It was released in 1980 on Vertigo Records and produced by Martin Birch. The line-up for the album was Ronnie James Dio (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass) and Bill Ward (drums).
When Ozzy Osbourne was fired from Sabbath in 1979 after repeatedly falling out with Tony Iommi, the band needed a vocalist who would fit the bill in that Black Sabbath mould. Enter Ronnie James Dio, who had left fellow British band Rainbow not long before. Dio took the job of replacing Ozzy seriously, and set out to make "Heaven and Hell" a Sabbath album to be proud of and one which would stand the test of time. Bill Ward would be replaced on the drums for the follow-up album, and he would only feature on one more Sabbath album afterwards.
Sabbath looked to legendary producer Martin Birch to oversee the studio time, and it was a wise choice with an impressive string of production with Whitesnake, Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac and Rainbow had also been tracked by him. Birch would go on to bigger success by producing nine Iron Maiden albums before retiring in 1992. Is it any good? Let's find out!
Right from the first note you can tell Sabbath has changed as a band, moving out of the doom metal genre into mainstream heavy metal. It definitely sounds like Black Sabbath but something is different, and that may be down to Dio's input. The song flows at a good pace and it is only when Dio's trademark powerhouse vocals come in that you start to realise how good the new incarnation of the band could be. There are some good riffs and hooks in the song and the Sabbath fan of old will be happy with this version of the band. Dio/Iommi/Butler/Ward are proving a point here in that while Ozzy Osbourne may have been the original Black Sabbath vocalist, they are certainly marching on without him in the best way possible. It is believed that this was the last track to be recorded for the album but the band felt it was too good to not make it the opening track.
Circles and rings, dragons and kings
Weaving a charm and a spell
Blessed by the night, holy and bright
Called by the toll of the bell
Children of the Sea
Here is a song about how life has evolved over the many years since the earth's formation. It evolved from the water and eventually made it on to land, with technology growing faster and faster right up until the point where the very thing man built will destroy him and the earth that made him. It is another song that is very un-Sabbath-like, but once again it is Dio's influence which is shining through. As Toni Iommi recalls, he and Dio got together for an informal jamming session and as Iommi was playing along with a riff, Dio wrote the lyrics. Iommi said, "It was exciting and challenging because we were doing things that quite frankly would have been beyond us with Ozzy. He wasn't that sort of singer."
In the misty morning, on the edge of time
We've lost the rising sun, a final sign
As the misty morning rolls away to die
Reaching for the stars, we blind the sky
The song comes in with a familiar bass line that most Sex Pistols fans will recognise, as it is almost the same as the one used on Sid Vicious' version of "Something Else", originally recorded by Eddie Cochran in 1959. The pre verse is helped along by a solo from Iommi before Dio nails the vocal tracks once more. This is more of a rock and roll number than anything, but it certainly packs a punch. What you get here is a track that delves into the psyche of sexual encounters with ladies of the night, especially those of poorer countries that do not have good health care. The lyrics are suggesting that while you will have the time of your life, it is likely to be your death sentence as far as certain sexually transmitted diseases go. Black Sabbath don't just write songs about Satan – they provide valuable public information, too!
There's a place just south of Witches' Valley
Where they say the wind won't blow
And they only speak in whispers of her name
There's a lady they say who feeds the darkness
Heaven and Hell
The longest track on the album at just under seven minutes long is also the title track, and one that will have Sabbath fans craving for more. The opening riff is one of mastery and the brilliance of Tony Iommi shines through. The only downside is that you can have too little of a good thing as well as the opposite, and we just don't get enough of that main riff throughout the song. In fact, while the song definitely rocks, there is something missing from it and the bridge just fails to merge the two halves of the song together. The second part of the track is a straight-out rock and roll number with Iommi showing off his soloing skills while Dio cleverly delivers his vocal lines over the top in such a way which makes the listener sit up and realise that Ozzy couldn't sing like that. The outro is a nice little acoustic passage which fades to the end. This is a song that deals with the battle between good and evil. It is saying that we can all have our bad side as well as our compassionate side, but there are also people out there who deliberately use both for their own advantage.
Sing me a song, you're a singer
Do me a wrong, you're a bringer of evil
The Devil is never a maker
The less that you give, you're a taker
Here is a song that tells the story of a man who has everything he needs – most importantly fame and wealth. He is a man who, when he sees a girl he wants, flashes his wallet and seals the deal. He is a man with very few morals and once a night of passion is over, he treats the women he sleeps with like something he found on his shoe. There are plenty of musicians out there which have done this over the years and Sabbath is just trying to warn the gold diggers of the world about this. Iommi's creativity is once again at the forefront of heavy metal on this song as he provides a driving riff that carries the song forwards, and Sabbath definitely climbs aboard the fresh and vibrant 'New Wave of British Heavy Metal' train with the track. It is not a brilliant song by any means, but what it does do is provide fans with a more melodic version of the band, which is difficult not to like.
Throw me a penny and I'll make you a dream
You find that life's not always what it seems, no no
Then think of a rainbow and I'll make it come real
Roll me, I'm a never ending wheel
If "Paranoid" was Ozzy Osbourne's crowning glory with Black Sabbath, "Die Young" has got to be what epitomises Sabbath with Dio. It's an energetic, vibrant and refreshing song that allows the band to flow with a free reign of creativity and see what they could come up with. Fans will have attempted to imagine Ozzy singing the song but they will have all come to the conclusion that it is very unlikely he could have done it. The song is telling the listener to grab opportunities by the horns or you may regret it. You may die tomorrow so live for today and enjoy whatever you do. Many people complain about being bored but the time they have on this earth is precious and though it is your choice how you spend it, life is too short to waste.
Yell with the wind, though the wind won't help you fly at all
Your back's to the wall
Chain the sun, and it tears away and it breaks you as you run
You run, you run!
With Ozzy gone from the band, Sabbath thought it would be a good idea to put out a song with an anti drugs message, and that's exactly what you get with "Walk Away". The lyrics suggest that while the drug may be enticing, it really is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Sabbath is saying here that the dangers of addiction are very real, and while they are not citing Ozzy in particular they are definitely trying to tell friends of theirs who are or have been addicts that their next score may well be their last. Musically, this is a Sabbath song that doesn't take many risks and you have to wonder why. It is a solid rocker of a track but it doesn't quite have the bite of previous songs on the album, such as "Neon Knights" or "Die Young", for example. Fans of Rainbow will love this one, and it is clear to hear Dio's influence yet again.
Lord she's handsome as she flows across the floor
Nothing I've seen in my life has ever pleased me more
She's got the look of freedom, and it makes you think she's wild
But I can see right through it all, it's the way to have a child
Lonely is the Word
For the final track we get some old school Black Sabbath, in the shape of a blues rock number that chugs along at a steady pace. Some fans say this is one of the band's greatest songs and it can be easy to agree because of Dio's impressive vocal range. The jewel in the crown, though, has to be Tony Iommi's wonderful guitar work towards the end. With near two minutes to go on the track, the axeman lets rip and produces one of the most incredible of solos you will ever hear, which fades to the end. It is a good finale to the album that has had its ups and downs.
It's a long way to nowhere
And I'm leaving very soon
On the way we pass so close
To the back side of the moon
There has been a lot of debate on the band members who recorded this album. We know Dio, Iommi and Ward definitely did, and Ozzy definitely didn't, but in 2009 former Rainbow bassist Craig Gruber said he recorded all bass tracks for the album, and while Toni Iommi confirmed he had, he also stated that Geezer Butler re-recorded them when he returned to the band following problems with a divorce he was going through at the time. Because of all that commotion the only way to look at "Heaven and Hell" is in a completely different light. You have to almost treat it as an album by a different band to the Black Sabbath of old, or in some instances you have to dismiss the idea that it is a Black Sabbath album in order for it to completely set in. A lot of people could not get past that notion when the album was released, though the lure of the brilliant Ronnie James Dio singing for Black Sabbath was one many could not resist.
1. Neon Knights
2. Children of the Sea
3. Lady Evil
4. Heaven and Hell
5. Wishing Well
6. Die Young
7. Walk Away
8. Lonely is the Word
My rating: 7/10