The classic Dio-era line-up of Black Sabbath reformed.
I was lucky enough to catch the Heaven & Hell tour when they hit Albuquerque with Megadeth and Machine Head opening. It was a great show. Megadeth tore it up! However, I had just recently seen Megadeth on the end of their Gigantour, so it was really Heaven & Hell, aka Black Sabbath I was there to see. I had seen Sabbath in 1983 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia with Ian Gillan behind the mic and Quiet Riot opening. That show was one of the most memorable shows I have ever been to. The stonehenge stage setup and the band's performance is permanently engraved in my memory. I had seen Black Sabbath again during their reunion with Ozzy when they shared the headline performance of Ozzfest with Judas Priest. Again, the performance was outstanding and I was in awe of the band. All those classic songs came alive that night. However on April 28, 2007 in Albuquerque, NM at the Journal Pavilion I had tickets to see the much revered Dio line-up of Black Sabbath. As with the "Born Again" tour, the stage setup and performance were spectacular and shall forever be engraved in my brain. Having been blessed to attend this awesome tour, this CD and DVD are going to be a spectacular nostalgic listen for me each and every time. Upon my initial return from seeing the show, I had posted this on the Heart of Metal message board:
The DVD/CD captures the magic live at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, NY, March 30, 2007. This was a special performance by the band, featuring no opening acts. The show sold out in less than an hour. The sound here is spectacular, capturing that live energy, while at the same time offering a clear recording.
I wanted to address one other thing, since it seems to come up continually. The extended live version of "Heaven and Hell" contains what many anti-rock preachers of old called the "devil's alter call" and used as ammo against all the "evil" rock band in the 70's and 80's. The band did this on their previous tours together, on Live Evil, and Dio did the same thing on his solo tours. What it is in reality is a dramatization and pure fantasy, as much of Dio's lyrics are, complete with red lights on Dio's face and lots of smoke and mirrors. His rant that end with, "I'm gonna burn in hell with you, and you, and all of you." may put some people off who see this as something aside from the stage show it is. I personally see it as part of the show. I am secure in what I believe, but I can also understand how this might put some people off.
Heaven & Hell - The Devil You Know (Rhino) 2009
1. "Atom & Evil" (5:15)
2. "Fear" (4:48)
3. "Bible Black" (6:30)
4. "Double the Pain" (5:25)
5. "Rock & Roll Angel" (6:25)
6. "The Turn of the Screw" (5:02)
7. "Eating the Cannibals" (3:37)
8. "Follow the Tears" (6:12)
9. "Neverwhere" (4:35)
10. "Breaking into Heaven" (7:03)
Black Sabbath hasn't release a new studio album in many, many years. After the Ozzy reunion, then the Dio reunion and the subsequent tours, fans have been anxious for some new material for years. Finally in 2009 the masters of heavy metal return to give the masses yet another lesson on how heavy metal should be done. A couple years ago, the band release a collection titled "Black Sabbath - The Dio Years" in which they recorded three new songs. Those three songs are an excellent indicator as what to expect on "The Devil You Know". This album is a dark, moody, doomy, heavy album. Thick layers of heavy sound built around Tony Iommi's crunchy guitar sound, Geezer's thick bass, Vinny Appice's steady drumming and, of course, the unmistakable vocals of Ronnie James Dio.
I was expecting this album to start off with something heavy and up-tempo, not unlike "Neon Knights" or "Turn Up the Night". "Fear" kicks up the tempo slightly, but nothing on this album quite hits the speed or intensity of the aforementioned tracks. Instead, the album starts off with "Atom & Evil" a slow, doomy, goth-dirge complete with Dio's theatrical, mythological lyrics. The first single from the album "Bible Black" is most certainly going to be one of the band's concert favorites. This song has a an undeniable hook and is easily as good as anything the band has recorded before. The song also sports a great solo in the middle. "Double the Pain" is a standout cut with a great riff, a very dark feel and a nice bridge. Dio's vocals sound fantastic throughout. The man has lost nothing over time. "The Turn Of The Screw" features some of Ronnie's finest vocals to date. "Follow the Tears" is perhaps my favorite song on this disc. The song could have easily been part of the first two Black Sabbath/Dio records. The opening moments with those eerie keys and Iommi's menacingly heavy guitar tone is spellbinding. The song is slow and melodic, but heavy as a freight train packed full of shrapnel!
As usual, the imagery and lyrics paint a rather gloomy picture. Dio's lyrics rarely paint a picture that is easily understood. Instead he rhymes and weaves the lyrics into a sort of dark poetry, that sounds spooky but in reality doesn't have much meaning. Buzz words like devil, evil, death, dark, black, and of course, rock and roll have been a part of Dio's arsenal since his days in Rainbow. His goth-tinged poetry hasn't changed much over they years and is no different here. Of course, there is the purposely offensive cover art depicting some demonic creature holding a nail riddled crucifix that is sure to cause an uproar in religious circles. Frankly, the cover art reminds me of Celtic Frost's, HR Geiger illustated cover "To Mega Therion". Wal-Mart has an alternate cover that may appeal to some fans.
Best Buy offered an exclusive version featuring a DVD with unreleased video of the band recording the album including studio performances, interviews, and other behind-the-scenes content. iTunes is offering an exclusive version with previously unreleased live recordings of "Die Young" and "I" from the band's 2007 European tour.
Heaven & Hell - Neon Nights: Live In Europe (Armoury) 2010