Thursday, August 28, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Heaven and Hell, by Black Sabbath

In 1979 heavy metal legends Black Sabbath had come nearly to a breaking point. Singer Ozzy Osbourne had delved far too deep into the drugs, alcohol, and partying for the band to keep carrying on as they were. Plus, they felt immense lack of creativity. Sabbath had been working in Los Angeles for nearly 11 months trying to come up with new material and the sessions were not going well to say the least. A lot of it had to do with Osbourne's behavior. Something had to change and quickly; otherwise the band would cease to exist altogether. That being said, Osbourne was booted out.

This left Black Sabbath looking for a new singer. Since the band had garnered such huge notoriety throughout the decade they had their pick. They ended up deciding on former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio who had recently left the band due to creative differences. The first day guitarist Tony Iommi and Dio jammed together at Iommi's house, there was instant chemistry and they finished the entire song Children of the Sea. Bassist Geezer Butler initially didn't want to be in the band any more, but he came back to record the whole album with them. Shortly after drummer Bill Ward would quit. The result of the first work with Dio became the album Heaven and Hell. It was released April 25th, 1980 and although old fans were at first apprehensive, the album became Black Sabbath's highest selling album since 1975 album Sabotage.

The album's title track Heaven and Hell is one of the most amazing heavy metal songs I have ever heard. I remember at the time I first listened to it I was a die-hard Ozzy fan, but when I heard that signature riff and then that astounding operatic voice of Ronnie James Dio soar up over the bass line I was stunned. To me it was like Black Sabbath saying that they were back from the dead and could do such better things than they could have ever done before. It's a pretty mid tempo song as many of Black Sabbath's songs are. The lyrical style definitely differs from what they had done before because Dio had taken up primary lyric writing duties (which as a singer he should). Not only is the guitar riff unforgettable, but Iommi does some of his best soloing in this song. To sum it all up, it will leave you with chills and raise the hairs on your arms.

If you really want to hear some of the best work Iommi has ever done solo-wise however, listen to the track Lonely is the Word. It's the album's closing track and gradually fades out near the end. The lyrics are some of the darkest that Dio had done up to that point and you can tell a lot of emotion was put into the singing. It really gives you the feels. However, when it gets to the part of the song where Iommi solos musically you get feels too. It makes it seem as though you are just floating out into the universe all alone like you will keep wandering without seeing a single soul forever.

Heaven and Hell is a metal masterpiece. It proved that Black Sabbath could do just fine without Ozzy Osbourne. You can really tell that the band was rejuvenated with the replacement of Osbourne with Dio. The style of their playing did change slightly but it was for the better. The music got heavier, the lyrics got more dark and creative, and the life of a legendary band was extended. I know that a lot of people will always think that Ozzy is Black Sabbath, but that simply isn't true. Not giving Heaven and Hell a chance is a crime. You're missing out on some great music if you think that way. It's all killer and no filler.

Heaven and Hell, by Black Sabbath receives 5 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

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

Buy the album on Amazon:


  1. I love this album. I think it and Mob Rules are Ronnie James Dio's best work in his whole career.

  2. Those are both fantastic and definitely in his top work for me, but I don't think that they totally beat out his work in Rainbow. The Rainbow albums were a melodic hard rock treasure trove.