Perhaps Ozzy Osbourne was sick of following an increasingly unsuccessful run of Black Sabbath albums after the mid 1970s. Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die! were very ordinary efforts after years of consistent albums and drugs, once an inspiration to Black Sabbath, were now destroying the band. Ozzy Osbourne was gone shortly afterwards, and noted that Van Halen were blowing them off the stage every night as a support band. Black Sabbath needed to stay relevant and recruited singer Ronnie James Dio while Ozzy went to do his solo career.
In retrospect, this was a smart move by both of them, regardless of making great albums with Ozzy Osbourne in the past. The reason why? This is a fantastic listen, and no doubt helped kick-start the trend of heavy metal in the 1980s, which was a big decade for the genre. Let’s take a listen and hear why.
Neon Knights kicks off the album, and is a fast paced and glorious listen. Ronnie James Dio proves himself to be an excellent heavy metal singing, and the palm muted guitar and instrumentation here is very good listening. It goes into a great guitar solo. It’s a good listen, even to today. Black Sabbath were back, and making great music again. Awesome start to the album.
Children of the Sea begins as an acoustic ballad with excellent finger-picked guitar and mystical lyrics, before going straight into a brilliant riff heavy number. It has a great groove about it, and is refreshing listen. The lyrics are not dissimilar to something that group Deep Purple would have written, but it is pure Black Sabbath. Metal anyone? Hell yeah! This is classy stuff. There are ghostly backing vocals throughout, too. It’s a multi-sectioned piece of beauty.
The next bass led piece is Lady Evil. It’s one of the highlights of the album. Ronnie James Dio pours his heart and soul into the song, with some interesting lyrics to go. Even if you are not a fan of heavy metal, it is an inspired and consistent song to hear. The music here is brilliant consistent and the chorus is uplifting. There are interesting guitar solos from Tony Iommi, which sounds like he is on fire. Great stuff.
The title track Heaven and Hell is a masterpiece of suspenseful heavy metal and suits the era perfectly for the metal genre. It sounds very well structured and worked on, with a hint of sad melancholy about it. An emotional and uplifting piece of music, once you hear it, you won’t easily forget it. A brilliant song, with what sounds like some good whammy style guitar solos by Tony Iommi, but not in a shred way, just delivered. It goes into a faster drumming section with frenetic guitar work towards the end, showcasing the band’s ability for suspense. A great song, period. There is a very quiet and subtle outro to this song as well, listen carefully for it.
Wishing Well comes next, and although is not as good as the title track, it sounds like a good piece anyway. The whole album is very consistent throughout. There are some acoustic guitars strummed in this song, along with some amazing guitar solos. “Dream on” is chanted in the background, and once again, Tony Iommi plays a mean guitar. Good listening. The lyrics invoke mysticism, but that is consistently shown across the album, but interesting nonetheless.
Die Young comes next, and sounds really deep in a sad sense in the intro. It’s terrific from the word go, leading into a fairly fast piece for Black Sabbath with alternating sections. It’s a metal reflection of the phrase by The Who, “Hope I die before I get old,” and is another fantastic track. Ronnie James Dio was a legendary singer, just like Ozzy, but in a different way. Fantastic and suspenseful listening throughout this track.
The next track is Walk Away which begins with some chugging riffs and vocal harmonies, leading into a decent song. It feels a little weaker in general, but that is easily forgiven as it is still listenable and a good addition to this classic album. It sounds a little too poppy for Black Sabbath, but does it matter too much? Not really, but a good listen regardless. The riff breakdowns are pretty good too.
The last track Lonely Is The Word may sound like a depressing title for the song, but it’s really not a depressing song. It’s a great way to finish off a brilliant album, the guitar riffs here are enormous. Ronnie James Dio gives it all he has got, and so does the rest of the band, too. It goes into a well constructed guitar solo, which sounds like these boys worked very hard to make this good. Brilliant metal music. There are some great production touches here as well, with keyboards as well and the outro is great, too.
This album is very consistent throughout and sounds fresh and inspired. Dio’s performance here is legendary. This album, along with AC/DC’s Back In Black, kickstarted the heavy metal revolution of the 1980s. You can hear why, this is a great and solid listening experience.
A magical mystical tour.