In a perfect world, Black Sabbath’s relationship with Ronnie James Dio wouldn’t have soured quite so quickly and the band would have followed their excellent ‘Mob Rules’ album with a world-conquering classic. Then again, in that alternate universe, Dio wouldn’t have released ‘Holy Diver’ – one of the most perfect metal albums ever – so, maybe, things worked out for the best.
That was certainly the case for Dio. Black Sabbath’s immediate fortunes were less perfect. Their 1983 release, recorded with Ian Gillan, was a hit and miss affair that came housed in one of the poorest album sleeves you could ever (not) hope to see. Their Reading Festival headline slot later that year bordered on a car crash, culminating in a terrible rendition of ‘Smoke On The Water’, further cementing fan feelings that the short lived musical union between Tony Iommi and ex-Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan probably shouldn’t have happened.
For the past decade, it’s felt as if Black Sabbath have ignored their post-Ozzy legacy. Although the first six albums with Osbourne will always represent their most career defining work, there’s no getting around the fact that 1980’s ‘Heaven & Hell’ and the following year’s ‘Mob Rules’ – both recorded with vocal powerhouse Ronnie James Dio – are often cited among fan favourites.
Both albums were issued as 2CD deluxe editions back in 2010, but have been out of print for some time. A reissue of those sets would have been welcomed, but two new editions – release date 5/3/21 – offer the bulk of that material with some.variation.
As any metal fan knows, the first four Black Sabbath albums defined an entire musical genre. Four slabs of vinyl with monolithic riffs that inspired future generations; riffs which many emulated, but few matched – especially in terms of superb tone. From 1973 onward, Sabbath continued to make good music, but it didn’t always match the impact of their earliest work.