The Music Lounge

Die Young

The Unspoken Truth about Black Sabbath…

dioinsabNext month sees the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Black Sabbath album, Heaven and Hell and as music milestones go, this is one worth recognising in more ways than one. You see, there shouldn’t have been a life ‘after Ozzy’, to replace him seemed sacrilege but replace him they did, and it proved, however hard to swallow, a masterstroke.

Ronnie James Dio was not readily accepted by many Sabbath fans and his pedigree as a singer and vocalist in Rainbow both commanded and deserved better. ‘We’ all knew he was a better singer than Ozzy, especially live, but loyalty outweighed honesty and the release of their first album with Dio in 1980 presented every rock fan with a real dilemma. The problem was that it was a truly brilliant album, far better than the previous two and certainly up there with ‘Sabotage’, ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ and ‘Paranoid’. It was a new sound, particularly for Tony Iommi and Dio’s vocals were sublime. This was a polished, professional band and far removed from the wasted, god awful renditions of the ‘Live at Last’ era, with one exception, drummer Bill Ward. He would eventually fall to the same fate as Ozzy, an alcoholic who admits to remembering little about the recording of the album he left during the first tour and was replaced by Vinnie Appice, brother of the legendary Carmine.

To fully appreciate this album you really had to be around at the time of its release to understand how unique the sound and the song writing was. It was a time of change, Led Zeppelin were finished, Rainbow and Whitesnake had more than an eye on the singles chart and there was an emerging New Wave of British Heavy Metal which had turned its back on wizards and demons and looked to take over from where Punk had left off. Black Sabbath stayed true to the myths and mythology lyrics but musically it was refined, under-stated, melodic hard rock which has not been bettered since. The Sabbath of old it was not, there is an argument to say that a name change could have resolved a number of issues such as Dio signing Paranoid and the fans accepting more readily a new era in Iommi and Butler’s song writing partnership but it would be years later before they succumbed to the inevitable and became Heaven and Hell, the band.

In 2009 they played a series of open-air concerts to mark their reunion. They had produced some remarkable performances, their vibrant energy showed no signs of the illness that would eventually kill Ronnie James Dio and continue to plague Tony Iommi. This live footage is testament to a brilliant band who wrote and performed timeless pieces of musical brilliance, their first album is one of the great rock albums of all time and I think it’s fair to say that ‘we’ve’ all come to accept it as such.

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