By the time 1979 rolled around the rock masses figured that Black Sabbath was over. But Tony Iommi and co. had a few tricks up their sleeves. And late that year they hired former Rainbow and Elf front man Ronnie James Dio. And it would prove to be the second biggest move of the band’s career. Completely reinvigorating the band and making them a top ten group once more. They released two studio albums in the initial run: 1980’s ‘Heaven & Hell’ and 1981’s ‘The Mob Rules’. Both of which are renowned albums in the heavy metal world. Even surpassing many of the Ozzy era records in quality and success.
So today we’re pinning the two against each other. In the left corner is the one of the greatest comeback albums of all time: 1980’s ‘Heaven and Hell’. This is the album that put the band back on the map. And from the first seconds of the opening track ‘Neon Knights’, which would go on to be a Sabbath signature, there’s an instant revitalization. It’s as if an E.M.T. showed up and used a defibrillator. Then the record moves into the epic ‘Children of the Sea’. It’s such a satisfying riff. With this song Sabbath showed they could retain some of their original sound and still be undeniably Black Sabbath. Then the strip club classic ‘Lady Evil’ shows up. It’s one of my all time favorite Sabbath songs. It actually could be considered a glam metal proto type. A form of music that would dominate MTV and the charts in a few short years. The sludgy title track is next. One of the most iconic riffs of all time. You know the riff is massive when the audience sings it with the band on their live albums. An audience favorite for it’s entire inception.
The second half of the album holds up just as well. The classic ‘Wishing Well’ shows a simple, basic hard rock side of the band. It’s a brighter riff than most of Iommi’s work. But it still fits perfectly within the album. Another fun track to go along with ‘Lady Evil’. ‘Die Young’ brings in the power metal, similar to ‘Neon Knights’. This is a side of the band that Dio really brought to the table. And it’s the power metal angle that brought the band back from the dead. It’s also provides us with some Tony Iommi’s best soloing work. ‘Walk Away’ is a track in the similar vibe of ‘Wishing Well’. Simple structure and a brighter vibe. The album closes with the powerful, sludgy ‘Lonely Is The World’. Actually the song just stars that way before moving into a slow, amniotic jam that showcases Tony’s incredible guitar work. Overall, an amazing album. And one of the greatest comebacks of all time. In rock or any other genre of music for that matter.
In the right corner is the big opponent. 1981’s follow up ‘The Mob Rules’. And if you thought ‘Heaven and Hell’ was heavy for it’s time, which it is, it’s still not as heavy at the ten megaton heaviness of ‘The Mob Rules’. Now, purists will instantly put ‘Heaven and Hell’ above ‘The Mob Rules’ simply because it still contains 3/4ths of the original line-up. But by the end of the tour original drummer Bill Ward was out the door and Vinnie Appice was brought in. And he’s a complete monster. Not to take anything away from Ward. But Appice brought in a power to the band that is unmatched.
The album opens with the super heavy ‘Turn Up The Night’. It keeps the power metal mood that Dio brought to the group. But it’s thicker and heavier than ‘Neon Knights’ or ‘Die Young’. Iommi’s guitar tone sounds almost like a 90’s metal band. Then another strip club classic with ‘Voodoo’. Very similar to ‘Lady Evil’. In fact, ‘The Mob Rules’ is really a heavier mirror image of ‘Heaven and Hell’. The albums really do go together. Then the amazingly epic ‘The Sign Of The Southern Cross’ comes in. In true ‘Heaven and Hell’ fashion. It’s not as strong as the previous albums title track, but it holds its own. Then ‘E5150’ comes in as an intro to the title track. Then the title track pummels with catchy riffage and rhythm. It’s no wonder that it’s so much of a fan favorite.
‘Country Girl’ comes in with it’s brighter groove. Although it is darker than tracks like ‘Walk Away’. But it’s still mirrors that same vibe. ‘Slipping Away’ is next with it’s heavier sounding Led Zeppelin funk. One of my faves. Then ‘Falling Off The Edge Of The World’ epics out the rest of them. Starting out with a slow, amniotic intro before going into sheer power metal form. Then the album closes with a ballad entitled ‘Over And Over’ which contains one of Tony Iommi’s greatest solo moments. Ballads are fairly rare in the Black Sabbath world. But they do pop up every once in a while. It’s certainly an interesting move to finish the album on a ballad instead of a signature groove metal track.
Honestly, this Vs. is really challenging. We have two very similar yet different albums. Both equally strong for different reasons. ‘Heaven and Hell’ is the more consistent record. But it’s production isn’t nearly as powerful as ‘The Mob Rules’. And then there’s comparing two drumming styles, the jazz influenced Bill Ward or the pure hard rock power of Vinnie Appice. Personally I prefer Appice. I just love that phat ass snare. And while ‘Heaven and Hell’ may be the more consistent album, ‘The Mob Rules’ peak moments do surpass ‘Heaven and Hells’. By just a pinch I’m going with ‘The Mob Rules’. It’s production and heaviness is unmatched by any 70’s or 80’s Sabbath. Which album do you prefer? ‘Heaven and Hell’ or ‘The Mob Rules’?!
Dio brought in a new energy. A power metal sound that became more prominent in the Sabbath sound.
And the first record is remarkably strong and consistent in that strength. With heavy and fun tracks sprinkled throughout.
But ‘The Mob Rules’ would surpass ‘Heaven and Hell’ in heaviness.
And as you can hear from theses two tracks, ‘The Mob Rules’ mirrors ‘Heaven and Hell’ almost to a tee. With the exception of a track or two. So it’s really hard to stack them up against each other.