The Devil You Knowby Heaven & Hell
It's almost a blessing that, for legal reasons, this four-piece can't call itself Black Sabbath. It only serves to hammer home the point that with Ronnie James Dio up front and Vinny Appice in back, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler express a very different side of their musical personalities than they ever did with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals and Bill Ward on drums. Where the original lineup was an ultra-heavy blues band, with a rhythm section that never failed to swing (OK, they failed a little bit on "Sweet Leaf"), when Dio came on board in 1980 the group was reinvented as a heavy metal juggernaut. While Iommi's riffs remained crushingly heavy, the rhythms got faster on songs like "Neon Knights," "Turn Up the Night," and "Mob Rules," and the lyrics abandoned the earthly concerns of "Paranoid" and "Hand of Doom" for Dio's abstract symbolism and myth-making. These differences became more stark with each album (Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules, and 1992's reunion disc Dehumanizer), and now, The Devil You Know confirms once and for all this lineup's unique take on the genre it helped invent. This is a heavier album than any of its three predecessors; whether it's due to the bandmembers' advancing age or the influence of anxieties felt throughout the world outside the studio, it's the closest in spirit to the first two Black Sabbath albums, themselves forged in the psychic darkness that was the tail end of the 1960s. It's not until "Eating the Cannibals," track seven of ten, that the band revs into high gear the way it did on "Neon Knights" and "Turn Up the Night" 20-plus years ago. The songs that begin the album, and make up the bulk of its running time, are like slow-motion avalanches, Iommi's riffs and Appice's drumming punishing the listener like medieval monks scourging unbelievers. Dio's lyrics, too, seem to embody an almost Old Testament world-view, positing a universe of darkness, fire, and despair. His voice is as powerful as ever, but he's no longer offering self-esteem lessons the way he once did; he seems consumed by fear and doubt. This gives The Devil You Know a feeling of genuine doom that leaves little opportunity for the catharsis provided by classic heavy metal. While the Osbourne-fronted and Dio-fronted versions of Black Sabbath are, again, very different bands, this is an album that matches its moment every bit as perfectly as Paranoid did back in 1970.
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Performance CreditsHeaven & Hell Primary Artist
Vinny Appice Drums,Group Member
Geezer Butler Bass,Group Member
Ronnie James Dio Vocals,Group Member
Tony Iommi Guitar,Group Member
Technical CreditsGeezer Butler Composer,Producer
Wyn Davis Engineer
Ronnie James Dio Composer,Producer
Tony Iommi Composer,Producer
Mike Exeter Producer,Engineer
Masaki Koike Art Direction
Johannes Koch Etching
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Sure sounds like it, as it is more in line with that particular lineup's early material. While the official third album, Dehumanizer (1992), captures the band trying to compete with the thrashers of the time, the recently released The Devil You Know shows Sabbath (aka Heaven and Hell) rediscovering the original lineup's trademark gloomy and doomy sound, but at the same time they let Dio wail away about demons and darkness and all the subjects he loves. I recall reading an interview with Ronnie James Dio just before the Mk II lineup disintegrated after Live Evil, and he mentioned that Sabbath's next album would be more moody and volatile, since the music they had put forth up to that moment hadn't been as widely accepted as they had thought it would be. So The Devil You Know either contains music that was composed during the early eighties or the band all of a sudden remembered to explore this new path. Whatever the truth, this is a mighty fine album. And by the way, anybody who dares say that Black Sabbath was a heavy blues band doesn't know what he's talking about! If you want heavy blues, check out Led Zeppelin!
This follow-up to Black Sabbath's Dehumanizer is far above par and equal to or better then Dehumanizer. Even though Black Sabbath is now known as Heaven and Hell because of legalities, the line-up is the same with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, Tony Iommi on lead guitar, Geezer Butler on bass guitar, and Vinny Appice on drums. The Devil You Know is worth every penny, it's that good. It is maybe a little less heavy than Dehumanizer, but darker guitar riffs by Iommi take the place of the heaviness that was on Dehumanizer. If you are in need of hearing new material from them, The Devil You Know is definately required material, sure to be classic, and won't let you down. The first three tracks that open up the record, 'Atom and Evil', 'Fear', and 'Bible Black' set the mood... three excellent songs back to back. Another great track is track eight, 'Follow the Tears'. But all tracks are worth getting to know. So when you are in the mood for some deep reflection and are bummed out about the world, pop on this album for starters. If you like Dio as the vocalist, rather than Ozzy Osbourne or Tony Martin (or maybe more than Osbourne or Martin), then this album is for you.
Okay, let's just get this out of the way: Heaven and Hell are Black Sabbath mk. II, performing under another name. The musicians involved, the songwriting, the performances, are all of a piece with the second Sabbath's three studio albums. Tony Iommi still flashes black lightning solos when he's not pulverizing your speakers with monstrous riffs, Geezer Butler still pumps out that heavier-than-God bottom line that is, in its own way, oddly jazz-like, and Ronnie James Dio still lays down a vocal line that is in effect almost completely opposite to that of his predecessor in the band, yet one that melds with the riffs to create a sinister effect even better than his work in Rainbow or Dio did. Apparently Bill Ward isn't making this trip, so his stalwart dep Vinny Appice stepped in a few years back to complete the second classic Sabbath lineup. Now, on to Heaven and Hell's new album. It's a classic. That's it. For once, since Mob Rules, Heaven and Hell/Sabbath II have come out with an album that just crushes everything around it. The guitar sounds aren't as doomy as those on the early Sabbath albums, but time and technology march on and the band just can't make an album in two days as they once did. Oddly enough, the band has a kind of Metallica-like sound these days, but only if a record of that band's music had been slowed down by half. It's as if Tony Iommi has discovered midrange in a big way, and is intent on frying the hearing of anyone within ten meters. As for the songs, there simply isn't bad one in the batch. These days, one gets used to a revered rock band or performer putting out yet another album that has three or maybe four killer songs on it and filler on the rest. Not this bad boy. Even the concert crowd-pleaser "Rock and Roll Angel" stands up to repeated listenings. Not only can this album be placed proudly next to Heaven and Hell (the album) and Mob Rules, but it can also take its place alongside the first four or five Sabbath mk.I albums. It's that good. Really, since the advent of thrash metal and the temporary decline of Judas Priest, there hasn't been a metal album like this since Priest's own Screaming for Vengeance. With a band like Heaven and Hell around to show the younglings how it's really supposed to be done, this may very well be the single best metal album of the year. You don't have to take my enthusiastic advice; listen to the audio samples and find out for yourself that Heaven and Hell are one of THE bands to compete with on the metal scene. This thirty years after they first formed. The wheel turns once again.
This work, no matter what name it's under, is a fine bit of metal. I contacted the sight and told them I'm surprised they didn't write a track with the title The Devil You Know, as it would have fit right in. The guitar work is great, the bass is heavy, the drums steady, and Dio, well, what can you say, he's a metal poet. Despite what others might say, it's a nice work. Five "horn" salutes. The hand sign Ronnie makes. Oh, and one more thing, whoever trashed "Sweet Leaf" from the Ozzy era, doesn't know what he's talking about.