Heaven and Hell – The Devil You Know

When Ozzy Osbourne left Black Sabbath in 1979, metal fans were concerned about the future direction of their favorite gloomy Englishmen. When ex-Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio took the reins of Sabbath, there was slight trepidation, to say the least. It turned out that the Dio-era led to arguably the creative highpoint of Sabbath, with two back-to-back classics, 1980’s Heaven and Hell and 1981’s Mob Rules. While internal issues would tear apart the line-up not once but twice, Dio, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, and drummer Vinny Appice have re-united again with a new name to separate themselves from the shadow of Sabbath.

With over a decade-and-a-half of time between their last album together, 1992’s Dehumanizer, comes a fresh perspective on the art of crafting dark and intense songs. Older, wiser, and more relentless, Heaven and Hell have topped themselves with The Devil You Know. While the more methodical approach to their sonic attack will leave a few longing for the days of “Neon Knights” and “Turn Up The Night,” The Devil You Know is the heaviest album to date from this line-up, reaching a level of musicianship that almost rivals their early 80’s masterpieces.

While past albums have had fast-paced openers, The Devil You Know pulls a 180 and goes for a more subtle pouncing with “Atom And Evil.” Slow burning riffs, Dio’s soaring vocals, and a pummeling rhythm section introduce a small taste of the evil textures that are afoot on The Devil You Know. Single “Bible Black” is the “Sign Of The Southern Cross” of the album; a acoustic intro leading into a powerful middle section with a melody guaranteed to be etched into the listener’s memory. Most of the album is at a mid-paced tempo, with the band electing to generate a somber atmosphere. The band doesn’t kick it into high gear until the seventh track, “Eating The Cannibals,” an uproarious heavy metal beast that gives the album a major kick in the balls.

Dio is singing in a lower register than he has in previous albums, but for a man nearing his 67th birthday, Dio is more than capable of reaching those high notes, adding intensity to his voice that can only come as a result of age. Tony Iommi is still a guitar god, crafting riffs that resonate with the listener hours after the last note of closer “Breaking Into Heaven” fades away. His lead work deserves mention, as even after some 40-odd years, Iommi still has a few tricks up his sleeve. The rhythm section of Butler and Appice are the steady hands of the group, keeping everything in order and providing an outlet for Iommi to let loose.

If The Devil You Know is the last album with this line-up, then it is a hell of a way to go out. The album isn’t a magnum opus on the level of Heaven and Hell or Mob Rules, but it beats out Dehumanizer in overall quality and is the best studio album that either Dio or Iommi has been involved with in over a decade. There seems to be a renewed energy between these four musicians, and whether or not this line-up will last long together is a moot point. Who would have thought that this line-up would ever play another live show again, yet alone record an entire album of new material? The Devil You Know is doom metal done right, a rich and multi-dimensional album worthy of any metal fan’s collection.

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Rating: 8.5/10
Label: Rhino
Web site: http://www.heavenandhelllive.com/

By Dan Marsicano


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