Way back in 1980, when I first heard that Ronnie James Dio was going to replace Ozzy in Black Sabbath, the very idea seemed ludicrous. Dio had only been heard thus far in Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, and the thought that he could replace the legendary Ozz was simply crazy. The resulting album, Heaven And Hell proved me wrong in no uncertain terms.
Sabbath's output had declined drastically in the latter part of the 1970's. Anyone remember Technical Ecstasy? Their final Ozzy record, Never Say Die was simply DOA. But a funny thing happened when Dio joined the band. They got good again. Really good. Obviously Tony Iommi is an immense talent, but he seems to need a worthy vocalist to play off. Ozzy was a spectacular foil in the beginning, and Ronnie James was shown to be one as well.
In 1982 the Sabbs came up with The Mob Rules, a very strong successor to Heaven And Hell. And then things went quiet. Iommi continued on with various singers, most notably Ian Gillan of Deep Purple on the 1983 Born Again album, but the law of diminishing returns proved to be fatal. There was an attempt in 1992 with Dio again, called Dehumanizer. Frankly, the less said about Dehumanizer, the better.
So here we are in 2009, and the band have taken the name of their maiden voyage as moniker for the band. Against all odds, Heaven And Hell have come up with one of the best metal albums so far this year.
The Devil You Know opens up with the crunching power chords of "Atom And Evil" and immediately you are swept up. No half measures are taken here, this band obviously still has much to say. Another highlight is "Bible Black," which features a great acoustic Iommi introduction. "Bible Black" is reminiscent of "Sign Of The Southern Cross" from the vastly underrated Mob Rules.
Few have ever claimed to "know" what the hell Dio's lyrics mean, but they usually sound great with the music. "Eating The Cannibals" is a prime example of this, I have know idea what he is on about, but it doesn't matter one bit. On "The Turn Of The Screw" drummer Vinny Appice really shines. Appice replaced original Sabbath drummer Bill Ward on The Mob Rules, and along with stalwart bassist Geezer Butler, make up the rhythm section of Heaven And Hell. The Devil You Know ends on a high note with "Breaking Into Heaven" another anthemic riff-fest.
It is rumored that Dio is in his sixties now, which when you listen to his still powerful vocals, is amazing. The Devil You Know is a must for hard rock/metal fans everywhere.