Album Review: Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know

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Remember that scene in the movie Wayne’s World towards the end when Wayne drives the Mirthmobile to get Cassandra back and that heavy tune blares during the montage of that scene? Yeah, that was the Dio-era Black Sabbath’s bone crunching “Time Machine”. Not only was it memorable (complete with the T-1000 spoof) but it proved to be one of the heaviest tunes of Black Sabbath’s career. Keep in mind this was 1992. After the release of Dehumanizer, Dio parted ways with Sabbath and wouldn’t come back to work with them until 2006. Yep, you guessed it…Heaven & Hell.

Because founding guitarist and songwriter Tony Iommi recently spoke of a true Black Sabbath reunion with Ozzy Osbourne at the helm of lead vocals, Iommi opted to create a brand new band with a different name (as not to confuse the two), but keep that classic Sabbath feel. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what the hell name it is because not only does Iommi spill his guitar guts, Dio flat out wails, Terence “Geezer” Butler’s bass thumps in harmony and drummer Vinny Appice perches atop the cliffs of this musical madness with blasting beats for the rest of the heavy metal world to feel in their bones.

Kicking off this glorious slice of modern day metal is the tune “Atom & Evil”. In typical Sabbath fashion, Iommi chugs away at his thick and dissonant chords reminiscent of the 1970 Sabbath classic “War Pigs.” For the new millennium, armies of soldiers head out to music war and the stoners can grab their bongs in retaliation. The godfathers of just about every genre of metal do some of their finest work here and Dio hasn’t sounded better. With his great and epic storytelling matched by Butler’s basslines, Dio hits some of his best vocal highs since the early 80’s. Lyrically dark and downright epic, just check out this second verse: One more promise we can tame the Sun/and then we’ll shine forever/Someday you can cry for everyone/Who burn when you were clever.” Seriously, it really is great to see these guys still churning out the heavies and teaching a thing or two to this generation’s heavy metal market. Oh believe me, things just got started…

Iommi and co. pick up the pace quite a bit with the next three tunes, the aptly titled “Fear,” the darkened religious epithet “Bible Black” and the bluesy-metal shuffle in “Double The Pain”. All of it is here as mentioned before: chugging riffs that hit you square in the eye, Dio’s impressive vocals (the guy will be sixty-seven this year!) and the rhythm section keeping it down. These guys could cause an avalanche in the Swiss Alps from Canada with all this heaviness, I’m not kidding. You get what you get with these guys and if this sounds like foreign territory, even for the most dedicated metalhead, then fret no more.

The best quality about the music so far regarding this album comes from Iommi’s constant reinvention of the wheel. While he is widely credited for the birth of metal, his heavy blues influence is injected into everything he’s created, thus giving the “whats old is new again” treatment. It doesn’t take long to realize Iommi’s signature sound and older generations can come together with the young crowd at the drop of a hat. With that being said however, there are a few dead spots on this otherwise awesome record.

The following tunes “Rock & Roll Angel” and “The Turn Of The Screw” feel incredibly forced and come off like throwaways. After the first four tunes kick copious amounts of ass, these seem a bit undercooked and boorish. Another complaint stems from Iommi’s overusage of slow chord passages. While this man invented it and has every right to do whatever he wants with it, here it’s a bit redundant and not as recognized as the others. On a positive note though, “Eating The Cannibals” possesses a great return to some early Mob Rules era Black Sabbath, chock full of bluesy speed riffs and Judas Priest-esque soloing. Yeah, this tune rips and sees its full potential…how can a song about cannibals NOT sound awesome? You tell me.

With the albums final one, two, three punch of “Follow The Tears”. “Neverwhere” and the excellent closer “Breaking Into Heaven”, Heaven & Hell conclude their wild ride with a breath of fresh air. While a good majority of this debut record is relevant, racous and ready to kick more ass, there’s a bit of it that seems rehashed and redundant. When it’s on, it’s great. However, certain ideas are used over and over again which takes away from the album’s cohesiveness. This is a good record without a doubt, but too much unnecessary used elements cloud it overall to be a straight shot through one entire listen. For what it’s worth, throw some horns up for it as this will quench thirsty metal fans. Hopefully this is not the end, as the gates of Hell will beckon for more songs from these Lords Of The Pit.

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