Heaven and Hell – The Devil You Know

Heaven and Hell - The Devil You KnowHeaven & HellThe Devil You Know (Rhino)

One of my biggest fears in writing this review is the perception that I am the site’s lone Ronnie James Dio fan and that role puts me in a category of irrelevance. Kind of like the irrelevance that Dio himself faced about ten years ago when he was playing the shtick in clubs and secondary markets. Only the faithful showed up then and I would probably count myself as one of those vocal naysayers, laughing at every one of those few hundred patrons coming to get a glimpse at this tiny old man.

Tenacious D may have relegated Dio to a pop culture joke, but it was a re-examination of his work with Black Sabbath in the early 80s that resurrected him to a credible and influential voice in metal.

The reunion shows were supposed to be a swan song, a final glimpse at a band that was on its own deathbed at the time of conception. But there were reports during the tour that the band—now named Heaven & Hell thanks to the endless meddling of Sharon Osbourne—was preparing to record a new album together, the second reunion of this line-up.

Initially, I found myself as a naysayer, rolling my eyes at the notion of a disc of new material, envisioning a slow death of decreasing popularity and smaller venues. The fellas seemed intent on exiting the metal arena in embarrassing fashion, too old to know when it’s time to put away the gargoyles and call it a day.

The Devil You Know should be the sad remnants of that union, the document that tells us that the moment ended decades ago and, while reminiscing among the old farts is fine, the idea that they can translate it into credible new material is silly.

Well Holy Diver, the joke is squarely on me as Heaven & Hell deliver their heaviest recordings closer to the age of seventy than they did at twenty-one. It’s an effort that provides them with a reason to exist—albeit under a new name—and it should provide an inspiring reference point to anyone considering what the shelf life of a metal band should be.

Dio, who’s voice is still impressive at his advanced age, has moved from an egotistical bellower to one that has transitioned his talents into an ominous howl. The end of days is written all over this record, and Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler work each riff like it will be their last with Vinny Appice plodding along at a snails pace. Seriously: the album is more than half over before the band kicks it into second gear with “Eating The Cannibals.” All of this dirge and slow motion head banging begins to sound the same by the end of the album, and repeated listening had me reaching for the remote so that I could program only the best songs on the album.

One of those is “Bible Black.” It begins as a forlorn acoustic number until the ninety-second mark. At which time the band unleashes into a menacing refute of Christianity. “Let me go! / I’ve seen religion, but the light has left me blind!” Dio roars while Iommi delivers another worthy riff underneath the sacrilege.

While not as noteworthy as Heaven & Hell or Mob Rules, the fourth installment of this Sabbath line-up is most surprising for its consistency. Not even I imagined that these four old-timers would have been album to create an album that matches the releases that are already available, particularly since it’s been over fifteen years since the previous installment. It also annihilates practically everything that Sabbath’s more notorious frontman has released during that time. Which begs the question: shouldn’t Sharon be doing more to make sure her husband is contributing to his own legacy than worrying about what his former bandmates are doing? Because, judging from The Devil You Know, Heaven & Hell is doing more to retain Sabbath’s lofty stature than Ozzy is.

Video: Heaven and Hell – “Bible Black”

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11 thoughts on “Heaven and Hell – The Devil You Know”

  1. Definitely picks up where the previous two Dio-fronted Sabbath albums left off. Is that a good thing? Depends on how you felt about this incarnation in the first place. Personally, this album reminds me a little too much of Dio’s solo stuff, which I didn’t care much for. That said, love the riffs on “Follow the Tears”.

    Also, is it me or does anyone else find it a bit weird for a band whose guitarist has made ample use of Christianity’s most recognized symbol to pen “a menacing refute of” said religion?

  2. Don’t go Scotty. I understand where you’re coming from, that’s why I felt the need to preface this review and-indeed-any conversation concerning one Ronnie James Dio. I have no idea about my change of heart because for YEARS I was one of those laughing on the sidelines. The Metal Masters Tour review documents the transition to an actual fan of his work, but there are many more years of opening laughing at him. The dumb imagery, the keyboards to “Rainbow In The Dark,” the age and obvious physical attributes, the dumb video to “Holy Diver,” etc.

    I started to warm after hearing a few of the early Rainbow albums and revisiting the pair of Sabbath releases after Ozzy left. I began to tolerate is vocal bombast over the riffage of not one, but two of rock music’s most notorious guitarists. Surely, they must know something that I didn’t.

    I also think that the change has something to do with a change in Dio too. He no longer seems to be the egotistical frontman that talks with an air on entitlement. He now seems to realize that his career, perhaps even his own life, is reaching the end and he’s working hard at making sure it ends on a high note. Can’t fault a guy for that.

    The notion of any new material is laughable on paper, and I went into this album with that in mind. I walked away with a different idea entirely; they all made the record work when it was way too easy to fail. Of course, none of this as kiko points out means anything to someone who isn’t a Dio or Dio-era Sabbath fan-avoid The Devil You Know at all costs if you’re in that camp-but for those that may be, this album exceeds expectations. It ain’t Radiohead, but it’s refreshing that it doesn’t try to be.

    Of course, there is a part of me that feels good about enjoying something so universally despised, but I don’t want that to be a reflection of the overall GloNo mantra (The opinions of Todd aren’t necessarily those of Glorious Noise founders). We’ll all turn into Wilco fan-boys/girls in just a few weeks anyway, and then things will be back to normal.

  3. Where I’m from Sabbath rules and nobody ever even heard of Wilco. Ozzy Sabbath might win out in popularity but Dio still tears the head off the mountain lion. Just because I like Tenacious D’s tribute to Dio doesn’t mean I think Dio is a fool. It reminded me of how cool Dio is. Did you know he started in Binghamton playing in a band named Elf with with another little guy?

    By the way Todd my headbanger friend worships Iommi and his mentally challenged brother is a metalhead to the core. I sent a link of Mastodon’s myspace for the special guy. After a few swinging drinks on friday night I was getting into it. So don’t think your work here is futile. Satan will reward you in a big way someday.

  4. Damn…that song seriously rocks! I’m impressed…thought it would suck…. great old school metal.

  5. One year ago today? Seriously? That’s bizzare. Where is the GLONO tribute to Dio now that he’s no longer with us?

  6. “I also think that the change has something to do with a change in Dio too. He no longer seems to be the egotistical frontman that talks with an air on entitlement. He now seems to realize that his career, perhaps even his own life, is reaching the end and he’s working hard at making sure it ends on a high note. Can’t fault a guy for that.” — Todd Totale

    Jesus, man, you’re a fuckin’ fortune teller. Well spoke, Todd.

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