BLACK SABBATH – Dehumanizer (2011 deluxe edition)
After a chaotic decade of lineup changes, solo-but-not-solo albums, record label switcharoos, and a few aborted attempts to reconcile with Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi finally did something that we fans had been wishing for: He recovened the classic Mob Rules lineup of the band, featuring fellow cohorts in rock Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler, Vinnie Appice, and unofficial keyboardist Geoff Nicholls.
The results were staggering: Dehumanizer, the best Black Sabbath since Born Again at least, and Sabotage at best. It is incredibly heavy even for Black Sabbath, topped only by the same lineup’s The Devil You Know in 2009. Yet heaviness alone would not make any album a classic. Dehumanizer is marked by outstanding production (by Mack of Queen fame), newfound seriousness in the lyrical department, and a certain rhythmic thrift courtesy of Appice. To me, Dehumanizer is among the best of all Sabbath albums, and that includes Ozzy’s. For that vintage guitar sound, Iommi resurrected his old Gibson SG that he used back in the Paranoid days. That’s why it sounds like a monster puking distortion out of the speakers.
A track like “Computer God” relies on Appice’s relentless hammering, until Iommi’s riff subdues you into a pulp. None of these songs are immediate. The sludge of “After All (The Dead)” crawls along, but slowly burrows its way into your memory. My personal favourite song is “I”, which…man, I won’t even try to describe it, except to say that it’s awesome.
The liner notes reveal that the band had to convince Dio to drop the rainbows and dragons from the lyrics, and the album is that much more powerful for it. This carried on through to some of Ronnie’s solo albums as well. It is a shame that this newfound seriousness did not strike a chord with the grunge scenesters of the time.
This deluxe edition is pretty much as good as they get. It collects every B-side side and associated track for Dehumanizer, as well as one previously unreleased one. On the bonus disc you will find three non-album versions of “Master of Insanity”, “Letters From Earth”, and “Time Machine” (the version from Wayne’s World). “Letters From Earth” is an early version with slightly different lyrics and riffs. This had been on a B-side before.
You also get five live tracks, all from single B-sides. This was a real coup for me, as I didn’t even know these existed before. I missed out on those singles. As far as live songs go, they could be better. “Die Young” is a mere two minutes long (you can hear that it was about to merge into “Too Late” before the fade). Geoff Nicholl’s keyboards are mixed in too loudly. “Master of Insanity” is previously unreleased, and although unlisted it is actually a medley with “After All (The Dead)”. I’m glad that this brief era of Sabbath has been documented with some live songs, and Dio was in peak form back then.
For some reason, I couldn’t get this from the Canadian Amazon site. I had to order it in from the States. Weird.
5/5 stars. A crucial slab of Sabbath that has now been given the appropriate treatment, same as Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules. Complete your collection.
Party On! Excellent!