vinnie appice

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Dehumanizer (deluxe edition)

SAM_2154

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!

REVIEW: Dio – At Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987

DIO – At Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987  (2010)

Ronnie James Dio’s death was an incredibly sad day in rock.  For our little corner of the rock world, that genre known as Heavy Metal, it was an absolute tragedy. Very rarely have ever lost someone with so much talent, and so much history.  I mean, we lost Randy Rhoads, but he never got a chance to grow and spread his wings.  Dio did.  Unfortunately Dio’s long and powerful career has not been well documented in live album format.  There are gaping holes in his live catalogue, with very little (just B-sides) being available with Vivian Campbell on guitar.

Finally some of that history has seen the light. Doninngton UK collects two concerts. From 1983, we get a show with Vivian Campbell. From 1987, a show with his replacement Craig Goldy from the very underrated Dream Evil tour. Both shows are excellent, with nary a complaint between the two of them. Both shows contain ample Dio tunes with a smattering or Rainbow and Sabbath.

For me, my personal highlights were not any specific song, but more the tireless performances by Ronnie James Dio. If any man ever made it all sound easy, it was Dio. Plenty of power to spare, Ronnie James is the ringleader and he never faulters. He’s perfect. A second highlight for me was the guitar work of Campbell and Goldy.  It was great to finally hear the first two Dio dudes rip and shred live.

You get “Holy Diver”, “Heaven and Hell”, “Stargazer”, “The Last In Line”, “Rock and Roll Children”, and pretty much any favourite Dio song you’ve ever had from that era.  Yes, you’re going to hear several songs twice.  “Children of the Sea” (a Sabbath classic), “Rainbow in the Dark”, “Holy Diver”, “Heaven and Hell” (another mighty Sab classic), and “Silver Mountain” all appear on both discs.  When you think about it though, that’s a lot less overlap than you’d expect.

The recording and mix are good enough (by the BBC), and the packaging is very nice as expected.  I love the cover.

5/5 stars. As if there was any doubt.

ADDED BONUS: Two plastic backstage pass replicas included!