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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

CD Review: Heaven & Hell - The Devil You Know

Heaven & Hell - The Devil You Know
2009 Rhino Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

This is in all likelihood going to be the most-scrutinized metal release of the year and thankfully it's Ronnie James Dio falling under the microscope instead of Ozzy Osbourne in the renamed post-Sabbath entity Heaven & Hell.

Whether or not you're looking forward to this quasi-reunion of the Dio-era Black Sabbath which pounded unsuspecting arenas of their time with decimating doom sludge from Mob Rules and the album lending this unit its namesake Heaven and Hell, this is nonetheless one of the key releases with which to mark the metal year a success or not.

Heaven & Hell, featuring the Sabbath team of the early eighties is the full-encapsulation of the peek given from the Black Sabbath compilation The Dio Years a few years back, chiefly through the recording of new tracks with Dio back at the helm.

Though it takes six songs of mostly slug-paced chord dissection before Heaven & Hell steps on the gas with the lethal, uptempo crush of "Eating the Cannibals," The Devil You Know is well up to the limit as Udo Dirkschneider would croon. Heavier tone-wise than anything Black Sabbath ever did (even with Tony Iommi's mid-eighties hang-on vehicles such as The Eternal Idol and The Headless Cross), The Devil You Know is mostly a nut-twisting, bombastic exercise in classic doom metal with a modern veneer.

What to brag about first? Ronnie James Dio's enigmatic vocals on this thing? Honestly, the man shouldn't possess such effortless grace at this point in his career, yet Dio's inspired performance on The Devil You Know is worthy of anything he's ever slapped his name upon, Sabbath, Rainbow or solo. "Bible Black" especially sounds like one of Dio's own metallic odysseys brought into the company of old comrades for reinvention. It makes you wonder if Dio daydreamed now and then of having Tony and Geezer peeling off Holy Diver and The Last in Line for a special occasion. If such is the case, here it is, realized to the nth with Iommi going straight to the chasms with extensive and poignant solos to luxuriate "Bible Black."

As for Iommi? A veritable six-string dragonslayer with some of the nastiest low-end crunk he's ever coaxed out of himself, in perfect accord with Geezer Butler's slithering thrum. Iommi's solos are sometimes abbreviated yet nothing is ever wasted. Iommi makes every second count on songs such as the aforementioned "Bible Black," "Follow the Tears," "Double the Pain" (which haunts quite a bit of South of Heaven-era Slayer on the verses) and the positively despaired opener "Atom and Evil."

Though "Fear" and "Turn of the Screw" drag keister in various spots, Heaven & Hell seizes the opportunity to prove their worth as one of the heaviest tribes on the scene. Blowing Mob Rules, to smithereens on decibel gauges, The Devil You Know picks up the pieces on "Neverwhere" and "Eating the Cannibals," which hypothetically represent this year's "Neon Knights" and "Turn Up the Night," even if the former are not as agreeably harmonious.

Heaven & Hell's dichotomy in both moniker and their reconfigured songwriting is exposed all over The Devil You Know, which would've been branded satanic upon sight had it been released 25 years ago. This is the most haunted this ensemble has quite likely ever sounded and with Vinny Appice hammering down his tempos with an affliction bestowed from the lyrics and the vicious chords surrounding him.

Black Sabbath has been left to its rightful time and place and as Dio and Heaven & Hell usher their listeners to the outer rims of a purgatory ready to detonate on the album's brutally-riffed finale "Breaking Into Heaven," the new world order for this doom clique becomes firmly established.

While the earlier Dio-assisted albums of Black Sabbath can be considered darker than the Ozzy regime, there was more of a fantasy element woven about them than what Heaven & Hell slams upon the table like a carcass for the carving. Sure, The Devil You Know is escapist material, but this is closer to having your toenails gnawed by demons while suspended upside-down in Faustian perpetua. In many ways, The Devil You Know is the blackest of the black this contignency has seen fit to offer. Run like hell...

Rating: ****


countshockula said...

You can't really call it 3/4ths of early 80's and Dehumanizer era Sabbath Ray. Vinnie played on all of mob rules, all of dehumanizer (to the best of my knowledge)
And I think Bill Ward only played on the heaven and hell tracks (maybe not all of them). Vinnie also played on live evil right? So it's really 4/4ths?
Anyway, I coulda used a few more fast tracks, but I played four of 'em on my radio show today!
Good review!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

well, gaddamn it...I'll go crawl under a rock for my slipshoddiness

JP said...

Hah, I like the description of Geezer Butler's work as a 'slithering thrum'. Makes it sound Lovecraftian, somehow.

I love this album. It is indeed darker and doomier than Sabbath has been for a while. I think Iommi and crew have quite wisely realised that they don't need to court contemporary velocities or idioms, just do what they do best, pump out the leaden necroscapes with the only nod to new techniques being just about the sludgiest tone I've heard from Iommi and some good use of different effects here and there.

Really, they've thrown down the gauntlet with this one. I haven't heard such a vital album from a veteran metal act in ages, and this line up can make the modern doom competition sweat if they stick together.

countshockula said...

Nah, I'm just a jerk!
Whiskey will do that.
Keep the faith Ray!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

JP, then check out the new Candlemass. H&H is very good, but I'm LOVING Death Magic Doom, holy shit... Terrific commentary there, bro. Very eloquent.

Count, bro, it's up to the hawkeyes out there to make sure I'm not fucking up and embarassing myself. I feel like I have considerable knowledge of this stuff, but others have more and in this case, I simply went too far in my memory banks until you brought me where I needed to be, lol... I take slip-ups deadly seriously, so always bust me if I need to busted

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

and if I gain half the talent of Lovecraft, I'll check out happy :)

countshockula said...

Just got the new Candlemass, can't fucking wait!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

duuuuuuuuuuuuude, hit me back and let me know what you think of could be a top 10 finisher for me