Heaven and Hell – The Devil You Know (Rhino Records)

Friday, 15th March 2013
Rating: 6.5/10

Heaven And Hell, Black Sabbath, Dio and the boys. Whatever you want to call it, there’s been high anticipation for this release – a tour which absolutely blew away everyone who caught them live, some new properly goodsongs on the greatest hit’s collection (The Dio Years) and anticipation was exchanged for excitement in many corners. Would this be a nostalgia trip or would they actually get it right if they recorded a full length? Well, we finally have the answer in the form of The Devil You Know which features some of the best cover artwork going in a long time.

So while it’s great to have Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice together, putting out new material but let’s not get utterly blinded by the bluster and bright lights. ‘The Devil You Know’ is far from perfect (although having heard just ‘Bible Black’ you might be convinced otherwise), but then it’s also got some killer tracks too.

It’s an album that tends to hit both extremes, the only difference being that these guys are so long in the game that you’ve heard all their mistakes before and you love them a little for it. So even at its worst The Devil You Know is still enjoyable. Nonsense Dio lyrics and filler Iommi riffs are still better than most. That being said The Devil You Know is going to get a lot of chances to make an impact, more so than something by a new unknown band and this inclination towards repeated listens will work in it’s favour, since there’s more than a few ready made classics on here champing at the bit and rearing to be let loose.

Opening track “Atom And Evil” is a big slow doom monster with Dio wailing his metal lungs out and while not a knock out track as such it sets the pulse racing nicely. “Bible Black” starts off all slow and acoustic before dragging in a hulking, slightly spinning riff courtesy of Iommi, who’s on fire throughout this one, even ripping out a rather stylish solo. An epic lasher of a tune, it’ll wrap its wicked heart around you, the bass and drums working together into an unobtrusive yet solid foundation. Live, this is going to be brilliant, you can already tell. No wonder they’re using it as their calling card.

Then there’s “Double The Pain” which has a weird bass effect at the start, moves into a nice doomy bit, kicks off into an old school metal part then stumbles into a bit of a shit chorus to be honest. But surprisingly it’s still pretty good. Nothing great, more like one of the forgettable tracks off Dio’s Master Of The Moon album, it’s a standard mid-album filler. And that’s generally how it goes. Some sheer bad-ass songs, some fairly bad songs, but you’re going to listen to them anyway a few times to be sure. There will be some songs you skip after a few listens. Well worth the cash though.

The big disappointment – the lack of Dio ad libs, but his voice is phenomenal. The man is made of solid rock. “My sunshine is wind, rain and thunder.” Epic. Okay so “Rock And Roll Angel” is a bit rubbish and even Dio’s voice doesn’t seem to be up to it and it’s got some of his warbling, nonsense, the “perfect angels in the dark” passage is pants. And Iommi doesn’t entirely help out much either sometimes, but to have expected this album to be entirely brilliant would have been stupid. “You been wishing for the magic sign, here’s where you will find your rock and roll angel” and “perfect strangers in the dark, waiting for their lives to start, but just before the dream begins, you MUST confess your sins, yeah!’” – surprised. “Soon to see the holy one, can he really block the sun’” – oh dear, even for his holy majesty himself that one’s a bit rubbish. “The Turn Of The Screw” has a few polished moments, but it’s also far from perfect and “Eating The Cannibals” is also a bit forgettable.

But when they do it right, by Christ, is it good. “Follow The Tears” opens with a big evil riff, some moody organs and the thud of the bass. This is what we wanted more of. It then kicks off with a savage slow head banger courtesy of Iommi, before erupting into the main riff a big beauty and Dio beckoning you to ‘come lie on a bed of nails and slumber’. Yeah! Utterly brilliant. It’s actually possible they put a few dodgy songs on here to make the good ones sound even better. Then there’s that massive doomy chorus that rolls down even as Dio perks up. You can picture him throwing all sorts of cool shapes with his long sleeves and big cuffs. “If you want to know where I’ve been hiding all these years, follow the tears” and the sort of riff that Alice In Chains would have given up everything for. Really how did Ozzy get away with it for so long while these guys were off on the peripheries?

Closer “Breaking Into Heaven” is a big rocking song too that once again combines all the best elements of these four working as a fine machine. “We just found the keys and we’re breaking into Heaven” – yes you did. Occasionally you dropped them, but in general you’ve got the key right in the lock. Not that it matters, because you’re going to buy this anyway knowing full well that even at their worst, Heaven & Hell/Black Sabbath are better than most of the shit you’ll hear today, seeing as there’s a good chance they inspired not only the good bands, but the bad ones too. Great to have them back and hopefully the next one will be better. Roll on the summer and a tour.

www.heavenandhelllive.com

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)