Album: Black Sabbath – Mob Rules / Live Evil (Deluxe Editions)
And so Dio’s reign continues, though it’s not quite as appetising as the last outing.
It’s not often that I feel the need to review two things at once, though given that Live Evil is simply a stage performance of the Mob Rules tour, it’s only fair; it also differs from the previously-reviewed Heaven and Hell in that it represents the first time that Black Sabbath could no longer be described as British, given that the replacement of the heart attack-susceptible Bill Ward meant Vinny Appice’s drumming made the transatlantic split a 50:50 affair.
It’s all about the riffs and crashing drums, yet with these two albums, it doesn’t seem as… awesome. Awesome in the correct way; not in the rightfully-criticised way that Eddie Izzard puts forward, where hot dogs are subject to the expression as if they’re seen as jaw-droppingly amazing.
I mean, ‘E5150′? The effort to capitalise on the heavy psychedelia of the period, such as that of Pink Floyd, simply doesn’t suit Black Sabbath. Okay, so you can make your guitar echo. Well done. Additionally, the band seem to be trying to do their best to sound like Rush with slower releases such as ‘The Sign of the Southern Cross’, ‘Over and Over’ and ‘Country Girl’. It just doesn’t really suit them, or at least the fans who’ve gone this far following the rock gods as they shake the foundations of any building they play in.
Nonetheless, the boys still put in the graft: when you hear the likes of ‘The Mob Rules’ – particularly in front of the crowd on Live Evil (or, for that matter, on the second disc of the deluxe expanded edition of the appropriately-titled album) – you remember that this band is still richer for losing Ozzy, even if Vinny Appice isn’t as charismatic as Bill Ward’s bass-pedalling antics.
What’s more, the flawless fretwork exampled in ‘Falling Off the Edge of the World’ is pretty remarkable after it gets over the hump of another possible borefest (by Sabbath standards, at least) after about two minutes in; a truly excellent lilting beat powered by a perfect bassline.
However, it’s not so much the mob that rules here, but Dio. Like his first effort as the lead singer with Heaven and Hell, it’s proof that this guy clearly knows his stuff when it comes to entertaining the crowds at a time when hard rock could only be accompanied by that necessary level of screeching vocals also adopted by Iron Maiden.
Mob Rules isn’t great, though Live Evil is as complete an album you’ll get for stadium excellence. What’s more, the new deluxe epanded edition of Mob Rules also gives you the best of Heaven and Hell on the second disc, notably with ‘Neon Knights’ and a super-long version of the title track from the latter album. Bam. Take that. They also sound… cleaner, too. ‘Neon Knights’ in particular sounds much more muted in its original album release in 1980.
Of course, Sabbath fans will also likely enjoy the booklet and shiny fold-out nature of the offerings. The re-release is satisfying enough in that sense; if you’re expecting a great album from Mob Rules without hearing it before, though? Try Dio’s opener first. Live Evil speaks for itself – Dio’s magic since his introduction to the band is presented in glorious audience-complemented beauty. Win.
By Matt Gardner
Mob Rules (Deluxe Edition) and Live Evil (Deluxe Edition) is currently being fired at your ears by those sexy beasts at Universal.