Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne
Reviewed on this page:
Black Sabbath - Paranoid - Master Of
Reality - Vol. 4 - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath - Sabotage - Technical Ecstasy - Never Say Die -
Heaven And Hell - Blizzard Of Ozz - Diary Of A Madman -
Bark At The Moon - Mob Rules - Born Again -
The Eternal Idol - Headless Cross - Tyr -
No More Tears - Cross Purposes -
Down To Earth - 13
Ronnie James Dio died on May 16, 2010, from stomach cancer.
Black Sabbath started out as one of the earliest and most successful Led
Zeppelin imitators, with piles of heavy
blues-based guitar riffs (played by Tony Iommi), a loud rhythm
section (Terry Butler on bass, Bill Ward on drums), and ranting, occasionally Satanist lyrics shrieked by vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. Then in rapid succession, they dropped the
blues influence, flirted with prog, lost Ozzy first to drugs and then to a solo career, and have spent the last twenty
years reshuffling their lineup every year or two. Somewhere along the way they invented heavy metal and came up with
their fair share of killer riff tunes. Weak points? Iommi has fast fingers, but a limited technique, and his solos lack
imagination; Satanism and the occult have a continuing appeal to teens (q.v. Marilyn Manson) but almost no one else;
Ozzy has some kind of mystique but he's sure not much of a singer. And the prog period and lineup changes have led to
some embarassing moments (though not as many as their contemporaries Deep Purple). Nowadays Sabbath's rep rests mainly on their first two records, which are packed with dull moments, but if you
dig carefully into their catalog you'll be rewarded.
Osbourne's had a very successful solo career, and his replacement Ronnie
James Dio cranked out records as well; I've listed their solo
projects here, and reviewed a couple. For more
information, check out the excellent official unofficial fan site. (DBW)
Terry "Geezer" Butler, bass; Tony Iommi, guitar; Ozzy
Osbourne, vocals; Bill Ward, drums.
Osbourne left c. 1980,
replaced by Ronnie James Dio. Ward left 1981, replaced by
Vinnie Appice. Dio left 1983, replaced by Ian
Gillian. Ward returned, 1983. By 1986, everyone had left except
Iommi; new lineup featured Glenn Hughes, vocals; Dave
Spitz, bass; Eric Singer, drums; Geoff Nicholls,
keyboards. Hughes replaced by Tony Martin, 1987. Singer and Spitz
replaced by Cozy Powell and Laurence Cottle, 1989. Cottle
replaced by Neil Murray, 1990. Butler, Dio and Appice returned,
1992. Dio and Appice left 1994, replaced by Martin and Bobby Rondinelli.
Rondinelli left and Butler left again, 1995; Murray and Appice
returned. Entire original lineup reconvened, late 1997, plus
Black Sabbath (1970)
Following close on Zep's heels, this debut was an immediate
hit. Thirty years on, though, some sword and sorcery lyrics ("The
Wizard") are about the only point of interest here: the guitar, bass and
drums sound exactly the same on every tune; the soloing is rambling
("Bassically"; the title track, with its ponderous tritone theme), and the compositions (more blues-derived
than their later work) sound largely improvised. The endless,
aimless blues jam "A Bit Of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning" is the sort
of thing that was only marginally entertaining when Cream did it, and without that
group's instrumental prowess, it's just excruciating. The saving grace
is one classic hard rocker, though it's buried in another lengthy jam
("N.I.B."). Produced by Rodger Bain. (DBW)
Their self-titled debut was reasonably successful, but this, their
second album, was a breakthrough: the title track, one of the only short
tracks on the record, was a hit single and has remained an FM staple.
"Iron Man," with one of rock's all-time greatest openings and a
seemingly endless series of riffs in its six minutes, is probably the
best tune the band ever came up with. Unfortunately, the group shows no
depth at this point: there are three other lengthy riff-fests that are mindless
and dull (including the surprisingly political "War Pigs"), and the
inevitable "Toad" homage, "Rat
Salad," makes "Moby Dick" look brilliant by comparison. The hits are
every bit as good as I'd remembered from high school, but this is one
thin album. Produced by Bain. (DBW)
Master Of Reality (1971)
Iommi hit upon a rich, heavy guitar tone here, and liked it so much he used the identical sound on nearly every track.
It's crude but effective ("After Forever"), and it's used to beat you over the head with a bunch of insidious riffs:
"Children Of The Grave," "Lord Of This World" and "Into The Void" are about as catchy as anything the band did in this
period, and set the blueprint for heavy metal. Iommi's solos are a hell of a lot more interesting than the lame
blues runs of their debut, and Geezer makes a number of fine contributions as well, overdriving his bass so it sounds much like McCartney's on "Paperback Writer"
and playing lines at once nimble and powerful. There's a dull acoustic guitar piece ("Orchid") and a laughable ballad
with flute accompaniment ("Solitude"), indicating the unsuccessful experimentation that would ruin their next release,
but here it's a refreshing break from all the brain-hammering noise. This time the lyrics are Christian rather than
Satanic, but equally obvious ("After Forever," "Lord Of This World"). This was Sabbath's best selling record stateside;
it doesn't have the biggest hits or the most variety, but I do think it's their most consistently listenable effort from
their most important period. (DBW)
Vol. 4 (1972)
Lord have mercy, Black Sabbath gets sensitive. There's a weepy piano and
mellotron ballad ("Changes"). There's a remarkably thin guitar and
mellotron instrumental ("Laguna Sunrise"). Even the hard rockers have
more emphasis on melodicism ("Under The Sun"). Trouble is, the melodies are listless and obvious and the lyrics are trivial at best:
crunching riffs are the band's forte, and there are just too few here.
In fact, there's not a single classic tune on the disc, though a few songs - "Supernaut,"
"Snowblind," "Every Day Comes And Goes" - will satisfy the
undiscerning headbanger in you. Did I mention the astonishingly dull,
blessedly brief sound effect experiment ("FX")? Produced by the band with Patrick Meehan.
Sabbath Bloody Sabath (1974)
The band continued in the same direction, but it sounds worlds more comfortable and less self-consciously experimental.
Acoustic guitar crops up in the head-banging title track and doesn't seem particularly out of place; the mellow
instrumental "Fluff" is aptly titled, but pleasant. There are some fine metal riffs ("A National Acrobat") here and
there, "Killing Yourself To Live" deftly assembles unrelated musical sections,
and prog-rock icon Rick Wakeman guests on keyboards, adding spooky synth and pleasant jazzy
piano to "Who Are You?" There's even some good old-fashioned rock and roll ("Spiral Architect"). This won't give you much
insight into their enduring influence - it's a listenable, ordinary 70s rock record. Produced by the band. (DBW)
Okay, this wasn't a big seller - their first release not to go platinum or even gold - or a critical favorite, with none
of their important hits (unless you count "Hole In The Sky"). It's still the best place to start with Sabbath, because
it captures their essence: a slow, stomping post-blues heavy metal band with thunderous, thrilling riffs. The
experimenting of the previous two releases is gone (though there's an acoustic interlude between the first two songs),
and there's just a whole lot of headbanging heaviness ("The Thrill Of It All," "Don't Start"). Iommi doesn't indulge in
any overlong soloing, focusing on rhythm playing, and Geezer and Ward provide a solid foundation and occasional enjoyable
embellishments ("Am I Going Insane (Radio)"). Ozzy's vocals sound muddy and shrill, but that's par for the course. I
could make fun of the lead guitar-meets-Mellotron choir instrumental "Supertzar," but the truth is I like its eerie
churchiness (or churchy eerieness). Aside from that track, it's all guitars/bass/drums, and the doubletracked machine
gun guitars on songs like "Megalomania" point the way straight to Metallica -
any metal fan should have a copy of this. Produced by the band with Mike Butcher; keyboardist Gerald Woodruffe also
appeared on the following album. (DBW)
Technical Ecstasy (1976)
The band quickly dropped the heaviness and went back to the smorgasbord approach of Vol. 4: weepy acoustic ballad
over here ("She's Gone"), CSNY-style country rocker over there ("It's Alright" - I think the lead vocalist
is Ward), even a Santana imitation kicking off the
prog-rock mini-opera "Gypsy." Then there are the bread and butter thudding rockers ("Backstreet Kids," "All Moving Parts
(Stand Still)"). Woodruffe's piano and synth are prominent here, but not overly obtrusive.
You definitely don't need this unless you're a fan, but the tunes are solid and ably performed, and Iommi contributes
a fine wah-wah-enhanced solo on "Dirty Women" where he appears to be channelling the spirit of Eric
Clapton. A decent effort that nonetheless missed the charts completely. (DBW)
Never Say Die (1978)
Ozzy's last album before he was fired, and though he was badly burned out at the time, he sounds about the
same as he ever did. And musically the band is still trying to expand its reach, with jazz fusion ("Air Dance"), harmonica,
and horns appearing on one track each. Then there's the usual headbanging rock and roll ("Swinging The Chain"). Trouble
is, the tunes are uniformly boring ("A Hard Road" has a particularly lame-brained riff), and the band doesn't seem to
realize that for all its attempts to change its sound, it ends up being a cut-rate Led Zeppelin: the
mini-suite "Breakout" has all the overblown pomposity of "Kashmir" with none of the amusement value; the title track repeats
four power chords endlessly. Don Airey adds prog rock keyboards here and there ("Over To You"), heightening the generic
bad 70s rock vibe. There's not a song on here I ever want to hear again; please spare yourself. (DBW)
Heaven And Hell (1980)
With Ozzy replaced by sometime Rainbow frontman Ronnie James Dio, the band sounds reenergized. It's not as experimental as the past
few albums, focusing on straightforward hard rock, but the tunes are solid ("Neon Knights," "Die Young"), and Dio's self-importance is
rather amusing (the seven-minute title suite, which manages not to get boring). Iommi and Butler both use a cleaner, brighter tone that
suits the uptempo power chord approach, while the mandatory acoustic/electric tune ably represents Sabbath past ("Children Of The Sea").
There are problems: Dio's idea of a ballad manages to be treacly and offensive at the same time ("Lady Evil"), and Iommi apparently didn't
notice that his closing prog-fusion showpiece ("Lonely Is The Word") borrows directly from Zep's "Stairway To Heaven." Whoops!
Produced by Martin Birch, who presumably deserves credit for avoiding the sloppiness of Sabbath's 70s work; Geoff Nicholls joined the
band on keyboards, but doesn't add much of anything.
Blizzard Of Ozz (Osbourne: 1980)
After a few years of burning out, Osbourne came back with his own band. Whiz-kid guitarist Randy Rhoads (formerly of Quiet Riot) co-wrote all the
tunes, and dominates the album with his hyper pseudo-classical leads and arresting riffs ("Crazy Train"). I'd always thought Rhoads was an
overrated Eddie Van Halen imitator, but unlike Eddie, his playing is always infused with emotion, making the songs more than just a
bunch of notes (the closing near-instrumental "Steal Away (The Night)"), and he couples that with an offhand sense of humor ("No Bone Movies,"
with not-quite-synchronized dual leads). Rhoads even redeems the dull whinefest "Goodbye To Romance" with a solo
full of extended lyrical phrases that communicate sorrow far more effectively than Ozzy can. Add in Osbourne's attention-grabbing antics ("Mr.
Crowley") and it's easy to see why his solo work handily outsold Sabbath's concurrent work. The rhythm section (Bob Daisley on bass,
Lee Kerslake on drums) is just along for the ride, and Don Airey adds the bizarrely baroque synth opening to "Mr. Crowley."
Ozzy's lyrics are consistently socially conscious and humanistic, from the anti-porn "No Bone Movies" to the environmental "Revelation
(Mother Earth)" - ironically, he was later sued after some teenager killed himself after listening to the anti-suicide "Suicide
Diary Of A Madman (Osbourne: 1981)
The second and last collaboration with Rhoads, who died soon thereafter, and it's similar to Blizzard but less intense.
Ozzy abandoned social commentary in favor of his usual litany of insanity, drugs and rock and roll, and it seems more calculated than
heartfelt ("Little Dolls," title track). Too many track have obvious riffs ("Over The Mountain"), the guitar fireworks don't always
add up to anything (title track), and Ozzy's regularly scheduled ballad ("Tonight") is worse than ever.
Rhoads does get in some fine, varied playing, extending himself on the suite "You Can't Kill Rock And Roll" while sticking to power
chord bombast on the amusing "Flying High Again," and on that basis it's still better than any of Sabbath's post-Ozzy work.
Daisley and Kerslake are credited as songwriters but their replacements Rudy Sarzo (bass)
and Tommy Aldridge (drums) are credited as performers - I suspect that's not true, that the switch was made after the record was in the
Tribute (Osbourne: rec. 1981, rel. 1987)
A live record spotlighting Rhoads; Don Airey is on keyboards. (DBW)
Mob Rules (1981)
A rather conventional heavy metal record, with a bunch of solid, uptempo riff tunes ("Voodoo," "Country Girl," title track).
The one oddity is the fast rocker "Turn Up The Night," which I swear sounds just like a Pat Benatar number -
in a good way. The record's centerpiece, though, is kind of a drag: "The Sign Of The Southern Cross" starts with acoustic dribblings,
heads into gaga repetitive lick land, and finally dissolves into a lame phased sound painting ("Evi50"). Also, there are some
blown arranging details: "Slipping Away" (Sabbath's "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," if you will)
has dueling guitar and bass solos, but rather than leaving space in the mix, they just crank up Geezer's bass until it's
painfully loud. The good news is that Iommi has gotten a lot more interesting: he's added wah-wah to his repetoire and developed a much faster
technique, so he ends up somewhere between Frank Zappa and Eddie Van Halen. And Dio's vocals (like
Dennis DeYoung from Styx, only more self-important) can be pretty funny, albeit unintentionally.
Ward had disappeared, replaced by Vinnie Appice (brother of Carmine), while Birch
remained at the helm.
Live Evil (1982)
A double live LP - Dio's last work with the group. (DBW)
Speak Of The Devil (Osbourne: 1982)
Ozzy was so upset by the band releasing live versions of classic-era songs he put out his own double live record
consisting solely of Sabbath numbers. (DBW)
Born Again (1983)
Here Sabbath stakes its claim as the real-life Spinal Tap, with laughably self-important
lyrics ranging from pseudomysticism ("Disturbing The Priest," "Stonehenge" - no kidding) all the way to unimaginative
misogyny ("Digital Bitch," and yes, they rhyme it with "rich"). Much of it is the fault of former Deep Purple lead singer
Ian Gillian, who was with the band for all of one album; Ward returned just in time for this embarrassment. Musicially
it's often sluggish (the pompous suite "Zero The Hero") and uniformly uninventive (the forgettable "Keep It Warm"). On
the faster tunes, the band just sounds like any of their hard rock imitators ("Hot Line"), while the undisputed low
point is the title track, a ballad that's so devoid of passion or interest there's nothing to do but meditate on the
fact that Axl Rose thoroughly ripped off Gillian's nasal-yet-forceful vocal schtick.
Unlike even the worst of the 70s records, this time there's no instrumental variety or exploration of different styles,
and I couldn't recommend this even to a die-hard fan, though the record does get an extra half-star for camp value.
Produced by Robin Black and the band. (DBW)
Holy Diver (1983)
Dio lured away Appice and cooked up a solo act; I doubt I'll ever review it,
but I might as well list their releases. The title track was Dio's best known solo hit. (DBW)
Bark At The Moon (Osbourne: 1983)
Another year, another platinum LP for Ozzy, who was sort of the
Godfather of Metal by this point. The album's quite weak, though. New guitarist Jake E. Lee sounds like he inherited
Rhoads' equipment and fingers, but not his brain, playing speedy high-gain riffs that make no musical sense (title track, "Waiting
For Darkness"). The sole exception is a high energy track ("Journey To The Center Of Eternity") that sounds like a Rhoads leftover.
Meanwhile, Ozzy's lyrical formulas are more obvious than ever ("Rock 'N' Roll Rebel"). In this context,
his mandatory sappy ballad ("So Tired") isn't a step down from the rest of the disc.
Daisley and Aldridge are back, and Airey is credited as a full band member.
The Last In Line (Dio: 1984)
This release went platinum. (DBW)
Sacred Heart (Dio: 1985)
Dio's second, and I believe last, charting solo LP. (DBW)
Seventh Star (1986)
Sabbath had fallen apart by now, so Iommi put together a brand new
band under the same name, featuring Glenn Hughes (vocals), Dave Spitz
(bass), Eric Singer (drums) and Geoff Nichols (keyboards). Produced by
Jeff Glixman. (DBW)
Intermission (Dio: 1986)
A live EP. (DBW)
The Ultimate Sin (Osbourne: 1986)
This time, Ozzy not only went platinum but cracked the Top Ten, which
Sabbath hadn't done since Masters Of Reality. (DBW)
Dream Evil (Dio: 1987)
The Eternal Idol (1987)
A very dull and generic metal record. There's none of the variety that made Mob Rules amusing, Iommi's solos
are rote ("Born To Lose") and the riffs aren't even any good ("The Shining"). The only songs that stand out are "Lost
Forever," with grungy power chords, and the annoying, bombastic title track. Unlike any earlier Sabbath album I've heard,
there's no sign distinguishing this lineup from any other loud, self-important band of longhairs.
Tony Martin was the vocalist du jour (sounding much like Dio), but the rest of the new band remained more
or less intact. Produced by Glixman, Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, & Chris
No Rest For The Wicked (Osbourne: 1988)
First appearance of Zakk Wylde on lead guitar. (DBW)
Headless Cross (1989)
More conventional metal with a pop edge, but at least the tunes are a bit better ("Nightwing"). Sabbath's old hedonistic heaviness is
still MIA: "The Gates Of Hell" and the title track serve up the same metal clichés as the previous disc; "Kill In The Spirit World" and "Call
Of The Wild" are the same corporate style Heart was using at the time; "Black Moon" has a syncopated heavy riff recalling Led Zeppelin. Though derivative, none of those tunes are bad, and Iommi contributes a tasty solo to "Call Of The Wild."
There's no driving reason to put this on, but once it's playing you won't feel compelled to take it off either.
Tony Martin serves up his usual high-pitched mishmash of religious images ("Devil & Daughter"), and the rest of the band is anonymous:
Cozy Powell joined on drums (also co-producing), and Laurence Cottle is often inaudible on bass. (DBW)
Two mini-concept albums, with all lyrics written by Tony Martin: side one is Christian symbolism set to incredibly boring metal tunes, and side two is a surprisingly
entertaining Norse god epic ("The Battle Of Tyr"). The less said about the Christian side the better: generic riffs at a uniform tempo
that make you wonder how metal bands avoided infringing on each other's copyrights. The Norse side, though, covers a lot of ground, with
an engaging acoustic opening ("Odin's Court"), a fast headbanger ("Valhalla"), a quasi-love song with a fusionesque Iommi solo backed by airy
keyboards ("Feels Good To Me"), and alas, another boring metal tune ("Heaven In Black"). I can't find a coherent story in there, but it's a
lot more interesting than the other late-period Sabbath I've heard.
Neil Murray replaced Cottle on bass; otherwise, the personnel was the same as Headless Cross. Produced by Iommi and Powell.
Just Say Ozzy (Osbourne: 1990)
Lock Up The Wolves (Dio: 1990)
Dio didn't give up, I'll give him that; Appice was gone by this point.
No More Tears (Osbourne: 1991)
Boy, if I didn't like this record I could diss it all day long.
All it has in common with early Sabbath is the muddy mixing of Ozzy's voice,
which combined with overloud bass (from Daisley and musical director Michael Inez) frequently leaves the vocals inaudible.
Guitarist Zakk Wylde vibratos like crazy, rarely coherently.
Most of the tunes are standard-issue hard rock, with riffs lifted from Judas Priest ("Desire"), AC/DC
("Mr. Tinkertrain"), Metallica (title track) - "S.I.N." even
shares a chorus melody with Cece Winans' dance hit "Everlasting Love."
Ozzy goes over quota with three stentorian ballads: "Time After Time," "Mama I'm Coming Home" and the Guns N' Roses-style country-metal whine-a-thon "The Road To Nowhere."
The production gimmicks, like phased backing vocals and tempo shifts, dissipate more excitement than they generate.
But despite all that, the album still rocks in a Van Halen sort of way, because Wylde plays crunchy rhythm guitar and
Randy Castillo's enthusiastic, creative drumming never flags. It ain't hard to make a satisfying rock record -
fortunately for Ozzy, and for us.
A reunion of the Mob Rules band, with Butler, Dio and Appice
Back Where I Belong (Tony Martin: 1992)
A bunch of Sabbath alumni appear here - Powell, Murray, Cottle, Nicholls
- plus Queen's Brian May and Zakk Starkey. (DBW)
Live & Loud (Osbourne: 1993)
Cross Purposes (1994)
Appice and Dio headed out again, replaced by Bobby Rondinelli and the returning Tony Martin. The result is more or less
like Headless Cross with louder bass: Martin's lyrics are overwrought drivel ("Cross
Of Thorns"; "Immaculate Deception"), Iommi's solos are interesting though the riffs aren't much (the mini-epic "Dying For
Love"), and the Zep borrowings are numerous ("Cardinal Sin" is the most shameless, using synth strings
in the exact same tempo and rhythm as "Kashmir"). A couple of licks are catchy
("Back To Eden"), but the one surprise is "Virtual Death," a slow, heavy, ominous tune reminiscent of the Master Of
Reality era. It's so much more distinctive and appealing than all the standard-issue 80s rock here it makes you
wonder, did they think a whole album of vintage Sabbath-sounding tunes wouldn't sell, or were they just bored with that style, or
what? Produced by Leif Mases and the band.
Strange Highways (Dio: 1994)
Appice was back on hand here. (DBW)
Cross Purposes Live (1995)
Same lineup as the studio record; the track listing includes a
smattering of Ozzy-era classics alongside later work like "Headless
Cross" and "Mob Rules." (DBW)
Ozzmosis (Osbourne: 1995)
Butler took this album off, replaced by a returning Neil Murray, and
Rondinelli was replaced by a returning Powell (I'm not making this stuff
up). Produced by Ernie C. (DBW)
Angry Machines (Dio: 1996)
Black Science (Butler: 1997)
The Ozzman Cometh (Osbourne: 1997)
I guess whenever he comes up with a new pun on his name, he cranks out
another album. This is a double CD, one greatest hits disc and one disc
of basement tapes from the early days of Sabbath. (DBW)
Inferno: The Last In Live (Dio: 1998)
Along the lines of Fleetwood Mac's reunion
album of the same year, this is a double live CD with a couple of new
studio tracks, featuring the original lineup plus Nicholls.
Produced by Bob Marlette. Since reforming, this lineup has continued to tour though they didn't put out a studio release until 2013. (DBW)
Down To Earth (Osbourne: 2001)
Ozzy's last album before becoming a pop culture god courtesy of his MTV "reality show" is nothing special, but solid.
Wylde is back, with Robert Trujillo and Mike Bordin joining on bass and drums respectively,
and producer Tim Palmer (Tin Machine) adding guitars and keyboards.
Melodically more original than No More Tears, and stylistically identical, but this time the bass is undermixed and
many of the tunes sound hollow, as if there's a missing guitar part or something ("That I Never Had," "No Easy Way Out," "Alive").
On the happily headbanging side, there's leadoff single "Gets Me Through," where Ozzy shows he hasn't outgrown "Iron Man"-like nursery rhyme melodies,
"Can You Hear Them?" and "Junkie."
On the sappy sensitive side there's "Dreamer" and "Running Out Of Time" - both with a vaguely late Beatles
sound including phased keyboards - and "You Know... (Part 1)." Does anybody actually enjoy Ozzy's ballads, or is it just something we all
put up with, like those "I studied dance for ten years and it's payback time" song and dance numbers in sitcoms?
Live At Budokan (Osbourne: 2002)
A live album; all solo material except for the encore, "Paranoid."
Under Cover (Osbourne: 2005)
Covers of rock classics like "Rocky Mountain Way," "21st Century Schizoid Man" and
"In My Life."
Black Rain (Osbourne: 2007)
The backing band is Wylde, Bordin and bassist Rob Nicholson.
Live From Radio City Music Hall (Heaven & Hell: 2007)
Since Black Sabbath was back to its original lineup, Iommi had to make up a new band name for a tour with the Dio-era band, and he picked the title of the first album they'd worked on together.
The track list of the double-CD draws heavily on the first two Dio-led albums, including a fifteen-minute trip through "Heaven And Hell."
The Devil You Know (Heaven & Hell: 2009)
The only studio album recorded under this name. (DBW)
Scream (Osbourne: 2010)
The first Ozzy album in decades without Wylde; the guitarist is Gus G.. (DBW)
Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell (Heaven & Hell: 2010)
A live show recorded at Wackenhut became the final Heaven & Hell release, as the group was put to rest after Dio's 2010 death from stomach cancer. (DBW)
Ozzy's first full studio album with Sabbath in thirty-five years. Ward held out, though, so the drummer is Brad Wilk.
Produced by Rick Rubin, and if his only goal was to reproduce the sound of earliest Sabbath, he earned an "A+" - Ozzy and the Sabboys sound shockingly like their old selves ("Age Of Reason," with a quality Iommi solo).
There are lots of long, vaguely menacing tracks with even vaguer lyrics ("God Is Dead?"; "Dear Father"), and the requisite "Changes"-style acoustic weeper ("Zeitgeist").
If, like me, you prefer the Sabotage Bloody Ecstasy period, there's not as much for you, though the hard boogie middle of "End Of The Beginning" fits the bill ("Loner" has the same idea, but the threat is stronger than the execution).
However, the riffs themselves are not exactly top-quintile ("Damaging Soul," which comes at you slowly but inexorably - like a zombie - is probably the strongest), so overall it sounds like you're listening to a Lost Sabbath Album but not the Great Lost Sabbath Album.
You may get different bonus tracks depending on the version you get (the zippy "Methademic," which sounds more like the Dio period); the crunching "Pariah" is the best tune but "Naïveté In Black" is surely the best title.
Will the madness never cease?