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Franconia

Black Sabbath-Heaven and Hell (1980)

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This is easily Black Sabbath's most overrated album, without a doubt, and it's one of the weaker albums that Ronnie James Dio appeared on. I used to think of this as a masterpiece and a 4.5/5 star album but after some relistens, it reeks of typical 80s' cheesiness and inconsistency. 

Now, I do think it's a good album, but not great, and just slightly above average. I mean, it is one of the better heavy metal albums to come out of the 1980s, but still not excellent. 

Side A is actually great and is the highlight of the album. The 4 songs are great, consistent, and awesome. "Neon Knights" kicks off the album with heavy and fast riffs and it's an energetic tune that I'm fond of. "Children of the Sea" is a psuedo-ballad that's typical of any album Dio appears on, and the lyrics are cheesy as shit but it's a great composition and pretty great. His vocals are great on that. "Lady Evil" is a memorable and catchy song with a legitimately groovy and thick riff, and although kind of cheesy it's pretty fun. Of course, the title track is the highlight of the album and one of the band's greatest songs. That song alone can make buying the album worth it. Iommi's heavy and smothering riff is iconic and great and overall, it's an amazing song that I've always loved. 

And Side B is lackluster in comparison. Now, a lot of the more commercially-driven metal albums that arose in the early 80s followed this pattern-they stack Side A, or the first half with CDs, with strong and remarkable songs and then they add a bunch of filler to Side B with maybe one or two songs with actual merit. It's not stacked like some other albums, where the first few songs and last song or two are very strong but the middle part of the album is unremarkable. The only song I enjoy off of this side is "Lonely Is the Word" and I don't love it. It's pretty good and overlooked in the band's mammoth discography but nothing too special. "Wishing Well", "Die Young" and "Walk Away" are lackluster filler with nothing remarkable about them. They're not memorable, they don't have interesting riffs or lyrical themes and they're just boring to sit through. Luckily it's only 13 minutes of those songs but still, the band missed the opportunity to create an interesting second side. Juxtaposing the title track with "Wishing Well" as you flip over the record is just offensive to that oh-so-amazing title track.

So yes, overrated. I can definitely see why it's so acclaimed though. The first few songs kick off with great energy and make it seem fun, and once the audience starts to pay less attention to each individual track after "Heaven and Hell", they don't pay much attention and assume it's good. I mean, I've probably listened to this 15-20 times and used to love it and praise it as one of the band's greatest, but after paying attention it's pretty clear. Dio's vocals are great in this but vocals are never enough to carry a metal album. Iommi is a legendary guitarist but his guitar work isn't super impressive in this album, especially compared to his previous work. He lays down some good riffs, like on the title track, "Neon Knights" and "Lady Evil", but he doesn't really do many extraordinary solos or riffs outside those songs. This is one of the weaker albums Dio has been on. Dio's overlooked solo albums, outside of 
Holy Diver are more interesting and innovative than this, same with most of Rainbow's albums. I'll take Dream Evilor Long Live Rock 'n' Roll over this any day. Also, for Black Sabbath's albums, this is super inconsistent and only has one song that's actually a 5-star song-the title track, of course. I'm not super fond of Sabotage but hell, that had 2 or 3 masterpiece songs on it. 

So yeah, overrated, cheesy, lackluster, inconsistent. 
Mob Rules is better than this and it's very underappreciated. I would only listen to 4 songs off of this and that's it.

3 stars out of 5, rounded. On a 10 point scale, it would probably fall between 6 and 6.5. 

Note: this reviews come from my profile on RateYourMusic and was written February 28, 2018. Feel free to read my other reviews here.

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Interesting review. 

I tend to agree that it's overrated considering that many people claim it to be the greatest album Black Sabbath ever made, which is just crazy to me. Nevertheless, I still think it's an excellent album and a very interesting document from 1980. 

I give the tracks a lot more credit than you, though. I think every single song on there is a really good song. 'Die Young' for instance is killer. 

I'd put the album at about a 7.5/10. I wonder how different it would be if we were around when it came out. It would have been quite special I imagine. 

 

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On 6/22/2018 at 7:47 AM, Requiem said:

Interesting review. 

I tend to agree that it's overrated considering that many people claim it to be the greatest album Black Sabbath ever made, which is just crazy to me. Nevertheless, I still think it's an excellent album and a very interesting document from 1980. 

I give the tracks a lot more credit than you, though. I think every single song on there is a really good song. 'Die Young' for instance is killer. 

I'd put the album at about a 7.5/10. I wonder how different it would be if we were around when it came out. It would have been quite special I imagine. 

 

I'm a fan of straightforward heavy metal, as you've probably seen, but I can't help but think that Side B of Heaven and Hell is just lackluster, average heavy metal with no defining characteristics and nothing to hone on. Which sucks, because I really enjoy Side A of it. But I've been relistening to a lot of "classics" recently and decided that a good portion of these "classics" or "essentials" are mediocre and overrated. Agree to disagree, and I can definitely understand why it's a popular album. I still admire Dio greatly. 

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7 hours ago, Franconia said:

I'm a fan of straightforward heavy metal, as you've probably seen, but I can't help but think that Side B of Heaven and Hell is just lackluster, average heavy metal with no defining characteristics and nothing to hone on. Which sucks, because I really enjoy Side A of it. But I've been relistening to a lot of "classics" recently and decided that a good portion of these "classics" or "essentials" are mediocre and overrated. Agree to disagree, and I can definitely understand why it's a popular album. I still admire Dio greatly. 

I can only speak for myself, but when I first hear the so called "classics", I'm not always blown away either, but I think that comes down to context.

When I hear Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin, I'm never really very impressed, but I can imagine that in 1972 it would have been jaw-dropping. Then, as those fans grow up, the albums attain a godlike position in their minds - like albums such as 'Tales from the Thousand Lakes' and 'Draconian Times' do in my mind.

As a teenager in the 90s I couldn't give a flying fuck about Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. I still can't really but with age comes a bit of wisdom and I can see a bigger picture where those bands were really meaningful and even revolutionary in their own ways. 

Not having lived in 1972, and only being 1 year old when 'Heaven and Hell' came out, it's hard to step into their contexts. We can only really judge them on how well they sound and how much they move us today. I guess a true classic can still move a decent number of people nearly 40 years after its release and not simply fade away. I'd put 'Heaven and Hell' into that bracket. It's probably a 7.5/10 for me personally, but I can't say there are many mainstream metal acts from 1980 who would rank close to that. 

 

 

 

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Nice piece...

 

I have to say I've always preferred Mob Rules & Dehumanizer

to Heaven & Hell...and while the album does contain a few

amazing tracks...it doesn't hold my attention like the other

albums with Dio.

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