Yeah, it’s a compilation, a Greatest Hits, but still, it’s impossible not to appreciate Black Sabbath’s The Dio Years for the extreme quality of the material. What was originally theorized as a three-disc boxed set and eventually slimmed down to its current presentation, the collection not only features some of the best Dio-era Sabtracks, but it’s also, more importantly, got three brand new songs tacked onto the end.
That’s right, three new Black Sabbath songs is all it takes to get Disc Of The Week in The Aquarian. Honestly, one would have done it.
Of course, with any compilation, particularly one from a long-running band with fans as passionate and dedicated as those of Black Sabbath, there’s going to be the inevitable bickering. “Why’d they put on song X?” “Where’s song Y?” etc. To be perfectly fair, short of making it that three-disc set and including all of Heaven And Hell, The Mob Rules and 1992’s reunion effort, Dehumanizer, there was no way everyone was going to walk away completely satisfied.
The songs that are included are mostly what you might expect to appear on a Greatest Hits jobber—“Heaven And Hell,” “The Mob Rules,” “Lady Evil,” “Voodoo,” et al. There’s a live version of “Children Of The Sea” from Live Evil to cap off the previously released material that fits in nicely as a nod and comment to all the touring the band did during its time with Ronnie James Dio as frontman, and as a transition to the new songs, it works excellently. A nice touch.
The three new songs, which is why you’ll be buying the album, rock. There, I said it. “The Devil Cried” centers around a riff not unlike the bulk of latter-day Iommi material: thick and sludgy, and Vinny Appice’s drums thunder beneath Dio’s soaring narrative about escaping from Hell. Honestly, how could you go wrong?
“Shadow Of The Wind” opens with what sounds like a slightly morphed version of “Time Is Mine” from Tony Iommi’s eponymous 2000 solo offering (you might remember it as the track Phil Anselmo sang on). Nonetheless, it grooves and crashes into a rousing if underused chorus and leaves almost nothing to be desired in the solo department. Multiple layers of vocals create a choral effect and Dio’s voice is crisp and clear as he asks “Who are you when are you why?” in a tenor perfectly suited to sit on the throne of Iommi’s riffery.
Closer “Ear In The Wall” is more akin to the Dio-era Sabbath, moving at a faster pace and more based around chords than riff progressions. Dio’s paranoid anti-surveillance commentary is well suited to the song, and it sounds, most of the three, like what a new Dio-fronted Sabbath album might be if they were ever to actually sit down and write one. Judging by these three tracks, we should be so lucky.
You don’t need me to tell you to pick this up. You probably already have. The best advice I can offer you is to put down the paper (pick it back up later) and listen for yourself as three old British dudes and a guy from Brooklyn demolish every new metal release this year in the span of 15 minutes.