Heaven & Hell
There is only one Black Sabbath and it's fronted by Ozzy Osbourne.
No doubt there are a phalanx of lawyers ready to pounce on any one-time member or members who attempt to employ the Sabbath moniker. So it's probably best to leave that name alone unless Ozzy, Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass) and Bill Ward (drums) are all involved. Problem is Ozzy's not always available for a reunion tour or album. He has a life of his own; a solo career, Ozzfest and his own TV shows (The Osbournes on MTV and Osbournes Reloaded for FOX).
So if you're a Sabbath vet, what do you do? Sit on the couch and wait for Ozzy's wife and manager, Sharon, to call about a reunion or are you proactive and see what the band's other notable frontman wants to do?
There are a lot of people who have a passion for the Ronnie James Dio led iteration of Black Sabbath.
When Ozzy left (or was fired) in '78, the remaining Sabbath members (Iommi, Butler and Ward) recruited Dio. "Heaven & Hell" was released in '81 and this line-up showed flashes of brilliance evident during Ozzy's tenure but largely absent from Glenn Hughes and Ian Gillan (both Deep Purple vets) fronted iterations (B.S. Mark III and IV). The following year saw "Mob Rules." Then over a decade passed before Dio returned to Sabbath for "Dehumanizer" in '92.
The original Black Sabbath got together in '97 for a much-heralded reunion. And since then there have been high profile shows and tours. Once completed though, Ozzy was off to something else. In '06, Iommi, Butler and Ward hooked up with Dio again. Rather than get embroiled in a massive legal battle by attempting to operate under the Black Sabbath banner, they decided to name themselves after their first, best and most popular album together.
Before things really got rolling, Ward stepped aside and was replaced by another Sabbath vet from the band's latter years, Vinny Appice. "We didn't feel as if it was going quite right from . . . Bill's side and our side," said Iommi. "There's no bad vibes or nothing; it's no breakup or anything like that."
"It's going to be a lot of fun to get back in front of fans and perform these songs again," said Dio, prior to the start of Heaven & Hell's North American tour. To get everyone primed "Black Sabbath: The Dio Years" retrospective rolled out. The disc featured 16 chronologically arranged songs - nine from Dio's '79-'82 stint and three from '92's "Dehumanizer." There were also three new tracks and a live song. To promo the CD, Heaven & Hell appeared at an in-store event at a Best Buy outlet in New York.
On the U.S. leg of the tour there was a stop at Radio City Music Hall, to record a live album. The show sold-out within minutes so Heaven & Hell was assured of playing before an enthusiastic audience. "Heaven & Hell: Live At Radio City Music Hall" was released in the summer of '07.
A group that resurrects their career eventually takes a shot at recording new material. Following the "Black Sabbath: The Dio Years" compilation and a supporting Metal Masters Tour, the timing seemed right. Heaven & Hell began work at the same Wales studio where Sabbath's "Dehumanizer" was recorded. Midway through recording Iommi was quoted saying that the tracks laid down so far were "really good, pretty powerful."
"The Devil You Know," containing "Bible Black" (the lead single), "Rock & Roll Angel and "Breaking Into Heaven," landed in April, '09. "Everybody still . . . sees us as Black Sabbath," stated Butler. "So even though we call ourselves Heaven & Hell, we're still very much the devil you know in the sense that we're still Black Sabbath." Either way, the album made its debut at #8 on the Billboard Album Chart.
So, was there any difference between recording with Dio or Ozzy? According to Bulter the answer was 'yes'. "If we'd written ["The Devil You Know"] album with Ozzy, we'd still be working on the first track."
Later in the year though, Dio was diagnosed with stomach cancer and underwent treatment at the Mayo Clinic. "After he kills this dragon, Ronnie will be back onstage, where he belongs, doing what he loves best, performing for his fans," said Dio's wife Wendy in an online statement. "Thanks to all the friends and fans from all over the world that have sent well wishes. This has really helped to keep his spirit up." Dio's illness forced Heaven & Hell to cancel a European tour.
Dio's Sabbath is back! Oh yeah, it's now Heaven & Hell. "The Devil You Know" has heavy epics ("Double The Pain" and "Breaking Into Heaven") and "Bible Black," a serious stab at creating their own "Stairway To Heaven." But these are sidebars to the main story. When Heaven & Hell kick into high gear they are unstoppable. How can a song titled "Rock And Roll Angel" fail? It can't. That track plus "Turn Of The Screw" and "Eating Cannibals" are full-throttle Rock - which was Sabbath's strength going back to "Paranoid" and Iommi's "Iron Man" solo.
"Heaven & Hell: Live At Radio City Music Hall" is practically a live version of the "Black Sabbath: The Dio Years" compilation. Aside from a handful of new tracks the group burns through their "A" material.
There's the inevitable audience participation number ("Heaven And Hell"). But the group nails "I," "Voodoo" and "Neon Nights."