Black Sabbath’s 1981 album Mob Rules’ is easily as strong as ‘Heaven And Hell’, with not a poor track on offer, and most importantly a renewed sense of purpose.
Written by: Dangerzone
ARTIST: Black Sabbath
ALBUM: Mob Rules
SERIAL: 6302 119
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Ronnie James Dio – vocals * Tony Iommi – guitar * Geezer Butler – bass * Bill Ward – drums
Additional Musicians: Geoff Nicholls – keyboards
TRACK LISTING: 01 Turn Up The Night * 02 Voodoo * 03 The Sign Of The Southern Cross * 04 E5150 * 05 The Mob Rules * 06 Country Girl * 07 Slipping Away * 08 Falling Off The Edge Of The World * 09 Over And Over
WEBLINKS: Site Link
When Ozzy Osbourne left Black Sabbath in 1979 the naysayers were immediately upfront claiming Ozzy could never be replaced. You could see their point, Sabbath among the leaders of 70’s metal, one of the prime movers of the genre. Even die hard Sabs would have to concede that 1978’s ‘Never Say Die’ wasn’t all that impressive, the original lineup running out of creativity in all departments.
When ex Rainbow vocalist Ronnie Dio was employed by Iommi many thought it was a disaster in the making, why it is not certain, considering the brilliance of Dio’s Rainbow work. 1980’s ‘Heaven And Hell’ silenced many, hailed as Black Sabbath’s best work since ‘Sabotage’ five years earlier (I prefer 76’s ‘Technical Ecstacy’), with a return to the heaviness and urgency of the early years.
Dio had restored Sabbath’s tag as metal heavyweights through crucial and instant classics like ‘Neon Knights’ and the title cut. Obviously there was immense anticipation as to whether or not Black Sabbath could repeat this with ‘Mob Rules’ a year later, but there was no question that they would, the album reaching the same heights musically as its predecessor.
‘Turn Up The Night’ is a basic extension of Sabbath’s traditional sound, Iommi’s dirge like riffing and Butler’s pumping bass, but with a higher sense of energy and purpose than much of Osbourne’s work. The pace is rapid and the single attacking riff is instantly memorable.
Reminiscent of Dio’s later solo work is the beastly crunch of ‘Voodoo’, far slower, the riffs impossibly heavy. Dio’s vocals fit perfectly, adding a necessary grit, complimenting the similar music. A veritable monster. Moving into epic material is the seven minute plus ‘Sign Of The Southern Cross’. Opening with a slow acoustic intro, things pick up predictably, but thankfully, with a foreboding mid section, vintage Black Sabbath doom.
Maintaining the impressive momentum is the title track, another speedy number, containing another huge, lumbering Iommi riff, with an excellent solo around the one and a half minute mark. Perfect three minute metal. ‘Country Girl’ lacks the drive of the previous belters, a problem ‘Slipping Away’ mends, with a higher pitched melody, not as grim perhaps, a nice sytlistic variance.
No matter how many times I hear ‘Falling Off The Edge Of The World’, it sounds like early Sabbath, 1970 or 71 to be precise. The various passages, notably the main kick in at the two minute point have all the attributes that any Black Sabbath fan could have possibly craved. The sound was more intact than ever. Ozzy could have sung on this and you would never have thought he had left.
Ending matters is the melancholic ballad ‘Over And Over’, with Geoff Nicholls keyboards sticking out in the mix. Iommi’s gut wrenching solo is the main attraction, his overall performance among the mans best.
It’s almost impossible to comprehend how much Dio had renergised Sabbath. Clearly he had a major influence on the other band members at a time when Sabbath’s future had been in doubt. ‘Mob Rules’ is easily as strong as ‘Heaven And Hell’, with not a poor track on offer, and most importantly a renewed sense of purpose. What a tragedy it was then when Dio left the band in 1982 after internal disruption within the ranks, one can only wonder what heights Black Sabbath would have scaled had they performed Dio’s first two solo albums instead.
Maybe then they wouldn’t have had to play second fiddle to Ozzy, even though the diluted lineups of the 80’s continued to release some worthwhile efforts (reviewed here elsewhere), Dio even returning for 1992’s ‘Dehumanizer’. ‘Mob Rules’ can easily be hailed as a masterpiece, the intervening twenty two years only proving how lacking todays acts appear to be in comparison.
Falling Off The Edge Of The World