Dio-era Rules of Hell box proves Sabbath thrived after Ozzy

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, DEC. 3, 2008

By Steve Newton

Just as there are many who feel that Van Halen turned to crap when David Lee Roth left the fold, there are scads of metalheads who believe that Black Sabbath wasn’t worth shite without Ozzy Osbourne at the mike.

Screw them.

There’s no denying that when the Oz-man was given the boot from the band back in ’79 and replaced by former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio, it enjoyed a raunchy new lease on life.

That reinvigorating vibe was evident from the get-go in “Neon Knights”, the opening track on Sabbath’s first post-Ozzy outing, 1980’s Heaven and Hell. Dio’s made-for-metal voice proved the perfect foil for riffmaster Tony Iommi’s searing guitar work, and the original Sab rhythm section of bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward enthusiastically kept up the pace.

Vinny Appice took over the skins from Ward for the equally well-received (though not as good) Mob Rules of ’81, and a year later that lineup released Live Evil, a double album recorded live in Seattle, San Antonio, and Dallas, in which Dio put his vocal stamp on Sabbath classics such as “Iron Man”, “Paranoid”, and “Children of the Grave”.

Then the group broke up, only to reform again 10 years later for Dehumanizer, which garnered little attention, issued as it was at the height of the grunge uprising.

The Rules of Hell brings together all four Dio-era releases, remastered and with new liner notes, in a compact package that’s a nice companion piece to Rhino’s similarly designed, nine-disc Ozzy-era boxed set of 2004, Black Box. The successful 2007 reunion tour by the Dio-led Sabbath—renamed Heaven and Hell to avoid confusion with the original lineup—is proof that the Dio vs. Osbourne argument will continue for as long as aging headbangers can make the devil-horn sign with their arthritic fingers.

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