Sound: A compilation of greatest hits compiled from the four albums recorded by Black Sabbath during its years with frontman Ronnie James Dio. Included are the prime cuts from three studio albums -- Heaven And Hell, The Mob Rules, and Dehumanizer, and one selection from the live disc, Live Evil. Also included are three brand new tracks -- "The Devil Cried, Shadow Of The Wind, and Ear In The Wall.
The sound is powerful, potent, and well-produced. The original tracks were carefully remixed to bring out all the finer nuances that may not have been as obvious and easily heard on the vinyl editions. The new songs just make listeners yearn to hear even more. You can't help but want to crank up the volume, pump your fist, and play this one over and over again from start to finish. Tony Iommi is definitely at the top of his game, and Ronnie James Dio -- one of the greatest voices in the business -- demonstrates just why he got this gig in the first place. Geezer Butler's bass tightly holds the bottom end while drummers Bill Ward (on Heaven And Hell) and Vinny Appice (on all three other discs) drive the band into what had been uncharted territory for Sabbath at the time. The intensity, excitement and magic these musicians create together just shines right through. // 10
Lyrics: Many people automatically compare anything released under the Sabbath name to material the group created with its original line-up. Dio's style and subject matter is clearly quite different from that of original frontman Ozzy Osbourne. In the Dio era, he became the primary lyricist and a very significant contributor in writing the material. His lyrics always have a diverse and recognizable style which suit his masterful vocals ideally. When Dio collaborates with Iommi and Sabbath, the results of their labor are monumental -- memorable songs with the staying power to last for generations, though very different from the early Osbourne era, but equally inspirational and influential to followers of the genre. From the earliest tracks they wrote together, like the melodic and commercial gems Neon Knights and Children Of The Sea to bludgeoning creations like I, to the three newly born songs, everything flows with impeccable continuity, and the material created by this assemblage is some of Sabbath's best ever. // 10
Overall Impression: Timeless and refreshing. It's rare that you put on a greatest hits CD and it sounds new and fresh, even though you obviously know the songs. That is the case with Black Sabbath: The Dio Years. The songs are just as relevant today as they were when they were originally released in the '80s, and somehow, they do not sound dated, like many greatest hits collections do that simply take you back to recall a particular period in time. That said, perhaps this music was just ahead of its time, or with the resurgence of metal, audiences are ready and hungry for it. While it's possible that this disc may not have been appreciated or praised by unfamiliar audiences if it had been released during the grunge or nu-metal eras, timing for its release now is appropriate, and the songs are still first-rate amongst the metal of today. Though there's no denying that early Sabbath played an essential role in shaping the sound of hard rock and heavy metal, in listening to the tracks from the Dio era, you can hear just how much this incarnation of Sabbath had also influenced much of today's metal and so many bands that emerged in between the early days of the original lineup and present day metal.
As a teen, I grew up listening to these songs on vinyl, playing them endlessly. But once CDs became the standard format, all the vinyl got tucked away and many much-loved albums were either retired and repurchased on CD, or waited in the wings to be remastered and released on CD. Well, now the wait is finally over, and it's well worth grabbing this disc. This is a long overdue package that acknowledges some of Sabbath's strongest material -- tracks that enabled the band to grow dynamically, as well as to achieve commercial success and lead the next generation of metalheads into a new decade. The three new tracks are most definitely a special treat and they fit in perfectly with the rest of the album. It's as if the band picked up exactly where they had left off 14 years ago. No disrespect to Ozzy, but let's hope that the guys decide to keep the party going and record a full-length album of new material together. For now, metal fans have this one to savor. It's a must-have. // 10