Track-By-Track: Heaven And Hell – The Devil You Know
Atom And Evil
Slow doomy Sabbath at its best – a new lethargy land-speed record as the lumbering doom smashes the album opener. Dio’s voice is slow and majestic, and he has room to do more than on the uptempo direction of Dio-era Black Sabbath. Slightly reminiscent of Electric Funeral, but as if played by The Sword. The middle eight has an awesome little chugged/muted riff that makes for an awesomely powerful opener.
After the slow opener, Fear kicks off with a great riff, still slow but more haunting. Dio sounds just as demonic and charged as he ever did, and the chorus might not have the most catchy melody, but the razor-sharp guitar work makes for great listening. The lyrics aren’t super-easy to follow, but the Satanic/occult overtones suit the eerie and haunting tempo. The speed also allows Tony Iommi play slow moody solos or some double time shred.
This one opens with some nice acoustic guitar, overlaid with soaring guitar. Dio’s voice joins in at its heartfelt best – crammed full of tenderness. Then the riff kicks in… when we played this in the office everyone spun round and was like ‘fuck!’ Just a huge foot-stomping head-banging juggernaught, and the chorus sees Dio properly take flight and let the aggression start to flow. And as for the solo, Tony is shredding like a fucking madman – this is undoubtedly the Sabbath guitarist at his face-melting best. He’s playing like a man possessed. Which seems appropriate.
Double The Pain
DTP starts with a strange bass riff with buckets of phaser on, before lurching into another doomy – but more mid-tempo – sludge fest. It’s obvious that with modern science and recording techniques Iommi has bulked up his guitar sound to a dense wall. The title is repeated in a little refrain at the end of each line – more remiscent of Dio’s solo work, using the higher end of his voice. You can also hear some acoustic strumming in the mix. And again the solo is just awesome.
Rock And Roll Angel
Though downtempo, this tune has an optimistic musicality and the vocals lack the aggression of its predecessors. And in fact the riff is a more generic one, and the chorus has an almost sexy swagger to it.
The Turn Of The Screw
This one is led by such a doomy riff you’d be forgiven for thinking it was Candlemass, even though it’s a little more uptempo than much of the rest of the album. The chorus is a great forced anticlimax that takes itself soaring up just so that it can snip the end off and plunge you into the depth again. There are some great guitar-lines in the middle eight and the solo wails.
Eating The Cannibals
Ah, so there’s the tempo. The riff may not be groundbreaking but with a good solid rockin’ tempo, its welcome relief from the doom and gloom – infectious and glorious as it might be. The aggression is still here and with a couple of great solo break in between verses the pace is kept up and Mr Dio musters such devilish aggression. And the main solo AGAIN is a fucking stormer! It’s like Tony Iommi is being wanked off on MDMA. A proper headbanger!
Follow The Tears
Church organ and a distorted interspersed chug break silence. It grows. There’s a ‘Psycho’-esque string stab. It breaks and the tune falls into plodding doom which a great vocal line from RJD. This really is Heaven And Hell (Black Sabbath avec Dio) enjoying themselves. It feels like an album they WANTED to make, not like so many heritage bands whose new albums sound like shite and dull versions of former glories. And there he goes again, another wicked solo, crammed full of character – the perfect balance of scream, widdle and knife-edge chirrup.
This is one of the shorter tunes on the album, clocking in at 4:33 (the longest being nearly 7 minutes), doubtless because it’s one of the quicker tunes. Not a bad tune, but doesn’t conjure up quite the testosterone pace or glorified pessimism of the rest of the album.
Breaking Into Heaven
The album closer is much like the beginning, and huge slow doomy riff backed by ride-bell and minimal drums. With 7 minutes to play with the band take the track down to the depths and – for the chorus – right up into the clouds. And just as if to say, ‘don’t fuck with me’, one more time, Tony Iommi rips faces off with some beautifully smooth soloing. A truly epic album closer replete with ‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’-esque synth-strings adding body and dynamism to what is already a socking great tune.
A truly awesome achievement for the band who invented the genre nearly 40 years ago, to come back and deliver what will surely become one of the heavy releases of the year. And you can quote me come December.