Black Sabbath: The Dio Years is a 2007 compilation CD of material from recordings made during vocalist Ronnie James Dio‘s tenure in the band. The CD contains full album length, remastered tracks culled from all three studio albums: Heaven and Hell (1980), Mob Rules (1981), Dehumanizer (1992), and the live album Live Evil (1982). It also contains three new recorded songs: “The Devil Cried“, “Shadow of the Wind”, and “Ear in the Wall”.
Neon Knights—-You notice, with many of the Dio compositions with the band, that the trademark heavy sludge of Ozzy era Sabbath is missing. This sound is clearer and crisper…and delivered with a much faster pace. Ronnie sounds remarkable…that trademark vocal and lyrical imagery reminding me how much I miss the man. This is a fantastic track…the ebbs and flows are remarkable…still allowing for the Iommi bass line but making it more accessible.
Lady Evil—-A great drum intro to the song ushers in a nice throwback sound to 80’s Heavy Metal. Ronnie delivers lyrics that were to become trademark to his career….mystical and magical. The band lends a hand on the chorus…filling out the track. The musical clarity is fantastic…I can almost see Ronnie on the stage with his wide arm gesturing that he was known for.
Heaven And Hell—-With a bit of return to the classic Sabbath sound, this has a remarkable melody line that will stick in your head. The intro leads to the clear and crisp vocal from Dio….painting a picture that flows right through your headphones. There are magnificent power chords on this track that are all in the right place….they magically fall away to allow for the vocal…and the chorus is huge. I love this version of Black Sabbath. The track gives way to an all out jam session that speeds everything up to a frantic pace…..but Ronnie never falters. Extraordinary.
Die Young—-Seeming to offer up a bit more band technology with the intro to this track, the music swirls and swirls to reach the apex of the beginning. The guitars and drums enter and the track is off to a nice faster pace and energy. The imagery that Dio paints with his lyrics are unlike any songwriter at that time. The energy of the song is incredible…as are the ebbs and flows of the music. Dio almost whispers the intro to the chorus….giving everything a mystic feel….and then we return to magical Metal.
Lonely Is The Word—-Beginning with a huge blast of guitars, the slow sludge of early Sabbath compositions are missing…even though you feel Iommi through the entire track. This has never been a favorite track of mine, but it stands on its own if for nothing but the soaring vocal from Dio.
The Mob Rules—-Again with the crisp guitar sound beginning the song…and then the growl from hell as Dio kicks off the track. The song is really fast…with a damn catchy melodic line flowing through the entire thing. Tony has a very prominent and loud bass line that plays through the whole track…but never drowns out the crisp modern guitars. This is just fantastic….
Turn Up The Night—-Returning to a deeper bass heavy melody line, the chug chug of the Iommi sound is nice to hear. Dio sounds so good on this track…you notice you can catch every single word that he utters which is remarkable for Heavy Metal. There is a literal wall of sound playing through this track…but every section shines and no one suffers.
Voodoo—-Again, the power chords are strong when the song begins but fall away to allow for the train like bass to drive the song. This has never been a favorite track of mine…and even here on this collection it sounds a bit dated and stuck in time. Thank God for the remarkable vocal….keeps me coming back.
Falling Off The Edge Of The World—-With an odd really tender beginning, Dio begins his vocal in an almost tender manner. The swirling string lines are accompanied by a strong drum intro but the track is very slow to really start. I really didn’t expect to hear that familiar Sabbath sludge to come out of the slight beauty….but the murky darkness is there…then the crisp guitars enter and send to track off to a fast pace as you feel everything brighten up. There are many moods and shifts on this track…the one wonderful constant is Ronnie’s voice.
After All [The Dead]—-Beginning the trio of my favorite tracks from Dio era Sabbath, this track really hearkens back to the early days of the band with the deep, slow and methodical sludge that the band was known for. Dio enters with a vocal that I can really hear Osbourne singing to be honest. The track is huge…with constant down shifts on the bass that remains a constant despite it. It is the simple part of the song when Dio utters…’After All’ that makes the track for me. This is a masterpiece.
TV Crimes—-Back to a full and dramatic rhythm section with the steam engine bass playing leading the track. The vocal is fantastic…Dio is so clear and concise and sounds so big for such a little guy. The energy of this track is contagious as hell….giving you the urge to just sit and jam the fuck out. This is one of the bands best concoctions in my opinion. It has the best of everything that made this band a monster.
I—-Hands down, my favorite Dio-era Sabbath track. I love the vocal inflections…I can see Ronnie on the stage with his remarkable gesturing…and his ability to take over a stage with his presence. The remarkable bass line that begins the song…is classic Sabbath…while Dio rises above it with his voice. The guitars enter and the song becomes so large. This is fantastic….I could listen to this song over and over and over again. Everything about it is classic!
Children Of The Sea [Live]—-A classic and oft played version of this track, this could have well been a classic Dio track….indeed he played it many times live when he was on is own. This is trademark Dio fodder….the remarkable thing is the power of the voice…even in a live setting…rising well above the instruments and filling the audience with the grandiose track. The melody line is fantastic…and transcends so well live…..just incredible.
The Devil Cried—-Recorded during the re-vamped Dio era Heaven And Hell and towards the end of the legends life, this is still magnificent.Its hard to believe when you listen to the track that 1] Dio was ill and 2] that the band ever took a break from recording. The sound is much fuller….but ebbs to allow for the mystical and magical vocal to enter. Dio just sounds magnificent….crisp and clear…even though you recognize some double tracks going on. But the track as a whole from Musicality to song content…..is a true winner.
Shadow Of The Wind—-Deeper in sound and energy, Iommi has a bass style that is so huge…the sound literally shakes my headphones. The sludge and slow stepping pace of the music hearkens back to classic Sabbath sound…..but Dio makes his mark none the less….double tracked vocals are a surprise…and the lack of energy is a bit apparent….but a great track none the less.
Ear In The Wall—-Faster and full of undeniable energy, this starts quick right out of the gate. The drums are huge…and the bass chug chug chug is incredible. Dio sounds a bit less than inspired…but he delivers regardless…..again we have double tracked vocals…which on 13 was a new thing…but leans towards Ronnie’s declining health. This is really nice….but not a favorite of mine.
****1/2 out of 5