Heaven And Hell – 40 Years Of Majestic Metal

Text by Phil Ashdown

Black Sabbath seemed well past their prime as the new decade dawned. They had finally decided to sever ties with their charismatic frontman, Ozzy Osbourne after he had become unreliable and erratic following the mediocre Technical Ecstacy album. The band and Ozzy faced an uncertain future as most people thought they were in a permanent and irreversible decline.

Guitarist Tony Iommi began to plan a new project outside the Sabbath world and contacted singer Ronnie James Dio. When the remaining members got together to discuss the future they decided to get a new singer to replace Ozzy and Dio was available following his departure from Rainbow. Dio was a complete opposite to Ozzy, in style, sound, look and indeed work ethic and things came together smoothly and quickly.

Another key ingredient came with the arrival of renowned producer Martin Birch to help with the overall sound and to help the band focus ideas. It was Dio’s suggestion to use Birch as they had worked together on Rainbow’s classic Rainbow Rising LP. The first song that Iommi and Dio wrote together was Children Of The Sea whilst the first song recorded was the stunning title track.

Iommi told Classic Rock magazine, “It was all so exciting and challenging. We were doing things that, quite frankly, would have been beyond us with Ozzy. He wasn’t that sort of singer. But with Ronnie, there were so many more options. It really did feel like we were starting all over again. And we all knew when the album was finished that it was something special. It felt right for the time, and was Black Sabbath as people had never heard us before.”

It was a concern that some die-hard Sabbath fans might not take to an album without Ozzy and an American fronting the British founders of the heavy metal sound but band members just got on with the business of making the best album they could whilst pushing the boundaries of their sound and style.

Recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami and Studio Ferber in Paris, Heaven And Hell was released on April 25, 1980. Most cynics were completely blown away and the album made it to no.9 in the UK and no.28 in America. It was the band’s best chart performance since 1975’s Sabotage.

The front cover of the album sleeve featured an image taken from a painting by artist Lynn Curlee, Smoking Angels, inspired by a 1928 photograph of women dressed as angels, smoking backstage during a college pangeant. The back cover was a group portrait drawn by artist Harry Carmean.

  1. Neon Knights
  2. Children Of The Sea
  3. Lady Evil
  4. Heaven And Hell
  5. Wishing Well
  6. Die Young
  7. Walk Away
  8. Lonely Is The Word

 

Album Line-up

Ronnie James Dio – Vocals

Tony Iommi – Guitar

Geezer Butler – Bass

Bill Ward – Drums

Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

The real acid test would be when the band took to the road, mixing up songs from the new album with those from their past. The tour started on April 17, in Germany. Iommi told Classic Rock Magazine “We knew that was also gonna be a serious test, but it helped that Ronnie was open to trying everything. He was prepared to do any of the songs chosen from our years with Ozzy. Of course, it was very different for him to be heard singing anything closely connected to Ozzy, as opposed to the new stuff. But we met this head on, and I believe we made it work. The crowds were big and, mostly, very supportive.”

The world tour started in Europe and included a sol-out four-night residency at London’s Hammersmith Odeon with Girlschool in support. As a side-note, US heavy metal band can trace their roots back to this time when the guitarist in support band Shakin’ Street, Ross The Boss met Sabbath bass tech Joey DiMaio at a UK show, becoming friends and forming Manowar soon after. However things would soon take a less positive tone when long-time drummer Bill Ward quit after four months of touring due to health problems. At Dio’s suggestion he was quickly replaced by Vinny Appice, the younger brother of celebrated drummer Carmine.

In his place, the band went for Vinny Appice, younger brother of the more celebrated drummer Carmine Appice. He fitted in really well and soon became a real powerhouse alongside bassist Geezer Butler, a more true ‘rock’ drummer than Bill’s jazz style of playing. The only songs from Heaven And Hell not played during this tour were Wishing Well and Walk Away. During the North American leg Sabbath Co-headlined most of their shows with Blue Oyster Cult as the two bands shared the same manager, Sandy Pearlman. The shows were a huge success with high attendances. As the tour progressed friction between the two bands increased over which band should close the show and the logistics of staging both group’s impressive props and lighting. Iommi soon decided to fire Pearlman after the tour’s conclusion.

Touring Line-up

Ronnie James Dio – Vocals

Tony Iommi – Guitar

Geezer Butler – Bass

Bill Ward (Replaced by Vinny Appice) – Drums

Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

It’s now 40 years since this album first astonished metal fans across the globe, in the process giving Sabbath a rebirth and is now rightly regarded as a classic.

Mick Wall noting in his book Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe: “For once their timing was spot on. In Britain, Sounds magazine had begun championing a new musical phenomenon it dubbed ‘The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ – The reborn Black Sabbath, with their glistening new sound, incomparable new singer and top-drawer new album, were seen as part of a widespread revival in rock fandom.”

 

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