Sunday, June 06, 2010
DIO AND SABBATH'S SECOND
Bolstered by the warm reception that Heaven and Hell received from critics and fans, Sabbath now returned strongly to the commercial arena. Always popular as a live act, their record sales had dwindled sharply from the mid 70s. Those fortunes now reversed, they carried on with an extensive tour to support Heaven and Hell. Plagued by a number of personal issues, Bill Ward abruptly quit the band before a show in the middle of the tour.
Enter Vinny Appice.
Younger brother of Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice, he brought a different approach, technique and attack to the Sabs. At the time, Tony admitted that Appice's playing gave himself and Geezer "a kick up the arse" on stage, sharpening their focus with live arrangements of both the new and "classic" material.
These changes amounted to a total overhaul in the sound and personality of the group, though it was an "apples and oranges" comparison when matched against the original line-up. Both incarnations produced work of great merit, equally enjoyable on many levels.
Striking while the proverbial iron was hot, the Anglo-American Sabbath went into the studio to record the tracks that would comprise Mob Rules. Once again, Martin Birch handled production duties and the results were impressive. A decade would pass before these four musicians collaborated on another studio recording, though we're jumping ahead a bit.
Back to 1981
Much heavier than the last set, Mob Rules kicks off with Vinny Appice applying a balpine hammer to open hi-hats, announcing the arrival of "Turn Up The Night". Setting the tone for a very compelling "side one", it has a great turnaround in the bridge with a frenetic build-up to the guitar solo. Iommi's sound is much brighter in the mix, which Birch ensures is balanced with much more "top end" than usual for Sabbath. Dio's themes deal with madness, violence and black magic blending with his standard recipe for conjuring tales out of the mist. He particularly scores on both the epic "The Sign of the Southern Cross" and the fleet-footed "Falling Off the Edge of the World", which has an inspired guitar figure with tortuous, demanding intervals.
Throw in the pulverizing title track, an incredibly fast exercise in distorted mayhem that reinforced their position as dealers of the weightiest slabs of metal in the business, and the picture is complete. Even somewhat lesser tracks ("Slipping Away", "Over and Over") still have an energy in performance that keep them afloat and give the impression that they are worthy of placement amongst the other giants on the disc.
Very fine album.
Interesting to note that the song sequence is quite similar to Heaven and Hell, which suggests that perhaps a bit of branding was afoot. It would have been interesting to see what musical course this aggregation charted next. Following the tour in support of Mob Rules, things went downhill pretty fast, leading to another major shakeup in the Sabbath camp.