By this point, I hardly think I need to remind any GD’er of what I think about Ozzy-era Black Sabbath. So sure am I that you remember what I wrote on this topic, I’m not even gonna share the obligatory self-fellating links to my relevant articles (and you know how much I love some self-fellatio). Yeah, you’re welcome. Instead, I’m just going to dive into the history behind 1992’s “Dehumanizer”, which is a an interesting one, to say the least; the magical midget with the throat of gold, Mr. Ronnie James Dio himself (R.I.P.), replaced the Ozzman as Sabb’s vocalist for a short while in the 80’s, reviving the band’s sagging career with “Heaven and hell”/“The mob rules”, before tensions with Tony & Geezer over creative control lead him to leave to start his solo band, taking talented “Mob rules” drummer Vinny Appice with him (Bill Ward had already jumped ship inbetween the recording of H&H and “rules”).
Sabbath continued their new streak of successes (and short-lived stints with classic lead singers) with Deep Purple’s Ian Gillian on Born again in ’83, but he soon left as well, Sabbath went on hiatus, and Iommi gathered a separate lineup for his first solo release, working with another former DP vocalist, Glenn Hughes, on ’86’s “Seventh star”. But Warner Bros. refused to release “star” as a solo album, billing it as “Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi” on the artwork, making it BSINO (Black Sabbath In Name Only), as opposed to Heaven And Hell, Black Sabbath In Everything But Name. Heh? Anyway, the rest of Sabbath’s releases from then ‘til “Dehumanizer” were mostly-irrelevant records with Tony Martin on vocals, until Iommi ‘n Dio again crossed paths during the latter’s “Lock up the wolves” tour in ’90, which got the two interested in working together again, and 2 years later, the record you hear now was born (again?). And they all lived evilly ever after, right? Well, not quite…
You see, while a surprise reunion of the “Mob rules” lineup sounded like a dream come true (I have warmed up to MR since reviewing; sorry sly!), the actual music they ended up making definitely leaves something to be desired. The only major prob is a persistent sluggishness to the songwriting, but it’s still a big enough constraint to hold the record back a considerable amount. And I don’t think it was anintentional kind of slowness either, ala the proto-doom metal stylings the Ozzy era tended to dabble in, but rather, more of an unplanned reveal of Sabbath’s age, a band that not only was old, but kind ofsounded old too. It’s like the songs were designed by another band to work in “5th gear”, but Sabbath can only play ‘em in 3rd, and even the fastest song here, “TV crimes”, could do with some more urgency. There’s really nothing else wrong here, but considering how much the peak of the Dio-era, “Heaven and hell”, benefited from Dio & Tony working together to craft a perkier sound for Sabbath, it was a disappointment to hear them dragging their feet like this 12 years onward, age issues aside.
Still, there’s enough good stuff that, while “Dehumanizer” doesn’t quite overcome the energy issue, it still makes this mildly enjoyable, and work checking out at least once; the songs are smartly constructed (tempos notwithstanding), Tony’s riffs are plenty heavy, (pretty) catchy, and still have that unique personality that made their performer such an icon, and of course, Dio still sounds great, even pushing 50. And you gotta dig the slow, creeping tempos of “After all (the dead)”, “Letters from earth”, and “Buried alive”, where it actually sounds like they meant to go slower, and makes them sound a lot more natural. Also, regardless of any other issues here, it’s still intriguing to hear a darker, heavier spin on the generally-lighter Dio era (especially with the nihilistic lyrics), so that’s another positive in “Dehumanizer”‘s corner.
But, it is ultimately funny; The Metal Gods timed a horse accident just right so drummer Cozy Powell had to bow out from recording this, necessitating his replacement with Appice, but when it came to the full “Mob rules” lineup fully living up to expectations, They were either indifferent, or impotent. O Halford, why hast Thou forsaken us?! All crying over spilled milk aside, the much more recent “Devil you know” was hardly perfect as well, so as long as your expectations are held in check, you should found “Dehumanizer” a basically-decent epilogue to the Dio era. It’s too bad renewed inner-band tensions fated this one to be just a one-off reunion, especially considering it gave them their biggest success stateside in almost a decade, but it’s still interesting to check out… just start off your Dio era with “Heaven and hell” first, then dig up the moderate buried pleasure here.