Black Sabbath - Mob Rules
On November 4, 1981, "Mob Rules", Black Sabbath's tenth studio album, was released.
This album proved that the huge success of the previous album, Heaven And Hell, was not accidental or one-off shot. This is the band's second album with Ronnie James Dio and it certainly does not fall short and may even surpass some of the albums from the band's golden age with singer Ozzy Osbourne.
This is the band's first album with drummer Vinny Appice replacing Bill Ward during the Heaven And Hell tour, due to his addiction issues. Vinny was a big fan of Bill Ward and was well acquainted with all of Ward's drumming roles and his drumming style, so he got into his big shoes immediately and smoothly.
We can say that on this album the band continues with the same successful formula that characterized the previous album, only taking it one step further with heavier riffs, faster and more technical playing by Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler and the empowerment of the dark atmosphere that also hovers over the entire album. Sticking to the formula of the previous album was not only in the musical line, but also in the mix of songs and their distribution across the album. For example, on both albums the opening song is short and energetic ("Turn Up the Night" vs. "Neon Knights") and the song that seals the album is slower and calmer ("Over and Over" vs. "Lonely Is the Word"). In addition in both albums the theme song is the one that seals the first side of the vinyl and in both there is also a more dynamic and complex epic song ("Children of the Sea" versus "The Sign of the Southern Cross").
Immediately after completing the tour that accompanied their previous album Heaven And Hell, the band received an offer from producers of the cult film "Heavy Metal" to record a song for the soundtrack. The band was in England at the time. They used the house where John Lennon's music video for the song Imagine was filmed, to write and record the song. The band managed to write the theme song "Mob Rules" that day and the next day a version of the song was recorded and found it's way to the movie soundtrack that came out that year. This is a slightly different version of the song which was re-recorded as part of the recording session for the album. It is interesting to note that the film "Heavy Metal" also included an initial version of the instrumental track "E5150" which is a part of the film, but was not part of the album soundtrack.
The band later flew to the United States and rented a house in the Toluca Lake area of Los Angeles to write and record the material for the album. The initial intention was to record the album independently in a private studio that the band would set up, and for this purpose the band purchased a console and recording equipment. However, the band failed to get the right sound, especially that of Tony Iommi's guitar, which caused them to give up on the idea and turn to "Record Plant" studios in Los Angeles to record the album.
The album opens with 4 quick taps on Vinny Appice's hai-hat which dictates the rhythm to the song "Turn Up the Night". An energetic and powerful song that is characterized by Iommi's fast and technical guitar playing and Butler's heavy and rolling bass. Notice Iommi's little touches with the short guitar sentences that alternately separate the sentences in Dio's singing. There is no shadow of a doubt that the band tried to recreate the magic of the opening track from the previous album "Neon Knights", with even the title of the song rhyme the same, but we definitely have no problem with that, a bomb shell of song, period!
From there we move on to one of the darkest songs on the album as also the title, "Voodoo". Although the song is led by Iommi's Catchy riff, it is Butler's bass playing here that is simply wonderful. Vinny Appice keeps pace with his hammer blows thrusting into our guts and the melodic singing of Dio is so beautiful and mesmerizing that we don’t even notice he threatens to burn us if we say we don’t know him: "Say You Don’t Know Me You Burn…."
The third track is one of the most beautiful on the album. "The Sign of the Southern Cross" is an epic and dynamic piece on the progressive border, lasting almost 8 minutes. The track opens with Iommi's quiet acoustic and Dio's caressing voice, as at 1:16 this serenity is interupted with Iommi's slow riff. What is amazing here is that the verses in this song are held almost entirely by the drums, when the guitar and bass have almost no roles. The transition section starts from 4:05 minute is very special and includes a cruise of Iommi's guitar between the left and right speakers with a direct connection to his crazy solo in which the guitar sound is just perfect. The song ends with a fade-out that connects with Fade-in to the instrumental track "E5150" which means EVIL in Roman letters (5 is V 1 is I and 50 is L), and this experimental and psychedelic section does sound dark and frighting.
The Track "E5150" is a kind of a bridge to the theme song "Mob Rules" which begins immediately at the end. This is the first single from the album that also seals the first side in a heavy, aggressive and perfect way.
The other side of the album opens with "Country Girl" and Iommi's slow guitar riff dragging this whole song down to the amazing and melodic transition section at 1:30, and what a beauty is the combination between Dio's singing and Iommi's howling guitar, just sheer pleasure!
"Slipping Away" make it very difficult for us not to notice the obvious influences from "Led Zeppelin". Listen to the short bass lines that just take the lead from the guitar in some parts of the song. And the guitar solo... Just Wow!! what an adorable solo, a duel between Butler and Iommi who takes the lead alternately from each other.
From here we move on to the breaking and breathtaking track "Falling Off The Edge Of The World" which begins with a slow, quiet and melodic playing, which gradually increases to a heavy riff that just explodes at 2:06 with Iommi's crazy riff. And again it's hard not to make the comparison to the energetic rhythm in the corresponding track from the previous album "Die Young".
The song that seals the album "Over and Over" is a classic blues-rock track with long solos, the last of which lasts "Over and Over" until the end of the song.
We do not have a bad word to say about this amazing album, which in our opinion did not get the appreciation it deserves, probably in light of the fact that it fell the shadow of the previous masterpiece as well as the slightly problematic production. The person who produced this amazing album is none other than the super producer Martin Birch, but in this case he was not at his peak in the face of the fact that at the time he was trying to get over his drug addiction.
Unfortunately this album was the band's second and final with vocalist Ronnie James Dio, until reunion a decade later in 1992 with the album Dehumanizer. Immediately after the release of the album, friction between the band members will arise over the fact that "Dio" received an offer from "Warner" to release a solo album. This friction will intensify during the mixes for the live album "Live Evil" and at it's peak Dio and drummer Vinnie Appice will leave the band and form with bassist Jimmy Bain (Dio's friend from "Rainbow"), and with then young and unknown guitarist - Vivian Campbell, the band "Dio".