I'll spare you the obligatory Dio/Ozzy comparison. There is no comparison. Outside of metal circles, the pop lexicon would have you believe that Black Sabbath dissolved in the late 70's. But we know better, don't we? Tony Iommi was always the nucleus of the band, and he churned out molten bollards of heavier-than-thou racket under the Black Sabbath name well into the 90's. The albums (and line-ups) varied in quality, I grant you. The general consensus is that most of the band's post-Ozzy work was goddamn stellar. In my opinion, 1980's Heaven and Hell is one of the best metal albums of all time, and I'd even go as far as to say that it rivals the eponymous debut.
I dig Born Again, Headless Cross, Tyr, Dehumanizer and The Devil You Know (nevermind the compulsory epithet; it may be filed in the "H" cabinet, but it's a Black Sabbath record). I could have chosen to review any of those sets, but here lately, The Mob Rules has been welded to my CD player. It...rules. Stylistically, it doesn't take many chances. Some of the songs are mirror images of the finest cuts on Heaven and Hell. For instance, "Turn Up the Night" and "The Sign of the Southern Cross" are tweaked reiterations of "Neon Knights" and "Children of the Sea," respectively. So why do I adore The Mob Rules? Because supremacy trumps novelty.
If your music is gnarly, it doesn't matter if you are blazing a trail of innovation. Congenial art will always supplant the vicissitudes of static stasis. Case in point, "Country Girl." It's a basic rock song in 4/4. It comes equipped with meat-and-potatoes riffage and modest lyrics. If it was performed by any other band, it would be forgettable. Obviously, Black Sabbath isn't any other band. Dio's soaring, emotive vocals play off of Vinny Appice's foot-tapping groove...Iommi fires off a tasteful solo...Geezer Butler holds down the bottom end with aplomb...I bang my head, wishing that I was talented enough to sing along. You see, it's all in the execution. "Slipping Away" is the polar opposite. It's a bluesy jam that demands unfettered improvisation. It's sick, man. SICK!
"The Sign of the Southern Cross" is a portentous ballad of epic proportions. If you don't love this tune, you're lame. It's as simple as that. The heartrending melodies of "Falling Off the Edge of the World" speak to my soul like a shrink consoling a mental patient after a particularly traumatic breakthrough. "Over and Over" is the quintessential album closer. The extended leads are downright heavenly. And yet, The Mob Rules is inferior to its predecessor by a nugatory smidge. Superfluous filler track "E5150" is the deciding factor. It doesn't add anything to the album as a whole. Plus, I tend to skip "Turn Up the Night" for two disparate reasons. A) It's too buoyant. It belongs on the soundtrack to a perky, winsome rock opera. B) "Voodoo" is killer.
Nothing else needs to be said. Fade away, fade away!