Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Black Sabbath put out so many monumental albums before Ozzy Osbourne's 1979 sacking that the band could've folded there and still remained metal's most influential force ever. As it happens, Sabbath persisted for 29 post-Ozzy years with a bevy of new singers (not counting the occasional Osbourne reunion) and drummers, but only one of those replacement frontmen—Ronnie James Dio—had the range, vision, and sheer presence to eclipse Ozzy's work. Though Dio rejoined the band (now doing business as Heaven & Hell) in 2006, The Rules Of Hell collects all Sabbath's earlier Dio-era work—1980's Heaven And Hell, 1981's Mob Rules, 1982's Live Evil, and this incarnation's own 1992 reunion disc, Dehumanizer—in a long-overdue domestic remastering. The first two albums, which find Dio's voice powering Sabbath's riff-saturated thunder into epic new vistas, are reason enough to fork over for the box. Live Evil, though a well-executed concert recording/hits package, ironically just shows how poorly suited Ozzy's monotone lines are for the multi-octave Dio. And Dehumanizer, in spite of its reported million-dollar recording budget, just sounds lifeless and forced, with nary a memorable riff to be found. Still, even a mediocre Dio-helmed album crushes anything Sabbath did after and without the man.


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