The name on the ticket stub may be Heaven and Hell, but that's only to avoid the wrath (and writs) of Sharon Osbourne. Every headbanger worth his devil horn's sign knows what he's really getting: a reunion of the Mark III version of Black Sabbath, the lineup that both reached for (and sometimes surpassed) the musical level of the original fearsome foursome. Ronnie James Dio (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass) and Vinny Appice (drums) only produced a three-studio/one-live-record catalogue, but what a run. With Dio arguably metal's finest voice as front man, the band took on a harder, more energetic edge. Hitting the road as H&H also allows them to wisely eschew the frankly overplayed Ozzy canon. So instead of yet another “War Pigs” or “Paranoid,” there's “Neon Knights,” “Children of the Sea” and the epochal title tracks from Heaven and Hell (which actually had Bill Ward on drums; Appice has taken over for the tour and beyond) and The Mob Rules. Fittingly, Rhino has just released the fine compilation Black Sabbath: The Dio Years, and H&H has already recorded a date on this tour for CD/DVD release. Though it inexcusably omits “The Sign of the Southern Cross,” it does feature three new tracks two of which (“The Devil Cried,” “Shadow of the Wind”) can stand along with their best, and show that Dio's dramatic voice has lost astonishingly little of its power during the ensuing years. And while the original quartet purportedly plans to regroup for a CD and tour next year, it will be this road jaunt that Sabbath fans will still be buzzing about when (and if) Ozzy ever stumbles up to the mike. With a newly-reactivated Megadeth and rising stars Machine Head filling out the bill, this should be quite a show.
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