Dio's Last Stand: Heaven & Hell Live In Europe

Heaven & Hell Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell Live in Europe Eagle Vision, 150 minutes, $14.98.

When Black Sabbath 3.0 got together a few years back to record some new material for The Dio Years compilation, neither Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, nor Vinny Appice probably thought it would lead to two years of touring, and one live and one studio recording apiece, under the Heaven & Hell moniker.

The name change was a smart move. Fans knew what material they would get - and did so during incredible shows - and the band didn't have to drag out "Paranoid" and "Iron Man." About the only losers were Sharon Osbourne's lawyers, visions of billable hours dancing in their heads.

Filmed in July 2009 at Germany's huge Wacken Festival, Neon Nights is also unwittingly the band's swan song, with Dio's death this past May closing the book on this unit.

Although it has much historical value as the singer's last filmed performance, the overall music and performance quality suffers in comparison to 2007's Live at Radio City Music Hall.

Dio's voice is noticeably more tempered and not as strong, and the Butler/Iommi combination plays with the stoicness of a group that, by this filming, had plenty of stage time under its belt but lacked the something-to-prove fire of the previous DVD.

And while highlights include "The Mob Rules," "I," "Time Machine" and "Country Girl," the very understandable inclusion of several numbers from the then-new The Devil You Know simply don't stack up. Even the all quick-cuts camera work sometimes distracts.

However, hardcore fans will find much to appreciate in the bonus material. The first section features lengthy interviews with all four members, who pull no punches about the band and each other. Similar questions can elicit completely different, but fascinating responses.

A second section features brief but heartfelt tributes to Dio by the surviving members, with the revelation that another studio record was planned. A separate companion CD deletes "E5150" and "Country Girl" from the track listings.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero