The Devil You Know (Rhino)
By Mike Delano
Changing names seems to have emboldened Heaven and Hell, the group formerly known as “Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio.” On this, their first studio album under the new moniker, there’s a cohesiveness and mood that’s more prevalent than on 1992’s Dehumanizer or even the Sabb/Dio group’s two classic ’80s albums, which often felt like collections of songs with little to tie them together. The sound of The Devil You Know sounds like a real band with moving parts and an identity to forge: Dio and Tony Iommi dig in and really air out their storytelling and riff-writing in extended compositions that frequently push the six-minute mark. They allow themselves to cut loose, and mining the album for its inspired guitar bits and Dio-being-Dio moments provides the most pleasure. But the good stuff is fleeting, lost as it is amongst meandering compositions with few memorable moments. The two best songs; the sleek, modern guitar work of “Rock and Roll Angel” (which features a killer solo) and the fast, focused “Eating the Cannibals,” are both (if you couldn’t tell by the titles) torpedoed by insipid lyrics that are made even more cringe-worthy by Dio’s crystal-clear delivery. The old Sabb/Dio albums may’ve just felt like a bunch of songs, but those songs were always far better than the ones here.