by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

The Devil You Know (Rhino)

Better than Dehumanizer, better than the three introductory new tracks last year (actually those were pretty cool), but not as good as the sparkly Heaven And Hell or the thundering, blustery Mob Rules, The Devil You Know pretty much delivers the good and expected outcome, and not one possible and reasonable outcome, an album that is altogether too slow and/or too cheesed horror. Old fans gripe, that likely gone are the days of surprises and crazy arrangements, circa '73 to '78, and yes, the one surprise that was the album Heaven And Hell (as we know, Mob Rules was not too much of a surprise, nor was Dehumanizer - if you tacked it temporally onto the Dio catalogue). Still, there is much to celebrate here. First, the production is huge, thick and clean, Geezer quite up front, Vinnie's drums less so but impossibly groovy and perfectly recorded from bass drum up through the toms, snare and those swingin' ride cymbals. That said, this is Vinnie's simplest performance on either a Dio or Sabbath record. Still, he's just so incredibly in the pocket, and everything he hits is perfect for the part. Ronnie is singing gorgeously, with passion and thespian enunciation, and his lyrics are the best of his career - dark, cynical, poetic, cannily abstract, mature to his years like Ian Gillan. Tony's solos are Hammett-bubbly and excessive, of one type (again, contrast with the wayward creativity of the mid to late Oz years), serving to propel the songs with an aggressive, more is more scratch and bite, his vague abstractions from the blues proving enigmatic and comfortably traditional of Tony. Riffs? Too much doom and not enough of both speed and melody. Proof, at least for this listener, is that I slake thirstily all the little shafts of light, like the little twist in the 'Eating The Cannibals' riff, or for anything uptempo like 'Neverwhere', on which Vinnie again, just rolls with it like the best of Bill Ward. Keep the doom songs but I question the need for drone-y, detachable doom intros to mid-paced rockers, such as in 'Double The Pain', a chugging highlight to the record. Elsewhere, 'Rock And Roll Angel' meets the title halfway, offering a melodic psych intro, used again for the chorus, before a killer connecting soulful break - could have used more of this type of reach out, of which 'Die Young' has always been a passion-played example. 'The Turn Of The Screw' is the weirdest thing on the album, as close to party rock as this dour bunch is gonna get. But yeah, the extent of arrangement? A throwaway bit of acoustic guitar, an effect on Geezer's bass, some distant, occasional backing vocals and a spot of churchy organ. The rest is relentless, pulverizing doom metal, safely and exactly - exactly - as expected, with enough mid-tempo and moderately fast stuff to not cause a complete revolution by the fanbase, 'The Bible Black' being a deadly example of how the down-speed stuff can be dramatic and thrilling and imposing, 'Breaking Into Heaven'... by the end of ten tracks being beaten up, something that sloggy is just too much to bear (ha ha... but if you can get there, it picks up and therein is housed Iommi's best solo of the record). All told, give it time and patient plays though, and what will pour out of this record is a ton of cool, professional moves coming deep into the tracks, and I think most fans will come away pretty damn impressed, even if, like I say, no one is gonna be surprised in the least.
Rating 8

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