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Saddly, the last chapter of the Dio Sabbath...
on May 9, 2007
At least as far as studio albums are concerned... anyway, let's get to it: first let me tell you that my ACTUAL rating for this album would have to be 3 ½ stars (I'll explain why later), but since I cannot put that...sporting one of the goofiest album covers ever, "Dehumanizer" is the third and last studio album recorded by the Dio led Black Sabbath, but it was the second I got. Common wisdom points that one should normally buy records in chronological order in order to fully experience the evolution of the artist, and while I don't always agree with this notion, I'd say that this is one of those instances where it truly rings true.
As you can read in my review for "Heaven & Hell", I am a latter day Sabbath fan, and in my country back then, you just couldn't go into a record store and pick whichever record you wanted. You had to buy what they had or order cd's at an obscene price. So shortly after falling in love with "H&H", I wanted more, and I started to look for the other 2 Dio Sabbath releases. It would take me some 2 years to finally get "The Mob Rules"(which I ultimately HAD to order, at an obscene price, because record stores just wouldn't carry it), but I was able to find "Dehumanizer" after a few weeks of digging, and my curiosity overcame by chronological stubbornness.
So I went home to play the record hoping to find some more material like "H&H", only to be hit in the head with the unashamed, unabashed, unforgiving heaviness of "Computer God". I was totally shocked, but in a good way, mind you: I thought the music was dark and heavy, the sound potent, Dio (my ALL TIME favorite singer) in top form, Tony spewing pure darkness from his SG guitar, Geezer rocking the bottom end like I had never heard him before and Vinny Appice pummeling like there was no tomorrow. To this day, that song remains my favorite of the album and one of my favorite Dio Sab tunes overall. I just loved it! Everything was top notch: the music, the performances, the lyrics, the sound...superlative, really...
The band sounds very tight, with regained focus for the most part, and I believe the production really showcases the best that these musicians had to offer at the time. Of special notice are the lyrics of this album and its subject matter: Ronnie was going through his "angry period", which started with his own "Lock up the Wolves" and encompasses "Dehumanizer", `Strange Highways" and "Angry Machines". And it is a BIG change, since you're not gonna find his trademark dungeons and dragons fairytales here, but rather much rawer, down to earth lyrics.
The next song, "After All (The Dead)", I must admit was a bit of a surprise after such an auspicious start: very slow, very doom-y, and in all honesty, it didn't impress me as much. In time, I came to appreciate it more, but it's not one of my favorites, I must say. I thought (and I still think to this day) that it was in the wrong place, cutting dramatically the pace of the album. Something that becomes that much more obvious with the next song, the gargantuan "TV Crimes": again fast, heavy, brutal, a definite highlight. The album contains at least 3 more jewels: the swift and heavy "Time Machine", the powerful "I" and closing "Buried Alive". The former was a winner with me at first listen, and having had the privilege of catching a live performance of this song last year by Dio (the band), I really must say that it remains just as vital and powerful after all these years, while the latter also took me a little time to get, but once I got it, it became one of my favorites.
At first listen, there were 3 songs that didn't particularly attract my attention: "Letters from Earth", "Master of Insanity" and "Sins of the Father". While not scorchers like the ones I mentioned before, they keep the pace going. But to be honest with you, at first I thought they were "filler". Before you start sending death threats my way, let me define what "filler" means to me: to me, "filler" is not necessarily a bad song, but simply one that, after repeated listening, fails to catch my attention, meaning that I can't sing along the chorus (because I can't remember it), I can't hum the melody or any of its riffs. Simply put, songs that in and by themselves fail to catch my attention. And after all (no pun intended...) these years, I still think that category applies at least for "Master of...", 'cos I've grown to really like "Letters..." and "Sins...".
And if we're going to be completely honest about things, then I must also say that "Too Late" falls in this category as well: EVEN IF I LIKE IT, I still think that the song is not as good as it could (should?) have been. My guess is that they were hoping for a new "Children of the Sea" or "Sign of the Southern Cross", but this one doesn't quite cut it. The last song on this CD is an alternate version of "Time Machine" which was used for the soundtrack of the movie "Wayne's World" (possibly the original demo of the song...): for the most part, it's the same song with a few changes in the lyrics and a somewhat sleeker, cleaner, softer production which I guess was (maybe...?) an attempt to get radio airplay and exposure (?). It is good, but I honestly like the original, heavier version much better.
Now, many critics and fans alike have stated that this record sounds a little like a "Master of Reality-era kind of riffs" album with Dio singing instead of Ozzy, and while I do not fully agree with that, I must admit that they probably have a point: the music does sound a little like a throwback to the classic Ozzy-era songwriting of nasty guitar riffs. In any case, I think the music is closer to "Master of Reality" than it is to the more melodic, straightforward direction of "Heaven & Hell". But here's the thing: if you listen to the 3 Dio Sabbath albums in chronological order, the evolution DOES make sense: you'll hear the "melody meets heaviness" approach of "H&H", the "increased heaviness with melody" formula of "Mob Rules" and the "take no prisoners, heaviness first, melody second" approach of "Dehumanizer". After finally adding "The Mob Rules" to my collection, suddenly this record made perfect sense. This is by far the heaviest record of the Dio trilogy. According to an interview with Geezer on the Jan '98 issue of American magazine "Metal Edge", he came up with A LOT of the riffs for this record, specifically, A LOT of the heaviest material. After hearing what Geezer has done with his G/Z/R band, I'd say he's telling the truth!
The bottom line: as a fan, I'd give this record 4 stars because I enjoy it a whole lot, but as a (ehem...) "critic", I must also admit that it is NOT in the same category as the first 2 records from this lineup, and therefore I'd give it 3 stars. So, by making an average, I get the final rating of 3 ½ stars that I told you about at the start. (If you read my reviews for the other 2 records, you'll have more context). It is a shame that this reunion was short lived and only produced this last record, as I believe they could've given us much more.
Want proof? Look no further than the lyrics to "Computer God", written well before the advent of the internet!!! They ring even "truer" NOW than 15 years ago, when they were originally written! If you ask me, I think that this music has aged just as good as their music from their 70's heyday. But in the end, I think that the album was rushed and could've benefited from a little more pre-production: I mean, 6 great songs out of 10 is not bad, but it is a long shot from a true classic. This record is to Black Sabbath what "Perfect Strangers" was to Deep Purple: a difficult comeback record done after 10 years of not working together, and the result was just the same, only a "good" record when it should've been a GREAT record. If you're looking to get started with the Dio Sabbath, I'd suggest you go the chronological way. But if you like heavy music and you're willing to take chances...