I broke down, gave in, caved . . . I bought the new Black Sabbath box today, the very cheesily titled Rules of Hell, which begs the question: is the Dio-Sabbath era band trying to overcompensate for something with their one-uppings themselves in “evilness”? Really, doesn’t this sound pretty ridiculous? OOoooh, the rules of hell, huh? You know, I don’t recall the Ozzy-era Sabbath having to be this overtly evil – they just were perceived that way.
I’m getting off the point. I’d wanted to wait and see what the consensus was, sound-wise, before diving in. But then I gave Heaven & Hell and Mob Rules, two great albums, a listen today. And that’s when I decided to flip a finger at the loudness wars for one time – these two albums, or at least these two widely-available pressings of these two CDs, sound like ass, and the tracks from these on The Dio Years best-of last year sound pretty damn great in comparison. Loud? Yes, but not ridiculously so. “Ballsy” is a term I don’t know that I’ve ever uttered, but that’s a great way to put it. The original of H&H is weird sounding – thin, little bass presence, with an odd EQ that does not flatter it. This, surely, is not the way the album was meant to sound. Mob Rules just has a husky flatness to it that I have never enjoyed. The music is great, but the presentation is pretty bad. Maybe there are some sins committed in the name of modern mastering with The Rules of Hell, but I’ll take the big, beefy bass and clarity over the tinny anemia of the older issues.
As for Dehumanizer? Well, it didn’t really need to be remastered, but it has similarly been beefed-up, bass-wise. It’s not awful, but it seems unnecessary – the album sounded fine. I guess, if you have to apply some logic to it, it fits in, sound-wise, with the other two albums now, despite being recorded a decade later. I can’t say much about Live Evil, never having heard it before, but it lives up to its reputation as a sadly crippled live album – it was born with bad sound, and no amount of remastering, EQing, or other mysterious massaging can help it. It’s just an oddity. Glad to have it, but it’s no match for the Rhino Handmade Live At Hammersmith, that’s for sure.
Once in a while you just have to throw your hands up in submission. I give a big shrug here to audiophiles that might want to be snarky about the old Dio-Sabbath CDs being superior to these. Maybe you have some old, expensive Japanese or West German imports that blow these away, but I don’t feel like spending months of my time and $40 each to procure them. $35 to get all five discs here in very listenable versions sounds like a deal to me.