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Black Sabbath - Mob Rules

By: Frank Hill
Published: Monday, April 12, 2004
It may be overshadowed by its predecessor, Heaven And Hell, but 1981's, Mob Rules has always been one of my favorite Black Sabbath records; really one of my favorite metal CDs of all time. The starkness of its production belies the artistry that comes from this record and it succeeds due to the sheer talent that each individual brings to the table. One could say that it was all done before with Heaven And Hell, but I think this one is a little more consistent. Though it is a bookend to the other, I'm gonna look at Mob Rules on its own.

Nobody can match Tony Iommi who crafts metallic riffs that are simple in structure, yet completely distill the spirit of the purest heavy metal. Ronnie Dio is more than able to fill a departed Ozzy's shoes with his incredible voice. Vinny Appice, who would later depart to join Dio's solo career, and Geezer Butler lay down the solid bedrock foundation.

"Turn Up the Night" is an upbeat opener, not the strongest of the tracks, but also not unlikable. "Voodoo" really starts to bring the evil into the record. The first of the 5 minute+ epics is "Sign of the Southern Cross". It's an expansive doomy number of evil power; a plundering mass that leads into the havoc of the taut single "Mob Rules". "Country Girl" continues the mastery of the CD with a descending riff that adds an extra touch of darkness to the descriptive tale of a woman that all guys have some familiarity with--the hypnotic succubus who brings damnation along with her beauty. "Slipping Away" picks up the rhythmic pace similar to the first number. After a soft intro, the second of the longer epics, "Falling off the Edge of the World", is bombastic menace until it changes into the panic of the main riff. It's the madness of millions of terror-stricken individuals watching a 10,000 foot high Lovecraftian monster slowly descending from a crack in the sky. "Over and Over" finally completes the album. It's a slower metallic blues number that stands uniquely with the prior numbers. To anybody who feels that Tony Iommi is all about playing riffs--listen to the solos on this one. Dio adds internal pain to lyrics like:

        Too many flames with too much to burn
        And life's only made of paper
        Oh, how I need to be free of this pain
        But it goes over, and over, and over, and over again

Most modern metal CDs have a muti-layered sound with dozens of harmonized guitars and multi-overdubs that create a wall of sound. At times, I wish bands would take a leaner approach the way Sabbath did back in the day, but it takes a lot of skill to have power in simplicity.

Mob Rules is a timeless disc that would go well in any metalhead's collection.

Let me also note the fantastic cover by fantasy artist Hildebrandt. A conquering mob with faces obscured, is standing with an outstreched skin(?); it's bloodstains upon closer inspection display a demonic head that is fairly similar to the demon Ronnie Dio would later put on his record covers.

Track Listing
1. Turn up the Night
2. Voodoo
3. Sign of the Southern Cross
4. E5150
5. Mob Rules
6. Country Girl
7. Slipping Away
8. Falling off the Edge of the World
9. Over and Over

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