UK band BLACK SABBATH are among the giants of rock, and a band recognized as a household name in music worldwide. “Mob Rules” is their tenth album, and the second and last of the first era with Ronnie James Dio, and was released back in 1981.
When this album appeared as the sixth entry in the Classic Rock Album Of The Week Club this week, I was kind of curious as to whether or not I could approach this album in an objective manner. I’ve listened to this band for most of my life after all, and several of their albums would be in strong consideration for my personal desert island list. “Masters of Reality”, “Heaven and Hell” and “Eternal Idol” possibly the strongest contenders of the lot. “Mob Rules” isn’t an album I’ve listened to all that much however, and I was intrigued by this chance to rediscover this album.
What I can state straight away is that I know I will have the unpopular opinion on this one. For me, this is an album that documents a band in some sort of development stage or identity crisis, where the band as a whole appears to be searching for direction. Kind of odd really, as their previous album is such a scorcher. One question I kept asking myself when listening through this album now is just how much the late Ronnie James Dio had to say in the songwriting department this time around.
The thing is that several songs sounds like rough drafts or trials of ideas that would resurface as better songs on Dio’s solo albums, while others appeared to combine aspects of this with a sound and approach closer to what Black Sabbath had done originally. But for both aspects something is missing. The vitality that brimmed on “Heaven and Hell” has been replaced with something far more lethargic, and there are no chorus sections, bass lines or other details that demands immediate attention. Many of these songs feel perhaps more insecure than safe, like a band that have lost their way and struggle for direction. The skills of the musicians involved is something of a saving grace of course, so that apart from E5150, which for me comes across as unneeded and unnecessary, there’s nothing truly bad to be found. But too many of the songs fail to inspire.
There are some highlights though. The title track is an energetic run, where the vocals, pace and brevity of the song combines into a better whole, and the beefy Iommi riffs adds a nice depth to Falling Off the Edge of the World that makes this one a memorable cut too. The shining star for me on this album is The Sign of the Southern Cross though, a sweet, atmospheric laden creation with a majestic, epic atmosphere of the kind Black Sabbath have created quite a few of throughout their career.
Revisiting this classic Black Sabbath album wasn’t quite the experience I had hoped it would be. I read that some feel this album is a safe one. For me this feels more like the album of a band that have lost their way, and struggle to find out where to go next. The high class musicians involved makes sure that the end result isn’t as bad as this description makes it appear to be, but apart from the threesome of Mob Rules, Falling Off the Edge of the World and The Sign of the Southern Cross, “Mob Rules” comes across as a rather average production in sum for me.
My rating: 64/100
Turn Up the Night // Voodoo // The Sign of the Southern Cross // E5150 // The Mob Rules // Country Girl // Slipping Away // Falling off the Edge of the World // Over & Over