There are basically no instances that I can recall where I’ve felt any sort of anticipation for the release of a compilation, save for this one. Being someone who has made it a point to own everything with RJD and SABBATH’s names on it, there would naturally be little reason for me to bother spending anything more than a few dollars on a best of album unless I was able to get some rarities to go with it. But in the case of this album, I was in the unique position to witness something that I had hoped would happen for the better part of 10 years, the resurrection of BLACK SABBATH as a creative force.
There are basically two ways in which to judge this compilation, the first of which is as an EP carrying 3 brand new songs from a lineup that had been on hiatus for 15 years. In this respect, “The Dio Years” is a perfect release, as the new songs contained within are nothing short of amazing. Essentially all of the best modern elements of “Dehumanizer” have been merged with the simplicity of the band’s earlier efforts with Dio. “The Devil Cried” is cut a little bit closer to the standard slow grooving yet Rocking nature of songs off the “Heaven And Hell” album such as “Lady Evil” and “Lonely Is The Word”. “Shadow Of The Wind” represents the punishingly slow aspect of the band that was really emphasized on slower songs present on “Dehumanizer”, though in a bit more of a spooky character as heard on the Tony Martin fronted album “Cross Purposes”. “Ear In The Wall” is where the band sort of steps away from the modern character of their 90s sound, except in terms of production, and presents a catchy up tempo riff monster that sounds a bit closer to DIO’S work in the past few albums since “Magica”, but with a darker character. Basically each of them have a uniqueness that sets them apart from past works, yet retains the familiarity necessary to be immediately associated with this franchise.
Insofar as the second way that this album is to be judged, which is as a greatest songs collection, a slightly flawed picture emerges. Although there was never really a weak song to be heard out of any of the albums in congress on here, this does suffer for the lack of inclusion of several, making one wonder how this would listen with a couple of substitutions. As fun as “Lonely Is The Word” is for those of us who long drawn out guitar solos, this compilation was a missed opportunity to include one of this band’s most underrated and definitely essential songs “Wishing Well”, which would showcase the band in a much more animated and varied light. Likewise, although “Voodoo” has a really fun main riff, the absence of the classic slow paced epic “Sign Of The Southern Cross” is felt, in spite of the near equally great and lesser known rival of said song “Falling Off The Edge Of The World” has made it onto here, which was quite surprising. And as far as the “Dehumanizer” collection is concerned, my favorite song “Computer God” was passed up in favor of the slower and slightly less interesting “After All (The Dead)”, missing an opportunity once again to offer an epic alternative to what largely appears as a modern yet bare bones collection of songs from a very multifaceted album.
In spite of these slight disappointments that sort of bring down the power of the whole release, this is a well put together compilation. The approach to track ordering and pacing is well realized, avoiding the abrupt jolts in style that often occur in grab-bag oriented collections of pre-released material. This is basically what MEGADETH’s “Capitol Punishment” could have been if that band had been as stylistically consistent as their older forefathers here have been and had put more effort into writing the accompanying new material. This is the only Dio era SABBATH release that is essential, if for no other reason in that the new songs on here blow everything that this band has done since 1994 completely out of the water.
(Online May 22, 2009)