After 1980’s harder and faster Heaven and Hell, there was reason to believe that singer Ronnie James Dio might pull Black Sabbath off the heavy-metal scrapheap. Didn’t happen. Mob Rules finds the band as dull-witted and flatulent as ever.
It isn’t easy to figure out exactly who deserves the blame for this sludgefest. Dio’s lyrics are insipid and clichéd, but since the vocals are usually buried in the mix, that’s only a minor annoyance. His bass rumbling like an overloaded truck, Geezer Butler is busy, busy, busy. But not quite as busy as guitarist Tony Iommi, who uses the album as an opportunity to demonstrate how swiftly he can play. (In case you’re wondering, he’s quicker than Mark Farner, not as quick as Johnny Ramone.) As for the new kid on the block, drummer Vinnie Appice, his thumping is so leaden and uninspired you have to listen twice to notice him.
The reason that Mob Rules is terrible is teamwork — not just thinking up lame riffs and dumb lyrics but also performing them as poorly as possible.