Black Sabbath are one of the most iconic acts ever in metal, serving as the pioneers in the genre with Ozzy Osbourne fronting the band and continuing their excellence after his exit with Ronnie James Dio for a handful of albums on the '80s and '90s. Each frontman was revered for their eras with the group and it was with great anticipation that both eventually reunited with the band for new albums within the last decade. But which of their reunion efforts was better -- the Ronnie James Dio-led Heaven & Hell on 2009's 'The Devil You Know' or the Ozzy Osbourne-featuring Black Sabbath on 2013's '13' album?

There's no denying the excellence of both releases, but our Noisecreep writers attempt to make a case for each album as the better effort. Check out the arguments for each album and at the bottom of this post you can "make some noise" of your own by voting in the poll for which album you feel prevails. If you feel the need to back up your vote further, hash out your reasoning in the comments section.

Heaven & Hell's 'The Devil You Know' is a better reunion record than Black Sabbath's '13.'


The Case: When Ronnie James Dio once again joined forces with his on-and-off Black Sabbath brethren, the metal world was bursting at the seems with anticipation of a follow-up to 1992’s Black Sabbath record ‘Dehumanizer.’ The band united under the banner of Heaven & Hell to avoid any confusion as to what Black Sabbath material would be expected at a live event. For all intents and purposes, ‘The Devil You Know’ is treated as a Black Sabbath album.

‘The Devil You Know’ absolutely crushes ‘13’ in nearly every aspect. From riffs, to lyrics, to vocal performance, to production, and even to album cover, it bests everything ‘13’ accomplished aside from the chart positions. There’s no rehashing old songs here, which can’t be said for the first half of ’13,’ which spends its time aping classic songs, ultimately offering us nothing except subpar versions of fan favorites like ‘Black Sabbath’ and ‘Planet Caravan’ and filler tracks. Give me ‘Fear’ and ‘Neverwhere’ all day over anything on ’13.’ Now those are some riffs that we expect from our lord and master Tony Iommi.

Ronnie James Dio’s lyrics can’t be compared to the drivel that’s present on ’13.’ The new record with Ozzy is replete with the same opposites attract approach like “Is this the end of the beginning / or the beginning of the end,” “Rewinds the future to the past,” and “Well, I don’t wanna live forever / but I don’t wanna die” just to name a couple examples. Dio was also older than Ozzy currently is when ‘The Devil You Know’ was recorded and gives an astounding vocal performance. Ozzy’s shaky delivery and lack of power pales compared to the late Dio’s timeless vocal efforts.

The production on ‘The Devil You Know’ is crisp, with Iommi’s masterful guitar tone pouring from the speakers as Geezer Butler’s tectonic plate-shifting bass locks in with Vinny Appice’s unparalleled mammoth force and sloth pace. There’s plenty of character here, unlike the lifeless job Rick Rubin gave to ’13.’ Rubin tried too hard to blend a modern sound with the classic style and wound up with a faceless product after aimlessly tweaking knobs and faders in the studio. The album art for ‘The Devil You Know’ is also downright terrifying and reflects a band that was truly back to form.

The Evidence: Better riffs, album artwork, production, lyrics and Ronnie James Dio.

Black Sabbath's '13' is a better reunion record than Heaven & Hell's 'The Devil You Know


The Case: If the metal world truly was "bursting at the seems" with anticipation for a follow-up to Black Sabbath's 1992 album 'Dehumanizer,' then an entire universe sonic boom must have been felt when it was announced that the original Black Sabbath lineup was reuniting. All respect to Ronnie James Dio and what he did helming Sabbath in the post-Ozzy years, but for most Sabbath fans the mere mention of the band name evokes the Ozzy-led lineup first and foremost. And given the 35 year layoff between original records, the anticipation level was simply on a much bigger scale and with much more specific expectations.

Whereas Heaven & Hell's 'The Devil You Know' was received as much more of a welcome surprise by fans, a bonus that came out of a decision to add to an archival collection, Sabbath's reunion on record with Osbourne is something that's been mulled over, debated and sought after for fans by years. You can argue that Heaven & Hell pushed more boundaries, but they also had more freedom to do so. There's simply not the legacy to live up. Wouldn't most Black Sabbath fans be upset if there weren't at least some touchtones of the classic albums that forged the basis of the metal genre? And Dio is as known, perhaps more so, for his work outside of Sabbath than he is in it, thus giving the Heaven & Hell lineup less of a specific blueprint they had to live up to.

Sabbath's '13' does a solid job of honoring the past while giving longtime fans a vital new album. Tony Iommi's crushing guitar riffs and solos propel the '13' album, Butler's bass comes barreling through and drummer Brad Wilk did an admirable job filling in for the absentee Bill Ward. As for the Osbourne vs. Dio lyrical and vocal debate, that's apples and oranges. Both have their own style and sound, and it's a matter of personal taste for fans. But while we're on writing, songs like the thought provoking 'God Is Dead?' and 'Dear Father' hold their own against anything on 'The Devil You Know.'

But if you want opinions, how about we look at Metacritic, a website that takes an aggregate score of music reviews for albums. Sabbath's '13' yielded a 72 out of 100 overall score, whereas 'The Devil You Know' received a 63. How about some other numbers? Chart position: Black Sabbath's '13' is the band's first chart-topper, where 'The Devil You Know' got as high as No. 8. Singles? We've got 'Bible Black' from Heaven & Hell, while '13' gave us 'God Is Dead?,' 'End of the Beginning' and 'Loner.' And by the way, three singles off an album where almost every song is seven minutes or longer in length is quite an accomplishment of its own. Add in the bluesy stomp of 'Damaged Soul' and the powerful 'Dear Father' and Black Sabbath generated one of the best metal albums of 2013. And they did so while still honoring their tradition and delivering a true album-listening experience (something rare in today's singles culture).

There's no doubt that Heaven & Hell's 'The Devil You Know' is a quality album, but given what was at stake, what was accomplished and the overall satisfaction amongst fans, I'll take Black Sabbath's '13' over Heaven & Hell's 'The Devil You Know' any day.

The Evidence: Final payoff, acknowledgement and embracing of roots, album sales, singles, critical reviews.

We’ve voiced our opinions. Now it’s time to have your say. Vote for whether Heaven & Hell's 'The Devil You Know' or Black Sabbath's '13' is the better reunion record in the poll below and if you feel the need to back up your opinion, hit the comments section.

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