Black Sabbath – Dehumanizer

This week it’s a visit back to 1992 and how a handful of line-up changes, some planned and one not, spawned a reunion. And then winds of another reunion would quash this reunion. The Black Sabbath soap opera rolls on.

Black Sabbath – Dehumanizer

Released June 1992 via IRS and Reprise Records

My Favorite Tracks – I, TV Crimes, Letters From Earth

Black Sabbath had been on a wild run of line-ups and albums through the 1980’s. While Tony Iommi had found stability at vocals with Tony Martin for a three album run, the other players in the band came and went like one of those temp hiring services.

Eventually a line-up was nailed down – Iommi, the returning Geezer Butler on bass, and Cozy Powell to drum. Powell was soon out though with a hip injury and was replaced with Vinny Appice, who was previously Sabbath drummer during Ronnie James Dio’s first Sabbath stint.

And Dio himself was brought in to make a full reunion of the Mob Rules line-up. Except that Tony Martin briefly came into the studio to try out the songs but didn’t stay due to solo commitments. I don’t know why this was a thing but it was and it was probably a sign of things to come. But at least for this album, Dio was back in Black Sabbath.

The album was recorded in an odd and expensive manner, going back and forth between England and the US. It turned out to be a pretty expensive logistical mistake but it worked out well creatively, as the band honed down a basic and heavy sound. While the 1980’s music scene turned its back on Black Sabbath, the band were in a position to capitalize on the 1990’s music scene turning its back on the ’80’s.

Today there are 10 tracks in 52 minutes to go through. There are several different bonus versions around as well as a bootleg that offers a bunch of bonus stuff, including a few tracks with Powell drumming.

Computer God

The album kicks off in heavier than hell fashion, right out of the gate with monster Iommi riffs and the familiar tone of Dio leading the proceedings. This song gets into the idea of computers becoming sentient and taking over the world, something Dio called science fiction in 1992 but we are so gloriously close to 31 years later. There’s also a wild solo from Iommi here.

After All (The Dead)

A slower and haunting track that truly brings out Sabbath’s doom leanings. The song gets into the issue of wondering what the afterlife is like and if the dead can talk, and reaching the conclusion that there’s only one way to find out.

TV Crimes

A massive rocking song here that dials it up to 11 and takes aim at the scourge of televangelism that plagued American society around this time. The TV preachers were known for their sermons with their hands out for follower donations, while taking the cash to spend on hookers and drugs, as well as other extravagant purchases. Many of the same preachers were ones to call out the “evil” of heavy metal music, so it was a field day for metal bands to return the favor and call out the hypocrisy of the preachers. This has been a fan favorite from the Dio and Sabbath collaborations.

Letters From Earth

A slower-paced affair with riffs aplenty that sees Dio writing letters to God from Earth about how everything is screwed. The song is pretty similar to a collection of essays from Mark Twain of the same title. The Twain essays were not published until many decades after his death as his surviving daughter was concerned about Twain’s very scathing tone towards religion in the essays. I don’t know if there is a connection between the Twain writings and this song, I had thought I’d seen Dio reference Twain in a past interview but I have no luck on finding that.

Master Of Insanity

A song brought to the band from Geezer Butler and his prior solo project. It’s a smashing hard tune about going mad and the capacity of anyone to find the worst version of themselves. Geezer brings in a few crazy bass lines for this one and the song moves around in different arrangements a bit.

Time Machine

Another slamming song and one of heavy metal’s great motivating tracks. The time machine is a figurative device here, the song suggests that we have control over our own destinies and can “use the time machine” to chart the course of our lives. There was an alternate version of the song recorded for the soundtrack to the Wayne’s World movie.

Sins Of The Father

A bit slower but still hard as hell here. The polar opposite of the last song, this one gets into a person suffering for the ill actions of someone else. It is wrapped in the religious symbolism around sin and all that sort of suffering for what happened before. Though the song does still offer the chance of breaking free of the vicious cycle.

Too Late

This one starts off in ballad territory before ramping up the heavy a bit later into the song. It’s a nice contrast between quiet and loud in parts. The moral of this story is not to sell your soul to the Devil because, well, you sold your soul to the Devil and that turns out to be a bad thing. So don’t do that.


The hardest song to search for on Google in history storms in with a massive riff that marches through the balance of the track. Dio is lit up on this one, the concept behind it is how he uses criticism of his music as fuel to create rather than being dragged down by it. He becomes an all-conquering monster here and the song is pretty emblematic of his career. This is easily my favorite off this album one of my top Dio Sabbath tracks overall.

Buried Alive

The album wraps up with a song that goes even harder and heavier. It’s a track about being “buried alive” by the constraints of a religion that offers no truth but a lot of dogma. When a person spends their time worried about the weight of their sins they don’t truly live a life and they wind up buried in the guilt and trappings. A quite elaborate philosophical statement to close the record.

Dehumanizer brought Black Sabbath back to a semblance of success. The album charted at number 28 in the UK and 44 in the US, as well as scoring good positions on the charts of many other countries. The stage would seem to be set for a great tour cycle behind this effort, but it was not to be.

The band would tour for a few months but then trouble struck when Sabbath was invited to open what were to be Ozzy Osbourne’s final concerts in November. Dio was not into the idea and he promptly left the group, taking Vinny Appice with him. Black Sabbath would play the shows with Rob Halford famously providing the vocals, and the original incarnation of Sabbath did a few songs during Ozzy’s set.

Dio was back into his solo career, with a few albums that bear some influence sound-wise from Dehumanizer. Black Sabbath would regroup with Tony Martin and release a few ill-received albums before finally biting the bullet and pulling off the reunion with a suddenly unretired Ozzy in the later ’90’s. This series of events would put Black Sabbath’s rights and management in the purview of Sharon Osbourne, and the campaign to have Ozzy-era Sabbath recognized as the “only one” was now underway. This did not stop the Dehumanizer line-up from reconvening one more time under the Heaven and Hell name for several tours and one more album in the late 2000’s.

For all the ups and downs of Black Sabbath, Dehumanizer came as an unexpected and well-received work at a time when the band had not been firing on all cylinders. The prior albums with Tony Martin were of quality but did not break the market in any meaningful way, and Martin’s second stint after was not well-received. It could be said that Dehumanizer is Sabbath’s last great album, depending on personal feelings over the final salvo 13. This one’s only real competition might come from the Heaven and Hell record, though it’s fair to say this one wins that battle.

While the band didn’t fully capitalize on the record, Dehumanizer was a fantastic album that brought a new sense of respectability back to Black Sabbath, if only for a moment. In hindsight it’s one of the band’s better albums overall and it stands head and shoulders above Sabbath’s other work of the time period. While it’s a shame the group couldn’t hold together in the mire that is the Sabbath soap opera, just the existence of this album is enough to hang one’s hat on.

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