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March 18, 2007

The reunion of the Ronnie James Dio-fronted version of Black Sabbath has been a long time coming. But it’s not likely to be a long-term affair.

And don’t call the band Black Sabbath, either. The combo is hitting the road as Heaven and Hell, a nod to the title of Dio’s debut with Sabbath in 1980, a year after original singer Ozzy Osbourne was ousted.

The change was made so as not to confuse this lineup with the reactivated original Sabbath, which intends to record a new album and tour in 2008, delayed from the original plan of late 2007.

“There is only one Black Sabbath,” Osbourne’s wife and manager Sharon Osbourne said after the Dio reunion was announced last October.

Heaven and Hell also consists of two Sabbath co-founders, guitarist Tony Iommi and bass player Terry “Geezer” Butler, and drummer Vinny Appice.

The first leg of the world tour began March 11 in Vancouver, and will run through March 30 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. It will resume April 22 in Phoenix. Megadeth and Machine Head are opening the U.S. dates.

“We’ve approached this as really having an ending period. We all have other commitments, and we’ve had a lot of turmoil in the past. So maybe this is the way to avoid it,” Dio said.

But Iommi sounded a more optimistic note. “We haven’t locked the doors … It’s one of those ‘Let’s just see how it goes’ (situations).”

Iommi said the tour will feature songs only from the Dio periods of the band, so fans need not shout out for “War Pigs” and “Iron Man.” In addition to the platinum “Heaven and Hell,” on which original drummer Bill Ward played, Dio appeared on 1981’s gold “Mob Rules” and 1992’s “Dehumanizer” — and the 1982 concert set “Live Evil.” Heaven and Hell plans to film and record at least one show on this year’s tour.

In a 2004 analysis of Black Sabbath’s albums, music magazine Blender said “Mob Rules” was the “last really good Sabbath record.” Dio reportedly complained that there were not enough photos of him on the “Live Evil” album. Iommi allegedly referred to the diminutive singer as “little Hitler,” and accused him of sneaking into the studio to enhance his vocals.

Dio quit after “Live Evil,” launching a successful career at the helm of his own band, and was replaced by Ian Gillan, and then by Tony Martin. He rejoined for “Dehumanizer,” which left fans “sorely disappointed,” according to Blender.

Any past animosities, according to Iommi, have been put to rest.

“These things, they get blown out of proportion,” he said. “When you see each other everything gets sorted out, especially with this lineup. We’ve always sort of got on very well, and it’s like we haven’t been away from each other. So there’s no point in holding grudges against anybody, I don’t think — certainly not at our bloody ages.”

Courtesy of