It was the first Black Sabbath studio album in over a decade to feature Ronnie James Dio on vocals and Vinny Appice on drums. It is also the first in nine years to feature original bassist Geezer Butler. Initial writing and demo sessions at Rich Bitch Studios in Birmingham featured drummer Cozy Powell; bootlegs of these sessions exist.
The album was re-released, complete with bonus content, on 7 February 2011.
Both lyrically and musically, it is considered one of Sabbath's heaviest albums. Lyrical themes vary from a computer worshipped as a god, to televangelists, to individualism and doubts about the afterlife. The album was recorded in Wales, at Rockfield Studios, where Queen had recorded A Night at the Opera.
The record was originally to be done with drummer Cozy Powell, then Black Sabbath's current drummer, but he was immobilized by a broken pelvic bone he had sustained in a horse riding accident. Dio initially wanted to replace Powell with Simon Wright, from AC/DC and his own band, but Butler and Iommi rejected him. They subsequently recruited Vinny Appice, who had served as Black Sabbath's drummer during most of Dio's previous tenure with the band, from 1980–1982. During the recording session for the album, Tony Martin made a short comeback when invited by the band members to try the songs out but stayed just for a couple of days and the band then continued with Dio.
Initial demo sessions with Powell yielded numerous recordings, including two unreleased songs – "The Night Life" (also called "Next Time"), the riff being later used for "Psychophobia" on Cross Purposes, and "Bad Blood", which sounds very similar to "I" on Dehumanizer. These songs can be found, along with other demos and untitled songs, on the Complete Dehumanizer Sessions bootleg. "Computer God" was the title of an unreleased song by The Geezer Butler Band, in 1986 – only the title made it to Dehumanizer. The Geezer Butler Band's version is available as a download on Butler's website. "Master of Insanity" was also an unreleased Geezer Butler Band track and the Dehumanizer version is essentially a re-recording of this. (1:17 minutes of this track is available as a download on the website of Carl Sentance, erstwhile vocalist with the Geezer Butler Band.)
Although the Black Sabbath lineup is the same as 1981's Mob Rules, the musical direction is very different, a marked change from their previous material, particularly their previous album, TYR. Much of the album anticipates the directions taken by Dio in his eponymous solo band's next two records, Strange Highways (1994) and Angry Machines (1996). Commercially, the album marked a resurgence for Sabbath. It reached the Top 40 in the UK, and peaked at number 44 on the Billboard 200 chart.
This incarnation of Sabbath ended when Dio's contract with the band ended several days before the Costa Mesa reunion shows in November 1992. Contrary to popular belief, Dio did not quit because he was asked to support Ozzy's final shows at Costa Mesa. However, Dio felt that Sabbath should not open for Ozzy when he had caused the band so many problems in the past. For these two shows the band replaced Dio with Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford; on the second night, Iommi, Butler and original Sabbath drummer Bill Ward also joined Osbourne onstage for four songs. Halford and Dio were friends (Dio having been impressed with Halford's work ethic on the 'Stars' project) and Halford would only do the Costa Mesa shows with Dio's blessing, which he received when he spoke with Dio by phone. Both shows were recorded in their entireties and are now widely circulated as audio and video bootlegs.
The album was re-released on 7 February 2011. This version includes a bonus disc with alternate recordings of several songs ("Master of Insanity", "Letters from Earth" and "Time Machine", the latter of which is available on the US version of the album as a bonus track) and several other songs recorded on 25 July 1992 in Tampa, Florida.
- All songs written by Geezer Butler, Ronnie James Dio and Tony Iommi.
- "Computer God" – 6:10
- "After All (The Dead)" – 5:37
- "TV Crimes" – 3:58
- "Letters from Earth" – 4:12
- "Master of Insanity" – 5:54
- "Time Machine" – 4:10
- "Sins of the Father" – 4:43
- "Too Late" – 6:54
- "I" – 5:10
- "Buried Alive" – 4:47
US Edition Bonus trackEdit
- "Time Machine (Wayne's World version)" – 4:18
- This is the first recording of the song, specifically for the soundtrack to "Wayne's World" and ahead of the album sessions. It was also released as a 1-track promo CD.
2011 Deluxe Edition Disc 2Edit
- "Master of Insanity (Single Edit)"
- "Letters from Earth (B-Side Version)"
- "Time Machine (Wayne's World Version)"
- "Children of the Sea"
- "Die Young"
- "TV Crimes"
- "Master of Insanity"
- "Neon Knights"
- Tracks 4-8 recorded live at The Sundome, Tampa, Florida on 25 July 1992
- Jørn Lande covers "Letters from Earth" on his album Unlocking the Past.
- Viking/Folk metal band Týr covers "I" on the 2011 album The Lay of Thrym.
- Black Sabbath
- Additional performer
- Geoff Nicholls – keyboards
- Produced, engineered, and mixed by Mack
- "Time Machine" (Wayne's World Version) produced by Black Sabbath
- Assistant engineers – Darren Galer and Stephen Wissnet
- Remastered by Dan Hersch (2008 reissue)
- Remastered by Andy Pearce (2011 reissue)
- Cover illustration – Wil Rees
- Photography – Mark "Weissguy" Weiss