Rob Halford Wanted to Sing for Heaven & Hell After Ronnie James Dio Died
Judas Priest's Rob Halford has fronted Black Sabbath a total of three times — twice in 1992 and once more in 2004. According to drummer Vinny Appice, there was the potential for the 'Metal God' to link up with Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and himself on a more permanent basis as the singer lobbied to work together following the death of Ronnie James Dio in May of 2010.
As a guest on the "Rock Fantasy" Internet show, Appice discussed the instances in which Halford sung for Black Sabbath. The first time came in 1992 on Nov. 14 and 15 where Sabbath, who at the time were promoting their Dehumanizer album which reunited the Mob Rules lineup, were asked to open for Ozzy Osbourne.
Dio took exemption to the opening slow and refused to take part, so the band quickly sought a capable fill-in in Halford. Appice, however, was caught between the two sides, having an allegiance with Dio as the two remained together as part of the Dio band following the singer's exit from Black Sabbath in 1982.
"So I had to sit down with Ronnie and go, 'Look, I'm in the middle. What do you suggest? I don't wanna really leave them hanging — there's not much time to get a [different] drummer — and I don't wanna burn my ties with you, obviously. I wanna play with you.' And he said, 'Do it. You've gotta do it. You can't leave them without a drummer.' So we agreed on what we were doing," recalled Appice (transcription via Blabbermouth).
Noting one lighter moment during the preparations for those two '92 gigs, the drummer looked back on their time spent in rehearsal, which was brief and left others in the building stunned at the collective star power that walked through the door.
"It was really funny, because it was just a regular rehearsal place," said Appice, "And in comes Rob Halford, Iommi, Butler, me. People in there are going, 'Ah, oh my God. What the fuck is this? What's going on?' I remember the faces — everybody was freaking out."
Since the pair of '92 shows were for the purpose of opening for Ozzy on what was intended to be one of his final performances before retirement, Sabbath elected to resurrect a great deal of Ozzy era material, which the group somewhat shied away from in the Dio-fronted era. Appice called the task "never-racking" since they only had a short period to rehearse songs they had not been playing already on tour.
The only real hiccup onstage came when Halford' teleprompter stopped functioning and he had to drop to the ground to read the lyric sheets that were taped to the floor.
"It was great. It sounded great. People loved it. And it was good," beamed Appice.
Halford later reprised his role at an Ozzfest stop in Camden, New Jersey in 2004. Ozzy had come down with bronchitis and was unable to perform, so the Metal God, who was already on the tour having reunited with Judas Priest, stepped in.
Appice then revealed that Halford had a desire to continue fronting the group after these performances, as well as nearly three decades later with the offshoot band Heaven & Hell, which focused exclusively on Dio-era Sabbath and their new material together.
"Then there was words talked about maybe carrying on from there, with Rob. And then there was also talk, after Ronnie passed [in 2010], about doing it after that, after the dust settled too," the drummer mentioned.
"And, actually, Rob kept wanting to do it — he wanted to do it. When I saw him somewhere — at an award show — [he told me,] 'I'm gonna talk to Tony.' And then recently, I sent a message over to management about, 'Hey, we could easily do an album and not even see each other, the way things are done these days, with Rob,'" added Appice, leaving things open-ended.
Heaven & Hell released one album, The Devil You Know, in 2009. It was the first album of new material from Dio, Iommi, Butler and Appice since Black Sabbath's Dehumanizer.
On March 5, extensive reissue editions of the first two Black Sabbath records with Dio — Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules — will be released through Rhino.
Vinny Appice on "Rock Fantasy" Show