Has an unheard Dio-era Black Sabbath demo just been unearthed?

Ronnie James Dio and Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath perform on stage on the 'Heaven and Hell' tour, at Hammersmith Odeon on January 18th, 1981 in London, England
(Image credit: Pete Still/Redferns)

A never-before-heard track which appears to feature Black Sabbath jamming with Ronnie James Dio has just been unearthed. The song, titled Slapback, was uploaded to YouTube by the estate of the late Sabbath keyboardist, Geoff Nicholls.

Slapback was taken from the same cassette recording which captured the 1979 “Bel Air” rehearsals for the 1980 album Heaven And Hell, leading Nicholls' stepson, Gary Rees, to speculate that it was an early demo for the album. 

Rees, who manages all estate duties, uploaded the video along with a bit more context about the track and its origins. He writes:

“This latest upload from the Geoff Nicholls estate I believe is called Slapback from the scrawling on the cassette and the chorus. This is from the same cassette as the Heaven & Hell upload on this channel. It doesn’t sound like a typical SABBATH song, if it is them, but it does sound like Ronnie James Dio.”

“It must be a cover, any clues?  I have no idea about anything I wasn't there. Everything is speculation. Great tune by the way.”

Given that Geezer Butler allegedly didn't take part in Heaven And Hell’s earliest sessions, Rees also posed the question whether it was Dio behind the bass, asking: “Is it Ronnie on bass or ‘a friend from Birmingham’?”

This track follows Rees' first YouTube upload last month, where he shared a recording of the album’s title track during a rehearsal in 1979, featuring Geoff on bass. 

Listen to Slapback below.

Liz Scarlett

Liz works on keeping the Louder sites up to date with the latest news from the world of rock and metal. Prior to joining Louder as a full time staff writer, she completed a Diploma with the National Council for the Training of Journalists and received a First Class Honours Degree in Popular Music Journalism. She enjoys writing about anything from neo-glam rock to stoner, doom and progressive metal, and loves celebrating women in music.