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Azz McMahon (NSW, Australia)

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Cross Purposes
Cross Purposes

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cross Purposes: An appropriately titled album., 21 May 2010
This review is from: Cross Purposes (Audio CD)
25 years or thereabouts into Sabbath's career, along came Cross Purposes, released in early 1994.

Another project allegedly not Sabbath - according to Geezer, this was a stopgap album for a reunion with Ozzy that didn't happen.

Perhaps the most prophetically titled Sabbath album since Paranoid, as the band once again fragmented under the weight of Sabbath's legacy, and Geezer left in yet another acrimonious split - only to return for the Ozzy reunion a few years later.

Tony Martin returned to the band since he was dumped for Ronnie James Dio in '91 - and once more he delivers a sterling performance. Joining him was journeyman drummer Bobby Rondinelli who records some of the best drums ever performed on a Sabbath album.

The result - an album that wasn't as heavy as it's predecessor Dehumanizer, but one which recaptured a lot of the pioneering spirit the band had during the early to mid 70's. It was also a very topical album which kept up very much with the times it was in - something which hadn't been done arguably since Paranoid or Master of Reality.

The songs:

I Witness - Personally I have never been a fan of this song - another case of a faster lead off song which didn't work - lyrically it's about the Amish.

Cross of Thorns - a beautiful ballad about the frustrations of people in Northern Ireland, this is one of the best 90's songs Sabbath ever mustered. Terrific vocals and lyrics from Martin here.

Psychophobia - written during the Dehumanizer sessions, but ultimately with new lyrics, this is a powerful blues jam with Martin singing from the point of view of a religious cult leader - based on the cult in Waco, Texas.

Virtual Death - Ice cold, bleak and bloody brilliant - this was a track you just knew was Sabbath. Could have used a bit more of a punch production wise, but a wonderful song - Martin's layered vocals are eerily suited to the material. Iommi and Butler absolutely crushes here.

Immaculate Deception - An experimental track, with different tempo shifts in the fine Sabbath tradition - but one which doesn't work for me. Great work on it from Bobby and Geezer though.

Dying For Love - Score! Another brilliantly constructed ballad, with Martin at the height of his powers. Wonderful semi acoustic work from Tony Iommi, Geezer's bass is superb, and Nicholls adds some great synth sheen without drowning it out. Rondinelli's drums are great too. Trouble is, this song was about 5 years too late to be a single - would have been a hit if it had been out, say around '89 or so.

Back to Eden - Potboiler rocker, utterly filler and not necessary.

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle - A jaunty little rocker, with a dark semi-acoustic opening - it's a song about a mass murderer who killed babies in the UK - and though performed well, is another song that doesn't quite hit the mark - possibly because the main riff is a little too perky for the subject matter.

Cardinal Sin - Another track which is hit and miss, about a Catholic Priest who had a love child in Ireland. The lyrics could be better, but the song isn't terrible admittedly - just missing something.

Evil Eye - After the album was in danger of falling apart, Evil Eye saves it. A fantastic rocker with a scything riff from Iommi - allegedly co-written in a jam with Eddie Van Halen - and amazing vocals from Martin - the man goes into Ian Gillan mode here - this could have been a lost track off Born Again really - Rondinelli keeps a solid groove here too.

The Japanese pressing - if you can find it, has a bonus song called What's The Use?

It's a fast little rocker with some good introspective lyrics about the state of the world and politicians - but the speed of the song kills it for me - I just don't like Sabbath playing uptempo songs but for a few cases it seems...

All in all though, Cross Purposes - though nowhere near the heaviest album Black Sabbath has recorded - is a solid album but for a few duff tracks near the end. A grower for sure.


Born Again
Born Again
Price: £7.35

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Born Again, 21 May 2010
This review is from: Born Again (Audio CD)
With the media deriding the band as Deep Sabbath - 1983 saw the release of the sole Sabs album with leather lunged rock legend Ian Gillan and original Sabbath members Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, with unsung Sabbath hero Geoff Nicholls on keyboards.

Has arguably one of the most awful album covers ever - hastily put together by "Krusher" Joule in the hope it would be rejected, so he wouldn't lose his work on the Ozzy Osbourne albums at the time - and to his horror, it was given the thumbs up by Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler - who thought that it was that absurd mix of "Crap, but great!" (funnily enough, so do I).

There are some great cuts on here - the killer opener Trashed, the utterly insane Disturbing the Priest, the meandering and hypnotic Zero the Hero - and then the title cut Born Again (a slow dirge of a song, with arguably the most soulful guitar solo from Iommi EVER; seriously - this is a lost doom metal masterpiece).

Keep it Warm is a little more Deep Purple lyrically, but the music is very reminiscent to me of mid 70's Sabbath - this song would not have been out of place on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Sabotage (and it's preferable to almost all of the last two albums with Ozzy on vocals)...

Stonehenge is a creepy little number inspired by Nicholls visiting the actual stone circle (and of course, became the unfortunate choice of stage set - which gave us that classic moment in Spinal Tap a year later), but there the gold stops and the crap begins.

The Dark is utterly disposable (a great intro piece should not amount to the bassist mucking around with an effects pedal) - Digital Bitch and Hot Line, though Gillan shrieks his heart out on these tracks, they are potboiler rockers which brings down the album's quality over all.

A lot of people hate the mix - but it's murky in the early Sabbath tradition - though very bass heavy - rumour has it Geezer mucked about with the mix, though how much is truth and how much is lager fuelled speculation I'll never know.

Overall, like most 80's Sabbath from this point on, it's an album you'll love or hate.

Deep Purple fans probably won't find a lot to like - but it's one of Ian's finest outings vocally, in my opinion.

Sabbath fans check it out at least once - if you like it great, if you don't, go back to your Ozzy or Dio albums.


Conquest [DVD] [1984] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Conquest [DVD] [1984] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: £6.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fulci does fantasy, 30 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This one is a real curio to Fulci fans, who were used to his gore laden horror masterpieces such as Zombi, House by the Cemetery and The Beyond.

He jumped in on the Sword and Sorcery bandwagon here, which was booming at the time thanks to the Conan movies, and Conquest is definitely of that mould - though ultimately it's mediocre.

Basically a tale of two men who form a friendship and team up to defeat an evil priestess who controls a cult dedicated to ruling over the rising of the sun and sacrificing people to the priestess so she can eat their brains (presumably to keep her looks - hard to tell as she keeps her face hidden beneath a golden mask).

There are some typically cheesy 80's effects here - the magic arrows for one - though it's a cool idea for a bow if you're into that sort of thing. There are dog-men, a couple of gore effects here and there - one particularly nasty one is early in the film where a girl gets wishboned in fairly visceral fashion... The music is cheesily 80's as well - and if I remember correctly, was done by Italian musical legend Claudio Simonetti of Goblin - not one of his finest scores, it must be said.

The two leads are the classic chalk and cheese - one a young hero who looks like he was lost from Clash of the Titans, the other your older barbarian type, who has no love for men, but has a special affinity with animals and believes in his own moral code - if you kill an animal for a reason other than food, you're dead, plain and simple.

Typical of Fulci, the lines between good and evil aren't always so straight - and the heroes aren't entirely likable, but it's nowhere near as abstract as his horror movies were.

Most fantasy or Fulci fans won't be a fan of this, but there are worse examples of fantasy films out there, believe you me.


Dehumanizer
Dehumanizer
Price: £5.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The reunion that wouldn't happen number 1, 30 April 2010
This review is from: Dehumanizer (Audio CD)
The reunion that wouldn't happen number 1 - the Dio re-formation, some 10 years too early, but it bore the fruit of the darkest, heaviest Sabbath album ever - some of this would not have been out of place on Geezer's first solo album Plastic Planet.

A solid effort, woefully underappreciated in it's day - and even now a mystery to all but the true faithful Sabbath nuts.

Dehumanizer takes some getting used to if you followed Sabbath from the Martin years, but there is a treasure trove of Doom Metal here, and for older Sabbath fans, it was manna from Hell.

Computer God - Predicting the paranoia of Y2K 8 years too soon, and possibly influenced by The Terminator as a lyrical theme, this is about a dystopian world where man has been an error created by God - and our children the machines have decided to fix the problem by converting us - Doctor Who fans of the new series would notice the new Cybermen could easily match this concept - "Man's a mistake - So We'll Fix It".

Great song.

After All (The Dead) - Dio doing his spooky horror stuff over a brutal riff by Iommi, this song was nearly the theme tune for the computer game Doom. Why not? The riff certainly says you are.

TV Crimes - The single and one of the few examples of an uptempo Sabbath song which really works. It's about tele-evangelists in the US, the junk food of Christianity or if you're more cynical as I am - the con men who out fleece the con men.

Letters from Earth - This one is based on a book by Samuel Clements which was condemned in it's day - and this is a story about the Bible - told from Satan's perspective - everyone knows the story from God and Jesus' perspective, but no one has acknowledged the Satanic side of the tale - hence the pleas from the Devil in the song saying "Hey, let ME explain" - of course, as the song was for many back in '92, it fell upon deaf ears.

Brutal song and one of my favourites.

Master of Insanity - Great intro by Geezer - this was actually an old song Geezer worked on in a solo band - he brought it to Sabbath to complete the album it seems. I think it's ok, but nothing special.

Time Machine - Used in Wayne's World, this version however is not the same - it lacks the polish and the speed of the Wayne's World version - and the lyrics are slightly different too. A fun little number though.

Sins of the Father - a somewhat bizarre riff from Iommi here, with an understated performance from Dio on vocals. He caught the mood of the song well - a curio, but not bad.

Too Late - the big moody ballad of the album - Dio's Born Again, but nowhere near as good. Some nice acoustic work from Iommi on the song, but overall, not essential listening.

I - classic, moody, Sabbath with a great vocal hook from Ronnie. This song killed live when I saw the band as Heaven and Hell back in 2007... finally getting the recognition it deserved.

Buried Alive - Another monster of a riff, with a slowly revolving riff that only Iommi can play - it's like your brain is going to be fed through a meat grinder - and you'll love it, if you love Sabbath. Dio is on fine form here, and Appice's drums are solid.

Shame this line up folded when it did, but the time off and the water under the bridge led to the successful Heaven and Hell outings.


Tyr
Tyr

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shaky start for Sabbath in the 90's, 30 April 2010
This review is from: Tyr (Audio CD)
The concept album which wasn't - though it has themes of religion and mythology, it's not particularly linked to a singular story as such.

A mixed bag of an album after the killer Headless Cross, but it showed that there was still life in the Sabbath yet - and it was a showcase for Geoff Nicholls' unsung talent on the keys... Cozy Powell kills on the drums too - noise gated yes, but heavy - his drums are probably heavier than the guitars.

Would have loved to have seen the tour for this album - most varied set in Sabbath's history, would have been absolutely magical. But of course, the album didn't do anything in Australia, so there was no reason to tour here...

Martin's vocals are solid, Iommi's riffs are typically heavy when needed, and Murray's bass is workmanlike and interesting enough - but to me, Nicholls is the stand out performer here.

Anno Mundi is a great song - definitely the right choice for lead off track. Latin choirs, a nice riff from Iommi to start as the song is ushered in and then BAM! Powell comes in and smashes your face in with his drumming along to the powerful riff played by Iommi and Murray. Geoff plays a terrific multi-layered breakdown in the middle of the song.

The Lawmaker - Sabbath have never been particularly adept at speed metal - and this song shows why. My least favourite track off the album by a long way. Complete waste of space.

Jerusalem - A song which Tony Martin covered on a solo album he did after the TYR tour was completed - this is a poppy little number that isn't really Sabbathy, but it's certainly not bad. Martin has some of his best vocals here.

The Sabbath Stones - a song about the 10 Commandments and the birth of Christianity as a religion, the slow thunderous riff is typical end of side one Sabbath. This track is the epic in the middle - but doesn't quite pull the old trick off with fully satisfying results.

The Battle of Tyr, Odin's Court and Valhalla - the reason for naming the album, and all of a sudden the album shifts from songs about God to songs about Odin - trading one god for another - and I see these as one 10 minute song split amongst three tracks.

The Battle of Tyr is a keyboard instrumental - nice atmosphere and inoffensive, which leads into the stirling Odin's Court - Martin's Sleeping Village if I could use an older track by comparison. It's gentle refrain ushers a melancholy tranquility before the sledgehammer blow of Valhalla - a fine rocker in the Sabbath tradition - unfortunately, the guitars are way too quiet here to make the song work. A real shame, as it's a belter of a song.

Feels Good To Me was released at the label's behest - a typical 80's style power ballad that was atypical of Sabbath - nicely performed, but Black Sabbath it is not.

Heaven in Black - in a flurry of drums from Cozy Powell, a jagged spur of metal finishes the album, with Martin wailing about a tale from Czarist Russia possibly written about the architect of St Basils Cathedral, but I don't know the history of this to confirm it.

All in all, it's a hit and miss album - and although it sold ok in the UK and in Europe, it wasn't received anywhere else, and soon Martin, a fine singer in his own right, was out the door and Ronnie James Dio returned alongside Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice for Dehumanizer.


Big Bad Wolf [DVD]
Big Bad Wolf [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Naughton

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big perhaps, but not so bad, 30 April 2010
This review is from: Big Bad Wolf [DVD] (DVD)
A film with a mixed heritage - one liners harking back to '80's horror movies, with a 90's feel, Big Bad Wolf isn't too bad of a film.

It's pretty generic story wise, but it's a fun little flick that I enjoyed - nice to see a film that has hints of older films, but isn't actually trying to remake them.

The werewolf make up wasn't the worst I've seen - and there are a few nice gore effects as well.

Kimberley J Brown is the best thing about the film - as free spirited, fiery mechanic Sam, she is absolutely gorgeous (then maybe I'm a guy that likes outsider, tattooed women that are intelligent) - and lifts up the film.

The werewolf is also fun in it's own way.

The release itself doesn't have anything in the way of extras, but worth a watch if you like 80's or 90's style horror. If you don't, then avoid like the plague.


Black Ice (Deluxe)
Black Ice (Deluxe)
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £15.93

3.0 out of 5 stars Too much filler, but good none the less, 30 April 2010
This review is from: Black Ice (Deluxe) (Audio CD)
The album which may be the final studio cut for AC/DC, 8 long years after Stiff Upper Lip was released.

If it is the last album, it's at least a good one.

The spirit of the early 80's albums, with a splash of Who Made Who for good measure, revels here - absolutely revels. The band haven't sounded this relaxed and natural in years.

Brian is on amazing form - and he SINGS people - listen to the chops on songs like Anything Goes - classic 80's vibe - feel any second that Bruce Springsteen is going to lean in here and sing a chorus himself.

Rock 'n' Roll Train is another classic track - great chorus in the AC/DC tradition, Big Jack and Spoilin' For A Fight capture the Keith Richards groove perfectly and Angus and Malcolm swagger Stones style through these classic cuts - Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd are on absolute fire here.

I would love to hear Big Jack played live with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as special guests - this song is a lost Rolling Stones number.

Rock 'n' Roll Dream is ok - leans slightly to Aerosmith circa Toys in the Attic - and Money Made is a funky tune that has Steve Tyler and Joe Perry written all over it.

Stormy May Day is a cool blues lick and Angus plays slide guitar on it - maybe a bit late to be reinventing the wheel here, but it's a good track all the same.

The other songs though are filler - War Machine (or as I begrudge it - Given the Dog a Bone 2 - which, incidentally, is a far superior track to this uninspired crap), Wheels, Decibel tried the boogie thing but didn't work - and Black Ice, Skies on Fire, Rockin' All the Way, She Likes Rock 'n' Roll.... they just don't work, and are to the albums detriment.

About 7 songs too many on this album to be brutally honest, but even with all the filler, Black Ice (the album at least) stands up as a real return to the glory days of the early 80's, and is easily the finest AC/DC album released since say, For Those About to Rock back in '81.


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