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This review is from: Headless Cross (Audio CD)
Compared with most of the 'classic' early Black Sabbath albums, the Tony Martin era was the least well received of the bunch. This is unfair but understandable as at the time the Ozzy and Dio material had been so good that such comparisons were unavoidable. Personally, and in hindsight, a lot of my favourite Sabbath tracks appear on either The Eternal Idol, Headless Cross and Tyr, despite their music being considerably prone to being dated. They are a very 80s sounding rock album. A lot of the fuzzy, downtuned gloom that permeated their early efforts, and actually created heavy metal in the process, have been replaced by thumping power chords and licks that bring to mind lesser acts like Dokken and superior outfits such as Whitesnake. Black Sabbath didn't go glam, but they had started to sound les and less like Black Sabbath. Of course much of this had occurred before Tony Martin stepped up to the plate. The Dio years were basically hard rock, albeit damn fine hard rock. But near the end of the 80s, Sabbath were fast becoming a less interesting band in the eyes of the establishment. In reality they were producing some classic stuff.
The opener, 'Gates of Hell' is merely an arbitrary scary keyboard effect, making the album proper merely an EP by today's standards, clocking in at a scant 7 tracks. But I'd rather these 7 than 14 with 7 filler. The title track follows and is a bona fida classic. It has a big sound, great lyrics and Tony Martin on top form, sounding less and less like he did on The Eternal Idol. 'Devil & Daughter' is equally as great, albeit in a more upbeat, mid-tempo way. It's the single song in all aspects with a great, yet subtle chorus. 'When Death Calls' is a slow burner but the chanting chorus suddenly becomes something you won't be able to forget after a few listens. 'Kill In The Spirit World' is a strange one. It starts with some crunchy, light riffs that wouldn't sound out of place on a Magnum album but then has a doomy, slow and ethereal chorus. It is rather good, though not the best on here. 'Call of the Wild' IS one of the best, with a great verse, great bridge and a super chorus. 'Black Moon' is another single contender and is one of the shortest tracks coming in at around 4 minutes. It is also flawless, catchy and brilliant. The only real letdown is 'Nightwing', the closer. It is not bad but comes in at just under 7 minutes and nothing very interesting happens within that time. It is a perfectly passable song, just a bit of a disappointment to finish with this when it could have sounded miles better.
Minor quibbles from an otherwise top-notch album. Contrary to the notions at the time, Sabbath were actually on top of their game. Tyr followed and was lambasted, but once again it is almost as good as The Headless Cross and did not deserve the negative reviews.
One of their best albums. It's just a shame that it's out of print at the time of writing and most sellers are offering it at exorbitant prices (the same is happening to other Sabbath albums, Cross Purposes, Forbidden and Tyr). The music, however is priceless.