Metal Insider contributor Anthony Maisano is listening to a different metal album that was released on that day every day this year. Today, it’s Black Sabbath’s Tony Martin-era magnum opus, Headless Cross. Released on April 17th, 1989.
Here we have, in my opinion, the best album of the Tony Martin-era of Sabbath. One of my favorite Sabbath albums period. Iommi’s riffs are still incredibly strong, but this time, in a more subdued way that isn’t as in your face. His acoustic guitar solo on “Nightwing” is in my personal top three Iommi guitar solos of all time. Cozy Powell is probably the most technically sound drummer Sabbath ever had. Yes, even more sound than Bill Ward, and Vinny Appice, whom I really like personally, so the drumming is superb as always. Tony Martin really started to grow as a vocalist on the album. He’s much better here than he was on The Eternal Idol. His range is great, and he really hits some of the high choruses out of the park, like on the title track. On the downside, he really always has been an awful live singer, in my opinion. Brian May of Queen delivers a great guest guitar solo on “When Death Calls” too.
The album is absolutely, without doubt incredibly cheesy. A lot of the occult lyrics on the album are extremely tongue in cheek, and almost seem like a parody of early Sabbath lyrics. It’s easy to see why the cheese factor would turn a lot of people off to this album. I really don’t like the song “Kill in the Spirit World” either. It’s the ONLY track on the album that I just can’t get through. Other than that, the riffs are a little less of a heavy, in your face focus, so it’s a different kind of Sabbath.
Favorite Tracks: “Nightwing,” “Headless Cross,” “Black Moon,” “When Death Calls,” “Call of the Wild,” “Devil & Daughter.”
The band really was coming together on this album. It even remains one of Iommi’s personal favorite albums. It has a clearly different style, and it’s EXTREMELY cheesy, but all of the elements are there that adds up to great music. Great riffs, great vocals, pounding drums, good atmosphere, etc. Tony Martin might not be for everyone, but I suggest Sabbath fans at least give it a try, and this is a solid way to start.
If you missed my full defense on the Tony Martin-era of Sabbath, check it out here.