Black Sabbath – Anno Domini – 1989-1995 Boxset Review

In Defense of Tony Martin: The Black Sabbath Years Contentious? Controversial? Criminal? Contractual obligation? Who cares! If Tony Iommi is in the band, then it’s Black Sabbath....

Heavy Metal

BMG Music

Release Date – May 24th 2024

 

Band

Tony Martin – Vocals

Tony Iommi – Guitar

Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Neil Murray – Bass – ‘Tyr’ and ‘Forbidden’

Geezer Butler – Bass – ‘Cross Purposes’

Laurence Cottle – Bass – ‘Headless Cross’

Cozy Powell – Drums – ‘Headless Cross’, ‘Tyr’ and ‘Forbidden’

Bobby Rondinelli – Drums – ‘Cross Purposes’

 

Track List

‘Headless Cross’

1 – The Gates Of Hell

2 – Headless Cross

3 – Devil And Daughter

4 – When Death Calls

5 – Kill In The Spirit World

6 – Call Of The Wild

7 – Black Moon

8 – Nightwing

9 – Cloak And Dagger (bonus)

‘Tyr’

1 – Anno Mundi

2 – The Law Maker

3 – Jerusalem

4 – The Sabbath Stones

5 – The Battle Of Tyr

6 – Odin’s Court

7 – Valhalla

8 – Feels Good To Me

9 Heaven In Black

‘Cross Purposes’

1 – I Witness

2 – Cross Of Thorns

3 – Psychophobia

4 – Virtual Death

5 – Immaculate Deception

6 – Dying For Love

7 – Back To Eden

8 – The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

9 – Cardinal Sin

10 – Evil Eye

11 – What’s The Use (bonus)

‘Forbidden’

1 – The Illusion Of Power

2 – Get A Grip

3 – Can’t Get Close Enough

4 – Shaking Off The Chains

5 – I Won’t Cry For You

6 – Guilty As Hell

7 – Sick And Tired

8 – Rusty Angels

9 – Forbidden

10 – Kiss Of Death

11 – Loser Gets It All (bonus)

 

Contentious? Controversial? Criminal? Contractual obligation? Who cares! If Tony Iommi is in the band, then it’s Black Sabbath. Here we have most of the era where Tony ‘Cat’ Martin fronted the band. I’m at a loss as to why the utterly superb ‘Eternal Idol’ is not included in this stunning box set. Let’s put aside the woeful and ridiculous merry-go-round of Ozzy and Dio money-making reformations and break these records down, and mention that Tony Martin is a rare talent with an enormous voice. It can’t have been easy to replace FOUR legendary singers – Ozzy, Dio, Ian Gillan, and Glenn Hughes. But the boy stepped up, put in some superb performances, and wrote some damn fine songs. So why aren’t these records held in the same esteem as the others? Beats me because I think they’re fantastic.

All four have been remastered, and ‘Forbidden’ has been given a remix too by Tony Iommi because he wasn’t happy with his guitar sound, and Cozy Powell wasn’t happy with his drum sound either. ‘Headless Cross’ kicks off with a doomy sinister instrumental intro – ‘The Gates Of Hell’. Then Cozy Powell pounds out a statement of intent as Iommi offers up some power chords, and the band settle into a steady bluesy roll led by Laurence Cottle’s insistent bassline and Geoff Nicholls’ keys. Tony Martin shows his class and power, especially on the chorus. It’s heavy, punchy, and commercial, and talking of commercial, the single ‘Devil And Daughter’ bounces along on a boogie-like groove before the immense ‘When Death Calls’ – starting with shimmering guitar, synth layers, and a gentle croon from Martin, but you know the power is coming as it builds and when it comes it’s huge!

‘Kill In The Spirit World’ is a bit of melodic metal that again sees Martin use his full range before another commercial rocker in ‘Call Of The Wild’. We get some classic rock on ‘Black Moon’ with Geoff Nicholls’ keys adding color behind the tight powerful drum rhythm before Iommi goes nuts on the solo. It’s a gentle melodic start on ‘Nightwing’ with some sublime acoustic from Iommi then Martin comes in with a superb vocal melody, then listen as it takes a seriously dark turn. We get a bonus cut – ‘Cloak And Dagger’ which is a chunky bluesy jam. There’s some great stuff on this especially the performances of Tony Martin who obviously put his heart and soul into it.

‘Tyr’ lends an excellent concept with the Viking legends which Martin took and ran with beautifully. Opener ‘Anno Mundi’ has a mighty groove with new bass man Neil Murray playing the riff with Iommi like Geezer Butler used to do, making it properly heavy and with Cozy Powell laying it down behind, it moves a whole load of air! ‘The Law Maker’ rattles along at a fair old clip before the power metal of ‘Jerusalem’ brings us to the doomier ‘The Sabbath Stones’ where they keep it pretty simple and effective. ‘The Battle Of Tyr’ is 70 seconds of Geoff Nicholls and Cozy Powell laying down some ominous sounds as an intro to ‘Odin’s Court’ which brings out the acoustic and again Martin shows a different side to his voice. This guy can literally sing anything and sing it well.

‘Valhalla’ is the total opposite. It rears from the speakers on a nasty riff and pounding rhythm as if the band has been let off the leash. It’s fast and heavy and gets the head banging. A bit of a departure on the bluesy ‘Feels Good To Me’ then it’s back to the boogie metal on ‘Heaven In Black’ and another fabulous groove. I reckon this is as good as ‘The Eternal Idol’ – great songs and more great performances. ‘Cross Purposes’ – Geezer Butler returns, and the results are obvious especially on opener ‘I Witness’ – his bass line mirrors Iommi’s riff and Martin is singing in a lower register, but it doesn’t diminish his power – anything but.

‘Cross Of Thorns’ starts with the acoustic and Martin croons again in that deeper richer register then the band gives it large on the chorus. ‘Psychophobia’ is an absolute beast of a track. Iommi and Butler seem to have real energy and aggression which is equally matched by Martin and new sticksman former Rainbow drummer Bobby Rondinelli – Cozy Powell fell off his horse and sustained a serious back injury. This is blistering stuff. Was there a little dig at Ronnie James Dio in there? You decide. We go back to the classic Sabbath doom on ‘Virtual Death’ as Butler lays down a mighty line before a dual-tracked vocal from Martin over a sinister Iommi riff. We’re back to the heavy on ‘Immaculate Deception’ before the blues of ‘Dying For Love’ and the rock n roll of ‘Back To Eden’.

Things get sinister again on ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’ which grows into a huge groover then ‘Cardinal Sin’ brings a stomp with stabbing keys and Butler’s throbbing bass line. ‘Evil Eye’ is a classic Sabbath romp – the riff ground out by both Butler and Iommi and a swinging beat from Bobby Rondinelli. Martin gives us another superb performance and Nicholls adds keyboard weight from behind. The final cut is the blistering metal of ‘What’s The Use’. For me, this is a forgotten gem of an album. It sounds huge and the songs are superb.

Here we go with the controversial ‘Forbidden’. Originally produced by Ernie C of Body Count which caused some consternation when it was released. Both Iommi and the returning Cozy Powell were unhappy with their sounds, so Iommi has remixed and remastered the thing to his satisfaction and boy does it sound a whole lot better. ‘Illusion Of Power’ is a crushing opener with Martin coming on like a Pentecostal preacher who is ably assisted by none other than Ice T of Body Count. ‘Get A Grip’ is a huge dose of groove metal with Neil Murray’s (yep, he’s back too) bass right up front before the grunge-like intro of ‘Can’t Get Close Enough’ but stay with it because it opens up into a huge headbanger.

‘Shaking Off The Chains’ is classic Sabbath where Martin sings along with the riff like Ozzy used to. It’s power ballad time on the shimmering ‘I Won’t Cry For You’ then we get proper heavy again on ‘Guilty As Hell’ before the heavy blues of ‘Sick And Tired’ and the rock n roll of ‘Rusty Angels’. The title track grinds along on a mid-pace groove for more shimmering guitars introduce ‘Kiss Of Death’ which powers open into another monumental groove before the rabid rattle of album closer ‘Loser Gets It All’.

Let’s face it some prefer Sabbath with Ozzy, some prefer Sabbath with Dio – I haven’t met anyone who prefers either Gillan or Glenn Hughes but there is a major case for Tony Martin. Let’s break it down – Ozzy was the original and made albums when their music fresh and cheaply made, although most consider the first five records as the standard. Yes, Dio came in and revived the band, but he only made two records and as much as they’re revered as classics it was a brief liaison. The less said about the Gillan/Hughes period the better.

Martin came in at short notice and did a sterling job on ‘The Eternal Idol’, which happens to be my favorite Black Sabbath record! You can see why Tony Iommi kept him around despite dropping him on a couple of occasions to go where the money was. The Tony Martin era of Black Sabbath kept the name out there and relevant and as proved here produced some superb music which needs to be rediscovered and given another chance. Get your hands on this box set which has been incredibly well put together. The four albums with plus a superb 60-page booklet designed by top man Hugh Gilmour, a ‘Headless Cross’ tour booklet and tour poster. My thanks to James Sherry at Division PR for sending me the physical box set – thanks mate.

 

Written by: Smudge

Ratings: 9/10

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