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Black Sabbath - Headless Cross

On the 24 of April 1989 "Black Sabbath" released her 14th studio album - "Headless Cross".

Depending on what day you ask us, but we'll usually tell you that this is the band's best album with singer Tony Martin, and it's not a trivial statement/ it's the singer who's released the most albums with the band, apart from Ozzy Osbourne.

This is the band's first album with legendary drummer Cozy Powell, and "Black Sabbath's" only album featuring such an important personality as Brian May - Queen's guitarist.

So let's tell you a little bit about the process of creating the album that rarely happened.

Why hardly happen?

Because since the departure of Ronnie James Dio in 1982, "Black Sabbath" has not really enjoyed success.

The album "Born Again" with singer Ian Gillan raised a lot of expectations ahead of his release, but received mixed reviews after his release, most of which were negative. Geezer and Bill Ward subsequently abandoned the ship, leaving Tony Iommi to navigate the ship alone in the icy 1980s metal sea. When he sought to release a solo album he was forced by the record company to name the album "Seventh Star" from 1986 under the brand of "Black Sabbath". This turned out to be a mistake that led to bad Reviews of the album by most critics. Immediately afterward Glenn Hughes left and was replaced by singer Ray Gillen in the middle of the tour, but he too did not survive in the band and was replaced by singer Tony Martin during the recordings of the album "The Eternal Idol", which also failed to revive the band's shuffling career Which at the time relied entirely on Tony Iommi's reputation.

The unfortunate sequence of events described above, led the record company Vertigo to give up Black Sabbath in an extreme move. To understand the magnitude of the shock we will note that Vertigo has been the band's record company since its inception. For 18 years "Black Sabbath" went with Vertigo in fire and water. Vertigo went through a great crisis following the dismissal of Ozzy Osbourne, enjoyed the band's resurgence during the Dio era, and served as a loyal peg to the band on the slippery slope in which it deteriorated after his departure. But apparently this time it was enough for vertigo. In this situation, it was easiest for Tony Iommi to give up. He was left alone in, without any of the original band members and without the record company that had accompanied him throughout the years. But luckily Tony Iommi did not give up and managed to sign a contract with the record company I.R.S. Records, which was managed by Miles Copeland, who gave him confidence and encouraged him to continue writing and creating.

It should be noted that the uncertainty that grew after the release of the album "The Eternal Idol" together with the fact that the band was thrown out of the Vertigo company, led the singer Tony Martin to take a break from Black Sabbath and join the Forcefield supergroup that included drummer Cozy Powell.

Towards the middle of 1988 and following Tony Iommi's signing with "I.R.S.", Tony Martin returned to "Black Sabbath" and brought with him drummer Cozy Powell, followed by Tony Iommi.

Powell and Iommi began writing the material for the album at Tony Martin's house when Tony Martin joins them for rehearsals.

It should be noted that at one point Iommi wanted to record the album with Ronnie James Dio, but it was Cozy Powell who convinced him to stay with Tony Martin.

(Photo: I.R.S.)

Iommi also tried to recruit bassist Geezer Butler who expressed his desire to return to the band, but Butler eventually preferred to accompany Ozzy Osbourne during a tour designed to promote the album "No Rest for the Wicked".

This album is absolutely not Ozzy's classic "Sabbath", it's not even Dio's "Sabbath" era although Martin's tone of voice reminds us of him, but it's definitely the album that can best define Tony Martin's "Black Sabbath".

Listening to this album gives us the feeling that Martin's powerful voice is the one leading all the songs, with the rest of the instruments serving as the basis and a fertile cushion on which Martin can develop the deep roars, powerful howls, and melodies so beautiful in his singing.

Not that Iommi does not give a tremendous and iconic guitar performance here, nor does it in any way detract from the powerful and dominant drumming of Cozy Powell, who also co-produced the album with Iommi, but Martin is undoubtedly revealed here as the "Outstanding Actor". Not only did he write all the lyrics and also participate in the composition, but he is also the leading force behind the songs on the album, which sweeps the entire band forward with him.

What allows Martin to stand out so much here is, among other things, the fact that Geezer Butler's place was absent from the album, otherwise, his dominant and heavy playing would surely have obscured Martin's mighty and powerful voice. The bass was played by session bassist Laurence Cottle, who comes from a jazz background in general, dresses precisely on Martin's voice and allows him to navigate more easily between the notes and above the rhythm, giving some of his greatest vocal performances. Another push that highlights Martin's abilities and adds to the overall gothic vibe that hovers over the album lies in Geoff Nicholls' clever and beautiful keyboard playing.

This album has epic anthems, like the theme song "Headless Cross", which it's riff and vibe remind us of "Heaven and Hell" from the Dio era. The song is based on a true story that happened in the Middle Ages. While the plague was raging in Europe, it also reached a small village called "Cross Head". The villagers who tried to remove the curse went to the "headless cross" hill, where they prayed to God for help, but no one survived.

Other great songs are "When Death Calls" which features Brian May's guitar solo and the semi-ballad "Nightwing" in which Iommi makes a nostalgic use of classical guitar.

On the other hand, you can find light, rhythmic, and 80's compatible metal songs, such as "Black Moon" written while Ray Gillan was still the singer. This song was released as a b-side for the single "The Eternal Idol" from the previous album, but re-recorded for this album. The song "Call of the Wild" Which was supposed to be called "Hero", but its name was changed at the last minute because Ozzy's album "No Rest for the Wicked" which came out shortly before, included a song of the same name, and of course "Devil & Daughter" originally called "Devil's Daughter" also changed at the last minute for exactly the same reason. These songs are all enjoying the minimalist but definitely enriching playing of keyboardist Geoff Nicholls.

So if you're curious to know what the Tony Martin era of "Black Sabbath" sounds like, this album is definitely a great place to start.

Since the band's albums during the Martin era do not appear on Spotify, here is a link to YouTube:

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