Tony Martin has always been a hell of a singer. He has to be: in Black Sabbath he needed to compete with the legacies of predecessors Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio and Ian Gillan, in both sound and charisma. And he nailed it. Albums like Headless Cross, Tyr and Cross Purposes are crammed full of incredible performances and thoughtful lyrics. Martin has teamed with Dario Mollo a few times before, but with The Third Cage the duo really get it right.

This is that rare album that freely moves from melodic hard rock to dark heavy metal and back with effortless ease, with witty lyrics, engaging performances, strong vocal melodies, and some blindingly cool guitar work. The material veers from darkly majestic (“Still In Love With You,” “Oh My Soul”) to driving metal (“Cirque De Freak”) to upbeat hard rock (“One Of The Few”) and all points in between. Lead track “Wicked World” is a fine kickoff which gives you a taste of the brilliant overall sound of the album from a production perspective, but as a straightforward energetic rocker it tends to get swallowed up by the deeper material that follows it. The video is below and it’s a heck of a song, but there’s even better throughout the album. Martin has rarely sounded better than this vocally, and Mollo plays like a man possessed, with chunky rhythm work and firey lead work. He combines bluesy phrasing and a traditional European metal approach with flashes of modern flair as well.

It’s easy to throw around claims like “this is one of the best hard rock albums of the last few years,” but that’s pretty much what you have here. All of the elements fall right into place, with Mollo and Martin delivering a close to perfect album. Whether it catches on is anybody’s guess, but it deserves all the praise I can heap upon it and more. Check it out.

Links: www.dariomollo.com / www.frontiers.it