One of my favourite eras of Black Sabbath is the series of albums recorded with vocalist Tony Martin. Tony Iommi seemed to broaden his composing, he unleashed some of his greatest tones ever during this period, and he was pushed to new heights of lead guitar playing. Something about the Iommi/Martin dynamic seemed to bring great things out of both musicians. Today I had the honour of interviewing Tony Iommi for an upcoming Mixdown article about the final Black Sabbath tour, and the fine folks at that mag kindly allowed me to set aside a few minutes of the interview for an I Heart Guitar-exclusive diversion to talk about this era. In the wake of the recent news that Iommi hopes to record with Martin again, I thought we’d start there: Read More …
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.
The Black Sabbath albums featuring Tony Martin on vocals are some of my favourites – especially Cross Purposes and Eternal Idol. Martin is more than one of the coolest voices in metal – he’s also a talented multi-instrumentalist and lyricist. I recently interviewed him for Gibson.com and you can read it here. Here’s a snippet.
How did you develop your multi-instrumentalism? Did you have formal training or is it more organic for you?
Well I started playing things when I was five years old. I had my first guitar when I was seven, which I still own! It’s an acoustic guitar that is completely warped and the action is about half an inch! But I got sounds out of it and I kept exploring with other things – electronic projects and taking things apart and rebuilding them. The most famous of my musical explorations was harmonizing with my mother’s Hoover! I learned a lot about note interaction just by using the constant drone note from the vacuum. Also I had an AKAI 1721 reel-to-reel machine and I wanted to multi-track record stuff. I figured out that if I unsoldered the wires off the erase head, I could get it to record over a previous take. It of course faded the more times I recorded over it, but it was another step in exploring stuff. It hasn’t stopped to this day. I still explore with samples and sounds and electronic stuff. Guitars are my main instrument. If I want to write, I always pick up the guitar first. My original first pride was a Gibson 335 semi, which I am gutted to say I sold for £2 sterling when I was 14. Clearly had no idea what I was holding! And I also destroyed a Reslo ribbon microphone – a genuine 1940s-ish one – in the interest of exploring the inner workings… I don’t think I want to reveal anything else or I might slash my wrists!