We’re going real deep into the catalog of the fathers of Heavy Metal. Put your horns up, if you’re an Ozzy fan of Black Sabbath, put those pitchforks down. It’s time to teach you about the Tony Martin era of Black Sabbath. Headless Cross was the culmination of the Tony Martin, Tony Iomi partnership in Black Sabbath. The 1989 album is tucked away in the long forgotten sphere of Black Sabbath. Surrounded by a tenure of Ronnie James Dio and some time away from the glory days of Ozzy Osbourne. It’s an album that is almost forgotten in time. That makes the treat of telling you all about it that much better.
Background Of Headless Cross
Black Sabbath was in flux in 1989. The band had just been kicked off of Warner Bros. Records. Since Ronnie James Dio first left the band, it was sort of a revolving door of singers. Ian Gillan of Deep Purple filled in on Born Again. That album has high points but also was never going to be a lasting partnership.
Seventh Star was meant to be a Tony Iomi solo record, but was changed to a Black Sabbath album at the last minute. The Eternal Idol was the first with Tony Martin. Who’s voice breathed new life into the band. His vocal range was on par with the mighty Dio, and his ego wasn’t too big to get in the way of singing Ozzy songs. That album would prove to be critically derided and did not sell well.
Tony Iomi would recruit Cozy Powell to play drums on the album. The original thought for Iomi was to bring Dio back into the fold. Powell persuaded him out of that though. Dio would return to Black Sabbath for Dehumanizer, another so-so album with high points like “I”, “Time Machine”, and “Computer God”. Iomi would also try to get Geezer Butler back for the record, but he chose to tour with Ozzy Osbourne instead.
If you enjoy the thundering drums of Vinny Appice or Bill Ward, Cozy Powell isn’t too far behind them in terms of quality. As for Headless Cross, it would release on April 24th, 1989. The album was immediately hailed as one of the best Sabbath albums in ages.
My Favorite Tracks Off Headless Cross
The lyrical content of the album was also different than any other Black Sabbath album. The band normally touches on lyrics involving the occult and Satan, but not for the entire record. Headless Cross is all about spooky, evil, dark subject matters. I think it’s because of this that I have such a strong connection to Headless Cross. I love all that kind of stuff and it’s what makes metal such a great genre. You can have songs about dragons and kings, but you can also have a song about a “Black Moon” rising bringing forth demons. Tony Martin is out of his mind on this album with vocals that are on par with the best results from the other Black Sabbath luminaries.
The best part about this album is that it’s a quick 40 minute listen. There isn’t any time wasted. The tracks are all in perfect order. It’s a fantastic listen to go all the way through. It’ll make you have a greater appreciation for the later career change that Tony Iomi goes through in guitar playing.
If you put a gun to my head and ask what my two favorite songs off the album are, I’ll have to pick, “Devil and Daughter” and “Nightwing”.
What Happened After This Album?
If you look at the chronology of Black Sabbath albums after this one, it’s not great. There are some great tunes of every album after this one, yes, even Forbidden. But there wasn’t another great Sabbath album that was good top to bottom like this one. Even their triumphant return and finale, 13 has some spotty moments and the mixing is far too loud. Headless Cross, for some, is going to be new. For me, I found it browsing YouTube one day, and never turned back. Tony Martin doesn’t get the credit he deserves for keeping Black Sabbath going as long as it did. That’s it for now, I’ll see you again on Monday for another Music Rec.
If you want to see yesterday’s rec, check it out right here: