RE-EXAMINING TONY MARTIN-ERA BLACK SABBATH: FORBIDDEN
It’s 2012 at last! Remember that press conference back in November where Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill Ward (yes, that’s what makes it Sabbath finally – the insertion of one BILL WARD!) sat down at the Whiskey A Go Go and announced to the world that they were finally making a new album with Rick Rubin? Don’t call it a comeback. Call it a reclamation.
There’s something very intriguing about watching a band make a colossal misstep and then recover. There have certainly been a good share of them — most recently and horrifically that towering monolith of “what the fuck was that?” known as Lulu — albeit, no one has redeemed themselves from that one quite yet. And with the exception of one great Maiden track, “The Klansman,” (which Bruce has to explain before every time they play it live), there were those Blaze Bailey Maiden albums.
In the wake of all the hoopla of their classic line-up reformation I give you Black Sabbath’s self admitted career low-point: Forbidden. First off, let’s make this clear: I do consider the Tony “The Cat” Martin era of the band to be a legit part of the Sabbath legacy, just not Forbidden. In fact, The Headless Cross is on my top 5 list of Sabbath albums. Truthfully, the Tony Martin era of the band doesn’t get enough credit; The Eternal Idol and Tyr are solid records as well. Maybe they’re not proper Sabbath records, but good ones. Incidentally, Tony Martin should also be credited with one of metal’s most spectacular mullets.
First and foremost, the most telling (and shocking) sign of this being a complete crash n’ burn disemboweling of the Sabbath legacy comes on the production credits: produced by the creative force behind BODY COUNT, Ernie “C.” Cunnigham. Huh?!? Forget that opener “The Illusion of Power” tries to squeeze a crushing groove out of Cozy Powell; it sounds like “The Cat” is trying to actually rap against the creeping Iommi riff. All of a sudden at 2:27, Ice T. himself steps to the mic. Whathafuck?! Maybe it had something to do with it being 1995 and Soundgarden handling Sabbath-duties for the time being.
Forbidden also seemed like a final chance for the band to extricate itself from IRS records, the now-defunct home to Dread Zeppelin and The Fine Young Cannibals. “You know what it’s like, you get one of these whiz-kids who come up with these great brainwaves that doesn’t work,” Iommi admitted in his recent autobiography, Iron Man. This was after the Sabs reunited (for the first time) with Ronnie James Dio on 1992’s Dehumanizer and a one-time attempt at getting things back together in the studio with two tracks (“Psycho Man” and “Selling My Soul”) on the live album Reunion.
Forbidden was a strange note to go out on. Said “The Cat” of the whole affair: “We were kinda steered into a ‘rap SABBATH’ album. Then I was told that [rapper] Ice-T was gonna be doing it and they couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me if he was doing the whole thing or just one track… and I still didn’t know the answer to that when I was in the studio singing the tracks. They said they were gonna take it and see what Ice-T wanted to do. So it has a distinct ill feeling about it.”
“Ill” is one way to put it. Licensed or not, you think they’d learned about working with hip hop producers but they’re about to go at it once again with another one – Rick Rubin. We’ll see how this one turns out. You can bet LL Cool J won’t be making an appearance. Here’s to the one of 2012’s most anticipated.
– The Gitter