Label: Dark Star Records, Battlegod Productions
Date: January 14th, 2022
I have to admit that when it comes to Black Sabbath, Tony Martin has always been my favorite vocalist.
Since I grew up under communist regime, I was the generation of those who knew about the bands that we could find on smuggled albums. We had only two national TV channels, and you might guess even rock, not to mention hard rock or heavy metal, had no place in the media, only countless news and brainwashing. I cannot even remember when and how, but I saw a video for “Headless Cross”. I cannot describe how I felt at that moment. I was hypnotized!
Now you already know I am old enough to say that I have been waiting long enough (17 years) to hear what British gentlemen will offer to fans. Born in Birmingham, Anthony Philip Harford joined Black Sabbath in 1987. He was the frontman of the band in a period of 1987 to 1991 and 1993 to 1997, which makes him second vocalist with the longest internship in Sabbath’s career. Besides Black Sabbath, he has worked with M3, Misha Calvin, The Cage, Giuntini Project, Phenomena… It is the shortest summary of a rich biography I will freely say musical legend, Tony Martin.
His first solo album ″Where I Belong″ was released in 1992, the next one, ″Scream″, in 2005. The third album ″Thorns″ was released on January 14th, 2022. Dark Star Records is in charge of an album distribution in North and South America, while for the rest of the world it is Battlegod Productions. If you are a legend, a metal icon, one of the best metal vocalists, it is not surprising to gather a proven team of musicians. Danny Nedham (Venom), Magnus Rosén who had been already working with Martin since 2012 and might be the most recognizable with his work with HammerFall and Scot McClellan who helped in writing process (fun fact: Scot and Tony have met on FB) as well as Greg Smith who shared the stage with Alice Cooper, Rainbow, Blue Öyster Cult and many others. Since Tony is a multi-instrumentalist, he had been playing guitars also, specifically on “Book of Shadows” or “Crying Wolf”. Maybe it might be interesting to mention that the original album title was supposed to be “Book of Shadows”, then it was changed to “Black Widow Angel” and in the end it turned out to be “Thorns”. There was a huge gap between the last and this one album, so it is not strange to change a lot as well as an album title.
When you start listening to this album, the first thing you might notice, at least I did, is that Tony’s vocal interpretation goes in the Dio direction. At some sections he really sounds like we are listening to Dio. And that is amazing. Further, you will also notice the diversity in any sense of that word. So, if I might use only one word to describe this album I would say: surprise.
“As the World Burns” is the opening track and the first single from the album, followed by the video released in December 2021. It brings back the sound of the eighties spiced with a bit of a modern sound, but the voice is so clear, recognizable, outstanding, and I have to admit Tony did not sound this good, this powerful since ″Headless Cross″.
“Black Widow Angel” comes next. It is a bitter slower track that goes in a doom direction, at least its intro. Beautiful melody and Tony′s vocals are dominating, but pay attention to the bass line. Incredible surprise.
“Book of Shadows” is my personal favorite. What impresses me the most is a Gospel chant (reminds me a bit of Lord of the Lost’s “Judas”), the choir that brings drama, a little girl narration in the end, of course Tony’s vocal performance as well as Rosén’s incredible bass performance.
If the song’s title is “Crying Wolf” what can you expect if not the ballad? This one includes dominating acoustic guitar.
“Damned by You” continues in the same pace, traditional heavy sound spiced with a blues riff, and melancholic violin solo in the beginning gives it a special note.
“No Shame at All” is a bit rocky; a very infectious boogie rhythm drives you through the song and leads to another slow track, “Nowhere to Fly” that reminds a bit on Judas Priest style and along with “Passion Killer” deliver heavy riffs.
If you “Run Like the Devil” you have to run fast so this song finally brings back the faster tempo, and if I had to pick the one song that mostly reminds of already mentioned Dio, this one would be it. And to be realistic, Martin is the only Black Sabbath’s singer who could sing Dio’s songs.
“This is Your Damnation” surprised me the most. The song is full of surprises, based on acoustic guitar but also with addition of modern sound, a bit of blues and even rap moments draws the song to the already mentioned surprise realm. This is the most diverse song of the album.
In the end, “Thorns”. The song about domestic violence and Pamela Moore’s guest appearance gives depth to this album. Supported by violin in the background it is the perfect emotional song chosen to close the album.
This is a fantastic 2022 opener, a perfect mix of traditional heavy metal, rock, blues and groove with dominating mid tempo and bass that brings life to the songs. Might easily be the album of the year (already).