By Daniel Watts
Music Reviewer and Segment Producer
This week we’re going back to 1989. The year that marked Black Sabbath’s 20th anniversary and the year they released their 14th full-length studio album Headless Cross.
The Headless Cross was released on I.R.S. Records and produced by both Tony Iommi and Cozy Powell. Its lineup consisted of Tony Martin on vocals, Tony Iommi on guitar, Laurence Cottle on bass, Cozy Powell on drums, Geoff Nicholls on keyboards and a guest appearance by Queen’s Brian May with a solo on the track “When Death Calls”.
After gaining positive feedback on The Eternal Idol, Martin was invited back to front Sabbath once again for 89’s Headless Cross. Moving forward with momentum the band released the album and received more positive feedback which gave Sabbath a chance to rise from the ashes like a phoenix...well, not necessarily. The album’s progress was halted by very poor promotion in key areas like America. Ultimately causing the album to be left at the starting gate and as time went on, it was forgotten. By many, Headless Cross is considered to be Sabbath’s “best kept secret”. Are they right?
Yes they are! If the promotion didn’t fail I firmly believe Headless Cross would have been a hit Sabbath album. Having Brian May guest on the album should have been enough to turn heads alone, I mean c’mon, it’s Iommi and May on the same album. Tony Martin’s vocal work is as strong as Ozzy’s and Dio’s in my opinion. To me he sounds like a cross between David Coverdale and Dio. Martin has the pipes to hit the high notes but maintains a bluesy style with the occasional Dio-esc gruff. The riffs laid down by Iommi aren’t as potent as 70's era Sabbath but they are hard, heavy and catchy - everything you would hope for from an Iommi riff. Cozy Powell does a killer job behind the kit. Laurence Cottle’s bass lines at times are reminiscent of Geezer Butler and longtime Sabbath keyboardist Geoff Nicholls does a great job of adding extra flare and some intensity to the tracks.
Headless Cross has a considerable amount of consistency across its eight tracks. The production sounds loud and clear. Each song is very catchy and crankable but my favorites are, starting with track two, the title track. It begins with a basic Cozy Powell beat that explodes into a full-on jam showcasing an attractive Iommi riff and a pulsing bass line. Martin’s vocals on this track particularly during the chorus, is amazing. “When Death Calls” sets at number four on the tracklisting. The song begins slow with a mystical vibe as Martin sings dark and haunting lyrics, giving me the image of walking through a cemetery at night. The song then climaxes into a guitar slaying session. Death must have called because Iommi and May absolutely killed it on this track. Lastly, “Call Of The Wild” is a very memorable track in my opinion. It’s got an against-the-odds kind of vibe and sounds more Pop driven than the other tracks on the album.