Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Black Sabbath - Headless Cross (1989)

Continuing on the successful sound that came from "The Eternal Idol", "Headless Cross" was released in 1989 and was to that point Black Sabbath's darkest album after the Ozzy era. I am not saying that they completely went back to the doom groove that excelled Black Sabbath's early career, but some of the elements was added to the band's current repertoire from that era, like the dark lyrics and a slightly dirtier production. So this was ultimately as close as Black Sabbath would come to its older self.

If we compare this album to Black Sabbath's previous releases, I would say that "Headless Cross" is a lot like its predecessor "The Eternal Idol", but it also have distinct similarities with "Heaven And Hell", mostly in the shear power of the performance. And it is the singer Tony Martin Harford that really steps up to the plate. He was good in "The Eternal Idol", but he really excels in this album. His voice is showing a force that is very similar to the one that former Sabbath vocalist Ronnie James Dio has, which is of course another reason why this album and "Heaven And Hell" sounds so similar.

But when it comes to quality in the song material, "Headless Cross" does not reach the same astronomic heights as "Heaven And Hell" did. There are indeed several songs in this album that really impress me, like the groovy "Devil & Daughter" and the hard hitting "Black Moon", but the album is not completely rock solid. Songs like "Call of The Wild" and "Cloak & Dagger" keeps this record from being one of the band's top albums. I also feel like most of the songs in "Headless Cross" does not have a very high memorability factor, which makes it harder to acknowledge the album among the rest of the Black Sabbath discography.

I am still fond of the album though. I especially like that Tony Iommi puts more emphasis on the riffs and solos. Definitely some of Iommi's best work in quite some time. But there are more details in this album that brings a smile to my face, like the keyboards in the title track or the build up in "When Death Calls". These small things, and many other intricate details, are what makes this record a winner.

I must say that "Headless Cross" is a great album and so far the best album among those that are not in the Ozzy or Dio era. With a great mix of darkness, melody and modern musicality, this album is very interesting in many aspects. It does miss another great song or two and it does have a tendency to be quite anonymous, but it still holds a good amount of quality that one should not ignore. So after some years of turbulence, it is good to hear that Sabbath has found the right path again. The question now however is if they will keep making the right decisions, or spin out of the road again.

Songs worthy of recognition: Devil & Daughter, When Death Calls, Black Moon

Rating: 8,5/10 Nightwings

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