Both "camps" are half-right (and half-wrong) regarding the Tony Martin era. To each their own, sure, but beyond that there are things neither should be able to deny.
On the one hand, of course it's over-the-top enthusiastic to pretend that such albums as 'The Eternal Idol', 'Headless Cross' and 'Tyr' are exactly in the same league (let alone in the same vein) as 'Heaven and Hell'; those who take this stance typically have only the fantastic tracks out of those albums in mind, most of which happen to be the most metal (but not just). Quality wise, there *are* fillers aplenty from that era, more so than from the Dio era (about in the same proportion as for the entire
Ozzy era, although that will soon change). Style wise, first, look me in the eyes and say out loud "Martin era Sabbath has no glam/AOR influences at all"
. Go on. Rrrright. It's not prominent in every track, but yes, there are
sleazy Bon Jovisms in some of Martin's vocal lines (particularly some additional lyrics), and the production values and arrangements have a decidedly "radio-friendly hard rock"
orientation overall; some of the songs themselves
, and even some riffs
, too. Love them or hate them, they're here; only a fool would deny their existence.
On the other hand, calling the Martin era as a whole "cock rock", or pretending it sounds nothing like Sabbath, is just taking the piss. Not just because it's derogatory, although that it is, but simply because those albums, probably best qualified as melodic hard/heavy overall
, also do have plenty of metal as fuck songs (not glam/cock/[insert bullshit here]), almost all of which sound unmistakably Sabbath (closer to Dio era Sabbath than original line-up Sabbath, sure, but so what?!). First, the Martin era albums contain some of the most accomplished Sabbath songs and instrumentals built around Iommi eerie arpeggios
, in direct continuation of what he was doing circa "Children of the Sea
", or "Sleeping Village
" for that matter (yes, on the first album). Also, while tracks like "The Shining
", "Ancient Warrior
", "When Death Calls
", "The Law Maker
" and "The Battle Of Tyr / Odin's Court / Valhalla "
may not be the crushing doom songs the former group praise them as, they're still nothing short of pretty fucking epic heavy metal songs. Love them or hate them, they're here; only a fool would deny their existence. If those
are glam, then welcome to the Glam Archives, muthafuckas!
Honestly, this is a great post and good stab at taking a balanced point of view. I still disagree with a lot of it. Tony Martin-era albums have a lot of songs that sound unmistakably Sabbath? That's highly debatable for me, for a truckload of fans, a great number of accomplished musicians that were influenced by Sabbath and even for many Black Sabbath members
themselves. This is a highly subjective subject matter it seems but I've bought every Sabbath record ever released, I listened to each of them as they came out and they don't sound like Sabbath to me. If they were unmistakably Sabbath, that would make a shitload of bands out there unmistakably Sabbath. Three quarter of the original lineup gone. Different song structures, different voice, completely different style of melody lines done by a guy who was heavily into funk and reggae more than metal (that's a fact related by Martin in interviews, not an insult) different guitar tone, different approach to riffing, jazz-influenced eclectic drumming replaced by radio-friendly hard rock straight skin pounding drowned in gut-puking reverb, the feeling of wildly experimenting gone... the list could go on!
Tony Iommi is a legend. We might call him the Michael Jordan of dark, ugly heavy as fuck metal. However, just because Jordan was a great athlete doesn't mean it will translate particularly well when he tries to play baseball. Likewise, just because Iommi is a master guitarist doesn't mean his game is radio-friendly hard rocking. Are there hints of his great talent on those records? Yes. But even when he tries to wink at the genuine Sabbath sound with that band, the result is about as convincing to me as if Jordan had brought a bunch of his baseball pals on the basketball court to face the Lakers.
Which brings me to the cock rock comment. I realize how controversial that sounded and how clear cut and extreme. This is mostly
for effect. Just like when I say Justin Bieber is shit, I don't literally mean he is human excrement, complete with color, shape and smell. But yeah, there's expectations that come with carrying a band name. There's a legacy behind that name. These albums were destined for critical and commercial failure but honestly, I think it was Iommi's right to do the kind of music he felt like doing, even though I think the particular approach (hiring a bunch of hired guns and aiming for mass appeal) is terribly misguided. Using the Sabbath name for that was IMO profoundly dishonest. Iommi himself seems like he has struggled with the question of what is Black Sabbath several times. There's interviews all over the place that point to Iommi succumbing to record label pressure and labeling solo records as "Black Sabbath".
IMO, that has tarnished not only the legacy of one of the greatest bands of all time but also hurt several of these later projects, which cannot entirely be taken for what they are but have to suffer through comparisons they cannot live up to. At least, when you buy a FUSED, you take it for what it is.
I enjoy saying "May your sword stay wet like a young girl in her prime" to people instead of "See you later" as much as the next guy