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Forbidden, Black Sabbath's last studio release (as of this writing), falls far short of the greatness of band's best work. Recorded in only ten days, the album seems rushed, unfocused and generally uninspired. The "TYR" lineup of Iommi/Martin/Powell/Murray/Nicholls was capable of better music than this, and I guess I was hoping for "TYR II." That's definitely not what we have here, and this album will go down as one of Sabbath's worst.
There are several problems apparent within this album. Every song might be considered a good song, but where are the GREAT songs? There are too many influences from outside of the classic Sabbath sound. Perhaps Iommi gave up too much creative control to the other band members, this situation not helped by the fact that both Powell (rip) and Murray are former members of Whitesnake. Vocalist Tony Martin borrows a lot from Whitesnake vocalist David Coverdale's style, this being most apparent on the title track. "Kiss of Death," the only song that comes close to being a great song, is ruined near the end by some generic Led-Zep riffing. Iommi is the greatest metal guitarist ever, and has no need to copy Jimmy Page riffs.
Another problem is the lifeless production, courtesy of Body Count's Ernie C. The album sounds thin and weak, and during the lackluster "Rusty Angels" one can hear the guitar volume level being pushed up midsong during the clean guitar break. Listen for it, you'll hear. Actually, this song is the closest Sabbath ever came to sounding like Poison! Album opener, "The Illusion of Power" has a doomy riff that is rendered ineffective by the thin production. And Ice T's rapping is unwelcome, cliched rap-metal long after the fad had passed. I can imagine that a screaming guitar solo would've been more appropriate. Obviously not much thought was given to production or song arrangement.
A lack of songwriting quality plagues the entire album. "Shaking Off the Chains" begins with a couple of lame riffs before breaking into a fast bit perhaps reminiscent of Iommi's playing on "Symptom of the Universe." There's a drum intro that sounds like a ripoff of Ozzy's "Over the Mountain." Cheeser "Get a Grip" seems aimed at MTV, and I seem to remember Aerosmith having an album of the same title around the time. "I Won't Cry For You" is a nice power ballad, but far from heavy. And the album cover is nothing spectacular, a Grim Reaper sitting beside a grave, waiting in boredom as Sabbath is reborn yet again. By listening to this album, one would say the Reaper didn't have much longer to wait!
If tihs is to be the last studio album from Sabbath, then it is certainly a disappointment. Tony Martin has called the album "total crap," and Geoff Nichols has said that "the album was recorded in ten days and it shows." So even the band members aren't behind this release, and it seems the album was recorded just to fulfill contractual obligations to IRS records. On "Forbidden" the great monolithic doom metal of Sabbath's past has been traded in for AOR sappiness, and that is what is truly forbidden!
This album has been on the receiving end of some rather harsh criticism in metal circles, mostly due to its extremely rough production and complete departure from the more melodic sound present on the previous Tony Martin era releases. I myself was not a huge fan of Body Count, not due to any lyrical issues that could be compared to Dan Quayle’s ridiculous censorship crusade, but because the sound quality on their work is just plain bad. However, even though Ernie C still has no clue how to make drums sound as they should in a traditional metal mix, this album has some solid work on it that is sadly passed up as being attached to a mediocre release.
Stylistically this album is a combination of the Deep Purple inspired attentiveness to melodic and catchy hooks that has been present throughout the Tony Martin era, and some of the creepy sounding elements that can be found “Born Again” and some of the earlier Ozzy Osboure era material. “Illusion of Power” is probably the spookiest sounding of the lot, containing a dissonant main riff that is comparable to “Disturbing the Priest” as well as the title track to the Eternal Idol release. Ice-T’s spoken narration is actually quite fitting and complements the song well. “Rusty Angels” is much lighter sounding up-tempo song; the main riff sounds like it could have been used on the “Seventh Star” release.
Things really pick up a notch with “Get a Grip”, which has a main riff that is heavily reminiscent of “Zero the Hero”, not to mention some exceptional lead breaks that take me back to the glory days of the Ronnie Dio era. This one also has a great speed section for the closing with Cozy Powell going steady on the double bass drum. “Shaking off the Chains” is our token groove song for this release, having a repetitive yet fun very set of verses and refrains. Groove can be quite fun when it’s kept in moderation, and thankfully Black Sabbath understood this better than the pioneers of the 90s groove style that would write entire albums of the stuff.
“I won’t cry for you” is my pick for the best song on here as it sounds the most like the material on the Headless Cross album. It’s not quite as riveting as “When Death Calls”, but it qualifies as a new classic for the Tony Martin years. “Kiss of Death” is the token epic and has a soft guitar intro reminiscent of “Nightwing”, although Tony Iommi doesn’t go nuts and let it all loose the way he did on that masterpiece. “Guilty as Hell” and the title track are both mid-tempo songs with sections similar to such memorable riff monsters as “Jerusalem”, “Kill in the Spirit World” and “Call of the Wild”. “Sick and Tired” is more of a blues driven number and has a good amount in common with Headless Cross b-side “Cloak and Dagger”.
In conclusion, although the production is nothing to write home about, there is much here for the post-Ozzy, post-Dio fan of Sabbath to enjoy. Tony Iommi is still cranking out some solid riffs and solos, Cozy is still destroying his kit and rebuilding it again for the next number, and Tony Martin is still lighting up every song with his exceptional voice. Although I would categorize this as the weakest release of the Tony Martin era, when we consider the 4 amazing albums that they put out before this one, the notion that this album is shelf-worthy is hardly justified. 1995 was a tough year for heavy metal, and this album was able to come out and still sound like something worthy of the genre.
I heard this album was bad but I believed it couldn't be as bad as its reputation. I first of all love vocals of Tony Martin. His vocals are magnificent on the albums Headless Cross and TYR and those albums quickly became some of my favorite Sabbath releases. Hell after hearing those albums, he quickly became one of my all time favorite vocalists. After finally purchasing and listening to Forbidden numerous times...I have to admit it is poor. Not just poor...down right terrible.
The first thing wrong with this album is the ultra shitty production. It's muddy and all the instruments are poorly mixed. Also, not aided by the crap production, is Martin's vocal performance as it is sub par. He a fantastic singer on the Sabbath albums of the past but here he just sucks it up. There is no high rang singing here, just love level garbage that borderlines on whispering in some cases. I can't believe this is the same singer.
So the first problem is the production, the second is Martin's vocal performance, and the third is just plain and simple shitty songs. I listened to this album straight through three times and nothing stayed in my memory. The album as a whole is just that unmemorable! It than sat on my shelf for about a year and then I popped it out to give it another try. Nope...still the same crap. I struggled very hard to find something positive to say about this release and all I could come up with is that Shaking Off the Chains can be somewhat stomachable and so is the power ballad I Won't Cry for You. These songs are actually poor themselves but they are the highpoints of the album. Illusion of Power is bad song (with additional vocals by Ice-T!?!) but it can work its way into your head. The rest is just boring garbage from a band that has become a shadow of their former selves.
Oh, and Tony Iommi. You remember him right? The great guitarist that is the master of writing simple but memorable riffs? Yeah, well he plays on here but it doesn't seem like him. The guitar playing could have been done by a amateur Sabbath die hard as opposed to the once-God like Iommi. Oh and memorable riffs? What memorable riffs? Sorry...not here.
It's been about 12 years since Forbidden and Sabbath hasn't recorded another studio album since. This is fine because after releasing a monstrosity like this, Sabbath deserved to die. It's an embarrassment to the Black Sabbath name and an insult to fans. This is hands down Sabbath's worst release. People who think Technical Ecstasy, Never Say Die, or Born Again are Sabbath's worst release just plain and simple have never heard Forbidden. It's actually unusually for me to dislike an album so much as I am pretty forgiving....but not with this release.
If I dislike this album so much...why am I keeping it? Well...it's Sabbath and it is a filler in my collection. I am thinking about purchasing another copy and plopping the CD down on coffee table right next to my Metallica St. Anger CD. Forbidden would make another great addition to my beer coaster collection. Hey, I don't want beer stains on my coffee table!!!
First of all, I wonder why the band was still called Black Sabbath at this era, Iommi was the only original left in the band. Most oldschool Sabbath fans will probably find this album disappointing, but it showcases a few things that Black Sabbath isn't know for such as virtuosic drumming and extremely technical guitar work. Cozy Powell shows something that bands of this stature rarely use and that is double-bass. Compared to other Tony Martin Sabbath albums, this is not the best, but still IMO better than anything that they ever realeased with Ozzy. Shaking Off the Chains is probably one of the most powerful songs on this album, followed up closely by I Won't Cry For You. Guilty as Hell is also a rather good song, with yet another first for Sabbath, the use of the word f*ck. I never really thought Sabbath would sink to using profanity or simplistic choruses like on Forbidden, but I guess they were looking for a new edge. This album is very different from albums with Martin, it sounds like a second rate version of Dehumanizer, but IMO that is not necessarily a bad thing, since Dehumanizer ended up being some of Sabbath's finest work.