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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!