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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.