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3 songs, 3 paths. - 91%

hells_unicorn, May 18th, 2009

This stands unique among the various singles in Black Sabbath’s history because of how much it elucidates about the history of the band in a mere 3 songs. It tells the tale of Tony Martin in a state of transition, trying to make sense of the changing scenery around him and essentially carry on the Sabbath name (more due to label obligations rather than being something of his own choosing) without any of his original band mates. As much of a radical change back towards the metal paradigm that “The Eternal Idol” was, it did not happen at the mere drop of a hat, but came about through a series of experiments, some of which are only known via this single.

“The Shining” is the catchiest song from Iommi’s 1987 effort and among the more consistent with the character of Black Sabbath, at least as it was since Ozzy left the fold. The principle riff that it is based around was supposedly being kicked around by the famed axe man since the time that “Born Again” was being put together. It’s among the more epic sounding songs to come out of the band in the late 80s, going through a fairly large number of differing ideas, and spearheaded by a driving power chord line that shares some commonality with “Heaven And Hell”. But the star attraction at work here is clearly recently recruited vocalist Tony Martin, whose high soaring yet clean cut vocals bear a large similarity to Solitude Aeternus front man Robert Lowe (a band that was not quite established yet at this juncture in history), and fills the entire arrangement with a sense of light to contrast the dark musical surroundings.

But in spite of the obvious power and intrigue of the a-side, the b-sides prove to be a bit more educational to those who want a lesson in Sabbath history. Essentially at this point Iommi was kicking around several other potential paths for the next coming album, one of which being a continuation of the “Seventh Star” sound in “Some Kind Of Woman”, which is basically a more riff happy yet not as lead drenched answer to Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”. It’s more rock than metal, but it slays something amazing and is among the fastest songs that have ever been put together by doom pioneer Tony Iommi. The other path was to reach back to the Ozzy era of the band which consisted of older 70s oriented rock with a dark, down tuned guitar sound not all that far off from “Sabotage”. Suffice to say, the original version of “Black Moon” is very much a far cry from the finished version that adorned the “Headless Cross” album. Its tuned down significantly lower, has a much rougher mix that sounds somewhat comparable to that of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, and has a much darker organ sound. It’s hard to determine which version is better, but in spite of being built off the same pattern of notes and riffs, each version of this song sounds very different in character from the other.

It’s difficult to say where this single can be found except for maybe at some pawnshop in the middle of nowhere, so your best bet is to look online somewhere for the b-sides of this obscure yet elucidating release. It all but completely foreshadows the many twists and turns in Sabbath’s sound that were to come, and it manages to be an enjoyable listen in spite of practically being in completely different genres in each song. Tony Iommi could be seen as a mad scientist of sorts, only wearing black leathers and crosses rather than a white jacket, and this is definitely among his stranger yet very interesting experiments.