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Initially I viewed Tyr as the weakest of the original Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath trilogy, but these days I’ve been inclined to believe it might be the strongest (it is, at the very least, better than Headless Cross). This is because Tyr is the sound of this Black Sabbath lineup at their most comfortable. Here there is no need to live up to any of the expectations based on the band’s rich lineage, they need only live up to those based off of The Eternal Idol and Headless Cross. The resulting freedom is responsible for one of the most developed Sabbath albums ever made, a record that is both musically enjoyable and artistically satisfying.
As with the other albums that Tony Martin sings on, it is necessary to mentally detach these works from the Ozzy-era albums to fully appreciate them. The sound is more of a traditional/power metal sound than anything remotely doomish and there is an essential keyboard element (once again provided by Geoff Nicholls) accompanying the band’s sound. This is for atmospheric purposes, obviously, but the results haven’t been this magical since Heaven and Hell (when the 80’s style synths really started making a full-time appearance). Where Headless Cross relied on synth backing to the point of dependence, Tyr blends them flawlessly into the instrumentation, which is also quite strong. Tony Iommi brings the riffage by the barrel; Tyr is one of the heaviest Black Sabbath albums since the Ozzy years. Iommi is the key here, but it is also due in no small part to the incredibly proficient Neil Murray on bass guitar and drummer Cozy Powell, who delivers one of the best performances in his extensive discography. Everything is just incredibly well done, whether the band is performing quick power metal (“The Lawmaker”), straightforward, catchy traditional metal (“Jerusalem,” “Heaven in Black”) or doom-laden epics like “The Sabbath Stones” or “Anno Mundi.” The latter numbers are where this lineup really excels, and nowhere are they more ambitious than on the “Tyr” trilogy. Featuring a keyboard introduction (“The Battle of Tyr”), a stirring acoustic movement (“Odin’s Court”), and a powerful concluding anthem (“Valhalla”), it is one of the highlights of later-period Sabbath. Only “Feels Good to Me,” (the ballad of sorts) feels a bit weaker than the rest: the album just plain rules that much.
Of course, one must mention singer Tony Martin. His performance on the album is not merely one of comfort, but of absolute confidence. Completely shedding the Dio mannerisms that he displayed on The Eternal Idol, Martin gives a powerful, emotional performance from beginning to end. He experiments with layering on “Anno Mundi” and “Jerusalem” to good effect and he’s matured as a lyricist: every tale told on this album was penned by him.
Underrated like all of the Martin-era albums, Tyr is an excellent album nonetheless. Recommended for fans of epic heavy metal bands like Manilla Road, Manowar, etc. minus their speedier stuff