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damn right this is ESSENTIAL - 80%

UltraBoris, March 14th, 2004

All of Tony Martin's stuff.... well, except maybe that last album from '95 (Forbidden) is must-hear material. This era is indeed the ultimate in classic power-metal of the Purple/Rainbow/Dio/Yngwie vein. Combine Iommi's monster guitar work with the sense of style borrowed from Rainbow via a certain former vocalist, and from Purple via another certain former vocalist, and then throw in the most underrated singer in the history of the world... combine all that with epic song constructions about vikings and other cool stuff, and you are all set.

Highlights.... first off, the uber-song Battle of Tyr/Odin's Court/Valhalla, which bursts open on the third track... VALHALLA!!!! Then of course The Sabbath Stones harks back to some of the more traditional years of Sabbath, with the heavy-as-fuck riffage... there's also the catchy, speedy, 80s-metal sounding Lawmaker, and then THE HIGHLIGHT... the opener is just completely amazing... Anno Mundi. Spiritus Sanctus, Anno Mundi, whatever the fuck he's saying. Also the lyrics are perfect... DO YOU FIGHT FOR THE CAUSE??? Throw in the subtle keyboard track, and the ever-building-up intensity, and we've got ourselves a winner. And the sands of time grow old! One of the best songs Black Sabbath has ever done.

The album kinda dies a bit at the end... Feels Good to Me is kinda empty and seems like a mishmash centered around one second-class Iommi riff, and Heaven in Black is pretty decent, but just not quite spectaular as some other fast songs that Sabbath has toyed with over the years.

Still, a great album... the second-best album of the Martin years, after the unforgettable Eternal Idol.