REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/24/2009
You can argue until the end of time as to when Black Sabbath technically “died”.
Oh, sure, there will be people who will state that as long as Tony Iommi was guitarist, Black Sabbath was still a viable band. But one listen to Tyr, their 1990 release, and you find yourself thinking weird thoughts. Such as, “Had this been released under a different name, it might not have been that bad.”
Continuing the revolving door policy of band members – out was bassist Laurence Cottle, in was Neil Murray – Iommi leads his band of less-than-merry minstrels through nine songs of sadly bland heavy metal offerings. At times, except for the pseudo-Satanic tone that the lyrics try to take, this almost sounds like an amped-up Dokken – and that is an insult to Dokken. Whatever the case, this just isn’t the Black Sabbath fans knew and loved.
I can hear the flame mail now: “All bands need to musically grow and mature.” Well, that is true, indeed… if only Sabbath had shown growth or maturity. Granted, Iommi has gotten more and more comfortable as a guitarist over the years – turning him, unfortunately, into someone who sounds exactly like most of the other guitar shredders out there. And there is no doubt that the remainder of the band – Murray, vocalist Tony Martin, keyboardist Geoff Nichols and drummer Cozy Powell – are more than adept at their instruments of choice. I have no argument therein.
But if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: If the songwriting isn’t there, musicianship can only carry you so far. Such is the case with Tyr. Oh, there are one or two songs that do make the listener think there is some reason for hope – “The Sabbath Stones” and “Valhalla” are two prime examples. But two songs out of nine just don’t cut the mustard; others, such as “Jerusalem,” “Anno Mundi (The Vision)” and “Heaven In Black,” just don’t have the songwriting muscle needed. And the less said about “Feels Good To Me,” the “single,” the better.
Look, I’m not unsympathetic to the plight of Black Sabbath. The Ozzy Osbourne era was over a decade behind them, and other bands had not only borrowed the idea of singing about dark subjects, they took it to much greater depths (to the point that they made Black Sabbath seem like they just dabbled in spirituality on the weekends). So by 1990, Black Sabbath was a band that was struggling not only to find itself musically, but to show that they were still an important band after 20 years with something new and urgent to say. If only Tyr had been the disc to deliver that message; sadly, it’s not.
|Another good Tony Martin era album, similar in style to Headless Cross, which is also underrated.|