Black Sabbath

I.R.S., 1995

REVIEW BY: Ben McVicker


The eighteenth and final studio album from Black Sabbath (unless one counts The Devil You Know, released under the moniker, Heaven And Hell), Forbidden is a lukewarm swan song for the band. Recorded over a short period of eight days in order to fulfil contract obligations, the album saw the TYR line-up come together for one last effort before the original Sabbath crew reunited in December 1997.

The most frequent complaint about Forbidden is the production, particularly Cozy Powell’s drums, which sound something akin to cardboard boxes lined with tin foil. Even worse, they’re very up-front in the mix, making them stick out like a sore thumb. Whoever enlisted Body Count guitarist Ernie C. to produce a Black Sabbath album should be tarred and feathered.

Another distinct change to the band’s sound is the vocals. In stark contrast to the previous albums with Tony Martin, the songs are 99.5% free of vocal overdubs. Forbidden sounds markedly different as a result, with none of the power of The Shining or Headless Cross.

As for the songs, their greatest offence in most cases is that they’re forgettable. The most well-known track from the album, “The Illusion Of Power,” gets its reputation due to the guest vocal of Ice-T, rather than the actual music – a sludgy riff that crawls along at a snail’s pace. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“The Illusion Of Power” is at least consistent though. A number of tracks sound hurried and incomplete, such as “Get A Grip,” which plods on for three minutes before making a disjointed sojourn into an obnoxious outro. Likewise, “I Won’t Cry For You” is a hackneyed ballad that fails to add any diversity to the record, and “Sick And Tired” is, well, tiresome save for a brief drum intro by Cozy Powell.

A few songs, such as “Guilty As Hell,” would be twice as good if there were some of Geezer Butler’s signature fills along the way. The same goes for “Shaking Off The Chains,” which has a wonderful, fast-paced middle section that just cries out for some bass.

The only real highlight is “Kiss Of Death,” a song closer in style to the likes of “Nightwing” and “The Eternal Idol.” It’s a welcome change from the mainstream sound of the other songs, and the only number that makes a strong progression from start to finish. With a gradual, eerie build-up, a strong middle section featuring excellent vocals, and a heavy conclusion, “Kiss Of Death” is arguably among the best of the Martin-era tracks. All it needs is a guitar solo. The whole album is a very 90’s experience in that a great number of the songs are missing solos.

Other strong tracks include “Forbidden,” where the band finally gels, offering a memorable chorus and a healthy dose of fills from Powell. “Rusty Angels,” meanwhile, is a surprisingly upbeat song. Melodic, cheerful, and totally uncharacteristic of the band, it might have made for a good single.

Although it’s unfortunate that Forbidden would be Black Sabbath’s last creative output before turning into a nostalgia act, it is not without its good points. There are a few great moments, like the chorus in “Forbidden” or some of the riffing in “Shaking Off The Chains.” But the majority of the songs feel like half-baked outtakes, and the drum sound is a fly up your nose for the duration of the album. Non-diehard fans would be better advised to pick up 1996’s The Sabbath Stones, a compilation spanning the 1983-1995 period that includes “Kiss Of Death” and “Loser Gets It All,” a Japanese bonus track. They won’t be missing much.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


A very accurate review, I think. A few good tracks, but it sounds like the rush job it is.

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