Ginger Nuts of Horror
No longer hamstrung by voice-matching another singer’s material, he takes to each song with impressive gusto.
Not just my favourite Black Sabbath album, but one of my favourite albums of all time, Tyr never felt like it really belonged in the Sabbath canon. Though hotly denied as such by bassist Neil Murray, it is the closest thing the band have ever released to a concept album. Aside from the commercial rock of ‘Feels Good to Me’, the other tracks share a religious theme which, whilst hardly new ground for Sabbath, had rarely been as cohesive as is here.
Moreover, a good number of the tracks – not to mention the title of the album – have a Nordic feel to them, either musically or lyrically. Make no mistake: this is the Ragnarok of Sabbath albums.
As a young teen with his own Scandinavian roots (not to mention certain theological obsessions that are bound to spring up when you’re raised by a Catholic and an atheist) this was terribly exciting for me. From the choral chanting that introduces the opener ‘Anno Mundi’ to the breakneck bombast of eye-gouging anthem ‘Heaven in Black’ this was the first album I had to replace because I wore the cassette out (sorry, Dad!).
As is standard for the period, it’s the two Tonys who anchor the album. Iommi’s riffs are tight, measured and heavier than a blue whale’s testicles (if you’re interested, that’s a good half-ton apiece... I looked it up). There’s little in the way of experimentation on this album from him, as the whole thing has a certain Wagnerian feel to it, but nowhere does it feel like he’s just running through the motions.
As for Tony Martin, this would have been the first time I’d heard him and, if you read my previous entry for this series, you already know about the platonic man-crush I have for him. The seeds of that were sown with this album. Every track gives him license to set his vocals soaring in a way that The Eternal Idol never did. No longer hamstrung by voice-matching another singer’s material, he takes to each song with impressive gusto.
Whether that’s the sinister ‘The Lawmaker’, the pumping ‘Jerusalem’, the sonorous ‘The Sabbath Stones’ or the melancholic ‘Odin’s Court’, he makes every track his own, and demonstrates his versatility as a frontman, even down to belting out the closest thing to a power ballad that Sabbath have knocked out.
Ah yes, ‘Feels Good to Me’.
This is a matter that very much divides the Black Sabbath fanbase. Is it a brave and daring change of musical direction from a band that had relied on a certain tone and style, or is it a cynical attempt to produce a potential chart-topper?
The answer, in the opinion of this particular scribe, is a little from Column A and a little from Column B.
There is no doubt that it’s a radio friendly tune. Likewise, one can’t deny that it sticks out like a sore thumb sandwiched between ‘Valhalla’ and ‘Heaven in Black’ but to decry it as selling-out seems a bit harsh for a band that redefined heavy music as we know it.
Personally, I think it’s a belter of a track, a soulful piece of balladry that’s right up there with ‘Love Walked In’, ‘Bringing on the Heartbreak’ and ‘Fucked with a Knife’.
But then, I’m just an old softy at heart.