Sunday, July 10, 2011

Worth the Effort: Tyr - Black Sabbath - 1990

TyrTony Martin-era Sabbath is forever relegated to cult status and many metal fans refuse to recognize his tenure with the band. I've come to terms with that and, really, it makes it all the more special to me (though I'm sure Tony may feel a little differently on the subject). Whatever constitutes "real" Sabbath aside, Tony Martin recorded four great albums with Tony Iommi and company, three of which I will go so far as to label "classics," one of which is Tyr. The closest thing to a concept album the band ever released, Tyr weaves tales of Norse mythology among other doom-tinged tracks and turns in one of the most leaden monoliths of Sabbath's latter era. 

"Anno Mundi" provides a powerful, progressive opener. This is Black Sabbath building a epic, the likes of which they had not accomplished since the Dio years. The band takes their time, piles on layer after layer of sound until the juggernaut is propelled by its own mass:

It's the following "The Law Maker" that really erupts, then, and Cozy Powell's drums rival Tony Iommi's guitar for sheer power - the interplay during an insane Iommi solo just after the two-minute mark is unlike any I have ever heard before between Tony and any Sabbath drummer before or since. "Jerusalem" is an uptempo, driving rocker and builds momentum for "The Sabbath Stones," the album's centerpiece and undisputed champion.

A mini Viking suite follows with "The Battle of Tyr," "Odin's Court" and "Valhalla." If there's a low point to Tyr it has to be the made-for-rock-radio ballad, "Feels Good to Me." But what a closer, then, with "Heaven in Black" and, again, Cozy Powell's drums front and center up against some of the crunchiest guitar Iommi has to offer:

Tyr is also noteworthy as, for me, it seems the point where Tony Martin had really settled in to the band and cemented his identity. The Eternal Idol was Ray Gillen's leftover and Headless Cross, as superb as it is, hearkens back to Black Sabbath's old macabre material. Tyr seems totally new, totally Tony Martin's, yet indisputably Sabbath.

Tyr has been out of print for some time and any reissue seems some way off. It is nowhere near as expensive as Headless Cross and a good used copy can be yours for under $20. I believe the last domestic printing was in '99 so new copies are likely tough to come by. No matter how you have to find it, Tyr is worth the effort.

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