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Black Sabbath - Headless Cross CD (album) cover


Black Sabbath


Prog Related

3.25 | 225 ratings

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Symphonic Team
5 stars Listen for the feet as they pound the land to a tune of thunder

The previous album, The Eternal Idol, constituted the start of a new era in Black Sabbath's history and was also the best that had been heard from the band in a very long time. Headless Cross continues this tradition and takes it even further. The Eternal Idol had introduced the previously unknown but great Tony Martin on vocals and his voice turned out to fit the band's music hand in glove. Martin again does an outstanding vocal performance on this album. Headless Cross introduces top rock drummer Cozy Powell, who appears here for the first time on a Black Sabbath album. Powell, as most people on this site will know, was a fantastic drummer who had just worked with Keith Emerson and Greg Lake before he joined Black Sabbath and before that he was, of course, in Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. Cozy's heavy and powerful drumming really benefited Black Sabbath's sound.

Black Sabbath has always been described as having a heavy, doom laden sound and a strong association with the occult. They were even sometimes accused of being Satanists etc. Ironically, only their debut album from 1970 really fitted this description, subsequent albums dealing more with drugs, madness and sometimes even political themes. However, in some ways Headless Cross can be seen as the natural follow up to that classic debut album. No other Black Sabbath album apart from the debut sounded as dark, heavy and doom laden as Headless Cross and the lyrics here are once again consistently about the occult. The lyrics might be a bit too much for some people with its many explicit references to Satan and for some people they are even almost clichéd Heavy Metal lyrics. Personally I have no problem with this at all. While The Eternal Idol still contained some straightforward albeit very tasteful Hard Rock (as opposed to Heavy Metal), Headless Cross is closer to a pure classic Heavy Metal album with many progressive tendencies. Not counting the opening track, which is a short ambient instrumental setting the mood for the album, Headless Cross consists of only seven songs with the average song length well over five minutes. Tony Iommi came up with some great heavy riffs for this album and for the Prog fan there is a lot to enjoy here with Nightwing, Call Of The Wild, Kill In The Spirit World, When Death Calls and the title track all having distinct progressive leanings. Geoff Nicholls' keyboards are allowed more space on this album than on any of the other albums he contributed to (and he has been with them constantly since 1980). And it is not the cheesy 80's keyboards and stale programmed keyboard patterns like so many other artists were using around this time. Black Sabbath never fell for that stuff! Though there are no actual keyboard solos, the keyboards are present for most of the album's duration mostly in the background.

When Death Calls features a guitar solo by Brian May from Queen. Hearing two of my favourite guitarists together is quite interesting. Nightwing features an acoustic guitar solo, something not heard too often on Black Sabbath albums.

I'm giving Headless Cross five stars, knowing full and well that this music will not appeal to all Prog fans. I consider this album a classic of Prog Related Heavy Metal and, on this website at least, Headless Cross is a much underrated album. Indeed, the whole Tony Martin-era of the band is much underrated, here and elsewhere, and that is especially surprising on a website dedicated to progressive rock, since this is easily the most progressive era of the band since the days of Sabotage and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath in the mid 70's. This progression started with The Eternal Idol and culminated with Headless Cross and the next album, TYR. All three of these albums are indeed my favourites post-Ozzy Black Sabbath albums and they are all highly recommended for fans of the heavier side of progressive music, but Headless Cross takes the prize.

SouthSideoftheSky | 5/5 |


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