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Black Sabbath

Cross Purposes

Review by Greg Olma

In 1994, Black Sabbath was at it again with another line-up and another album.  The Dio-led version that produced the previous effort Dehumanizer fell apart due to the reunion shows in Costa Mesa with Ozzy (which were supposed to be his last shows).  After Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice left, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler were left holding the reigns and instead of looking for a fresh new vocalist, they brought back Tony Martin who, in my opinion, does a great job and is sorely overlooked when talking about Sabbath vocalists.  To complete the line-up, they decided to trade one American for another by getting Bobby Rondinelli top replace the departed Appice.  This disc has more of an updated Headless Cross feel as opposed to Tyr.  There is a great mix of fast rockers and plodding doom stompers with Iommi still able to pull off great riffs and classy solos.  This record gets overlooked all the time when discussing Black Sabbath’s catalogue but it still stands up even more than a quarter of a century later.


This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
I Witness
The album starts with a quick rocker with some mesmerizing riffs from Iommi.  Right off the bat, Martin asserts himself as the singer and belts out the lyrics like he never left.  Rondinelli also thunders away in a style more like Appice than Bill Ward, but in 1994, this what was needed to move the band forward.
Cross of Thorns
Geoff Nicholls adds in some nice keyboard elements to the beginning of this mid paced rocker (at least for half of the track).  The slow beginning steps aside for some catchy riffing but returns for the verses.  The chorus isn’t really a traditional chorus with Martin only singing the title, but it still retains that typical song structure.
Pyschophobia
“Paranoid” was a short number, and this one might be another one of their shortest songs (aside from intro pieces).  There is a frantic energy to this track and while being basically a fast tune, there is this odd slower part that reminds me of the Sabotage album. It’s a cool cut that thankfully made it into their live set.
Virtual Death
If you were looking for that plodding Sabbath sound, then look no further.  This cut has that classic sound with a drama filled vocal delivery.  Iommi waits to the end to really let loose with a great solo.
Immaculate Deception
The stop/start nature of this tune gives it room to breathe and be a moody piece.  There is a part that appears a few times during the track that is almost thrashy which is odd for Sabbath, but I’m sure they were trying to be relevant.
Dying For Love
This bluesy tune is about as close to a power ballad as Black Sabbath gets and reminds me of "Feels Good to Me" from their previous effort with Martin.  Vocally,Martin really shines on tracks like this and he manages to make them ballady but still have it sound like a Black Sabbath song.
Back To Eden
I like the groove on this piece and even though it is lost on the chorus, it is still the main focal riff throughout.  That same groove is still evident under both guitar solos which gives it a very full sound.  This is also a short tune clocking in at under four minutes but somehow it doesn’t feel that short (in a good way).
The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
Written about a nurse who was a serial killer of infants, this cut starts off slow but works its way into a having a great riff for the chorus.  The slow passage returns again before one of Iommi’s tasteful solos.
Cardinal Sin
This one has a very “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin sound.  It’s a cool song, but to my ears it is too close to that song. Sabbath is too good to be copying riffs like that.  There are some other parts to the song that are more unique, but that Zeppelin riff mentally sticks around even when the song progresses past it.
Evil Eye
Now this is more like it.  This cut could have fit nicely on Dehumanizer with its plodding, heavy riffs.  There is a slow part thrown in a little more than halfway through, and the solos are excellent.  Since 1980, Black Sabbath have always ended their records on a high note, and this cut is no exception.
 
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