“There’s a bullet out there with your name on, but there’s no one out there with a gun”
Tony Martin first unleashed his distinctive voice on us on Black Sabbath’s Eternal Idol album in 1987. This was really a critical point for the band and Martin contributed to putting the band back on its feet again. For me, the underrated Martin-era actually produced some of the finest Black Sabbath albums. Martin first stayed with Black Sabbath for a further couple of albums - Headless Cross and TYR - before he was kicked out of the band to make room for the reunion with Ronnie James Dio that gave rise to Dehumanizer. During this time Martin recorded his first solo album Back Where I Belong which was released in 1992. After the reunion with Ronnie Dio, Martin was asked to rejoin Black Sabbath which he agreed to and this resulted in Cross Purposes and later on Forbidden. The latter was released in 1995 and is to date the last Black Sabbath album. Though he did sing on other people’s albums and occasionally participated in some different projects, it wasn’t until ten years after Forbidden that we got another proper solo album from Martin: 2005’s Scream. The vocals are distinctively Tony Martin and he has lost nothing of his vocal power during his near ten year absence from the music business.
Impressively, Martin himself does not only provide all the material and the lead vocals but also plays most of the instruments as well as produces the album! The keyboards are handled by long-standing Black Sabbath collaborator Geoff Nichols who, despite not always having been considered a full member of the band, played on all Black Sabbath albums from 1980’s Heaven And Hell onwards, as well as following the band on tours. The guitar credits are shared between Martin himself and a Joe Harford which is, as far as I’ve understood, Martin’s son. The drums are also credited to Martin himself, but there is a drum track by the late great Cozy Powell on the opening track. Martin also plays bass and violin!
Musically, Scream builds heavily on Martin’s Black Sabbath days, particularly The Eternal Idol, Headless Cross and TYR. But there is also a Deep Purple influence with a strong presence of Hammond-like keyboards in some songs. The songs are generally very good with a few weaker tracks keeping the album from a higher rating. Raising Hell reputedly started out as a song idea that was proposed by Geoff Nichols for Black Sabbath during the recording of TYR but rejected by the band. It is a nice opening song and you can recognize Cozy’s distinctive drum sound in it as well as a Jon Lord-like organ solo. Bitter Sweet features a heavy Tony Iommi-like riff that could have been a left-over from any of the Martin-era Sabbath albums. Faith In Madness too could well have come from a Sabbath album alternating between acoustic-sounding passages and heavy riffing. These are all good songs! I’m Gonna Live Forever, on the other hand, is the first low point of the album with a rather tedious and repetitive chorus.
The title track is more Deep Purple-like with a Hammond-heavy sound. This one also features a violin solo. Surely Love Is Dead is one of the highlights of the albums for me with a lot of things happening within the song including a very nice acoustic guitar solo. The Kids Of Today (Don’t Understand The Blues) is sadly an embarrassment that best should have been left off the album. The melody is overly simple and driven by a badly sounding synthesiser and the lyrics are extremely cheesy trying to deride contemporary music. While I certainly agree with the sentiments expressed it doesn’t come across very well at all.
Wherever You Go is a lovely acoustic ballad based on moving vocals, acoustic guitar and some symphonic keyboards in the background. This song sets the stage for the closer, Field Of Lies, which is another Black Sabbath-like song.
Scream is a recommended buy for anyone who is a fan of the Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath albums.