Black Sabbath fans are split between fan worships of the great talents of Ronnie James Dio and Ozzy Osbourne, who each headed vocal duties for a series of excellent metal albums by the pioneering band of the genre. Dio fans and Ozzy fans generally unite on one subject: They hate Tony Martin, who was with the band in the late 1980s and much of the '90s, and performed vocals on five of the band's albums. And they are especially united in hating this particular album.
Constructively, a lot of the hate is grasping at straws. Sabbath have released 5-star albums, and this isn't one of them. But it doesn't rank a 0.5, either. When you get past all the hate, you might be surprised at how good the album actually is. Surprisingly, a lot of the hate towards this album is directed at "The Illusion of Power", which is the most Sabbath-sounding track in the set, sharing elements with the band's '70s doom and '80s bombast. The reason for the hate? Ice-T
delivers a spoken interlude. Why not? People seem to be forgetting that despite being known as a rapper, Ice also fronted a controversial and important metal band, Body Count
, whose guitarist Ernie C produced Forbidden
, one of a handful of the guitarist's producing credits (including demos for Stone Temple Pilots
and Rage Against the Machine
There's also the issue of this not really sounding like what one would think of when imagine how a Black Sabbath album would sound. Which is fine for not personally liking the album, but not particularly constructive. Of course it isn't the Dio Sabbath or the Ozzy Sabbath. If you want to hear those eras, listen to one of their albums. Think of this as an Iommi solo album, or, alternatively, the Ozzy, Dio and Martin-fronted Sabbaths as individual bands in their own right.
The most constructive criticism one can say about this album is that Martin is definitely an acquired taste as a vocalist, due to being so over the top. This is also really funny considering the band's best known vocalists, Ozzy and Dio, especially Dio, were also
hammy and over the top. Martin being the most over-the-top vocalist in the band's history says something. But it doesn't automatically say that it's bad. It's metal, after all.
Strength is a reoccurring theme here, particularly in "Shaking Off the Chains", which promotes integrity and independence:
All of your life they try to take your cover
Turn you into another and make you change your name
When you fall, it's up to you to recover
You can't depend on another to help you with the pain
There is also an overall lack of supernatural and religious-inspired themes, putting this album a little more down to Earth. Musically, it's interesting to note that the more simpler, over-the-top and bombastic the songs are, the more entertaining they are, and the more complex and structured they are, the less entertaining they are. For Rush
, this would be a bad thing, but Black Sabbath makes it work. There are also some really cool solos by Iommi along the way.
To sum up, Forbidden
is over-the-top, ridiculous, and all-around entertaining. The lyrics don't always speak to me, but when they do, the album rolls. Argue all you want about this album, but it has staying power than most out of print and difficult to find albums, especially the metal ones. Despite this one not doing particularly well commercially, I'd like to see it be reissued.