Review Summary: An often underrated release that has its fair share of exciting moments, unfortunately being weighted down by some awful cuts such as Illusion Of Power
Black Sabbath are a band whose career has been flooded with ups and downs, from their arguable pinnacle with the one-two combo of Paranoid and Master Of Reality to weaker releases such as Tyr. The final album before their break-up, 1995's Forbidden, is a release that is frequently cited as being possibly their worst album, with the reasons listed including a lack of creativity and the fact that it sounded like the band trying to recycle some of their past work without any real ingenuity. For the most part, these assessments are correct, but do not let this fool you; the 1995 outing for Black Sabbath is still very much a listenable album.
To start with the weakest links, tracks such as Illusion Of Power and I Won't Cry For You and especially album closer Kiss Of Death feel watered down and like the band were just trying to squeeze some more money from their considerable fan base. The spoken word section of the former, delivered by renowned rapper Ice T, stands out as one of the worst moments on this album, inducing cringes all around. Meanwhile, the riffs on the other mentioned tracks are stale, with little to no points of interest on any of these tracks. Another major problem with Forbidden is the vocal performance. Given that this is the band that previously had artists such as Ronnie Dio and Ozzy Osbourne fronting them, one could expect a certain charisma, even if the vocals aren't all that good (Ozzy was never anything that special aside from the character he brought to the band). Sadly, Martin has none of this, instead sounding completely tone-deaf and out of touch with the rest of the band.
Despite these negatives, however, Forbidden definitely has enough good points to remedy this. Shaking Off The Chains is an exciting song that has a lot of good musicianship to it as well as some solid enough lyrical content, whereas Rusty Angels, despite the pathetic attempt at sounding evil in the title, is a commendable enough effort. These songs are some of the best to come from Sabbath's weaker efforts, with the former certainly being a middle-tier Sabbath song. The title track and Get A Grip are two other nice enough songs with some catchy riffs that, whilst not being the best guitar work in the world, is more than enough to maintain your interest. The rhythm section of the band also put on a nice show throughout much of this release, getting one over the guitar for the most part. The bass is quite nice on certain songs, whilst the drumming is controlled and keeps a nice pace for much of it.
Black Sabbath's Forbidden is an album that gets far too much hate within metal circles. Whilst it is definitely no Paranoid or Master Of Reality or Heaven And Hell, it stands upright as a solid enough release on its own. Shaking Off The Chains is a pummeling number that is easily the strongest track here, being enough to counteract the god awful weak links mentioned before. I recommend this album to fans of the band who will maintain an open mind and not expect another mind blowing effort.