BLACK SABBATH: FORBIDDEN (1995)
1) The Illusion Of Power; 2) Get A Grip; 3) Can't Get Enough; 4) Shaking Off The Chains; 5) I Won't Cry For You; 6) Guilty As Hell; 7) Sick And Tired; 8) Rusty Angels; 9) Forbidden; 10) Kiss Of Death.
On their sixty-sixth studio album, Black Sabbath go for the gusto — they pay a humble tribute to their degenerate friends in Aerosmith (ʽGet A Gripʼ), nostalgize for the old innocent days of Bad Company (ʽCan't Get Enoughʼ), tip their hat to bluesman Johnny Winter (ʽSick And Tiredʼ), and slyly reference old film noir classics (ʽKiss Of Deathʼ). Or else they just run out of ideas for new song titles, you choose which idea you like best.
Forbidden is often extolled by fans and anti-fans alike as one of the absolute worst, if not the absolute worst, record to have the misfortune of being associated with the name of Black Sabbath. Honestly, I do not see what makes it so much worse than Seventh Star or TZR or even Headless Cross — they all consist of the same uninspired, by-the-book musical sludge. The only extra flaw on Forbidden is the horrendous desecration of the Sabbath temple by allowing a goddamn rapper inside: the first track, ʽIllusion Of Powerʼ, features a spoken-word contribution from Ice-T, and even if it is very brief and he doesn't even «rap» as much as he just blurts out the words, that was quite enough to do the damage.
That this was a stupid idea from the outset is pretty obvious — some classic metal bands make a point out of meshing with hip-hop (Anthrax, for instance), but the Sabbath spirit and the hip-hop spirit can only annihilate each other, and it shows a remarkable lack of insight that they still went on with the idea. Any Ice-T fans out there who made their acquaintance with Sabbath through Forbidden? I hope to God there were none.
But apart from that one bit of silly pseudo-publicity, the rest of these songs are not «offensive», they are just boring. A (mercifully) short, unassuming, unnecessary record, for some reason produced by Ernie C, lead guitarist of Body Count (I think it was he who got them Ice-T, since they went to high school together), and seemingly trying to put on a «commercial» face once again, a decade after Seventh Star had showed how awful it could be if Tony Iommi switched over to harmless pop metal. So there's rotten power balladry (ʽI Won't Cry For Youʼ — who really cares if Tony Martin cries or does not cry for anybody?), stale blues-rock that rehashes old ideas in new sterile incarnations (the «heavy» parts of ʽCan't Get Enoughʼ sound like the heavy parts of ʽMegalomaniaʼ with all the excitement sucked out of the riff), and colorless pop metal that tries to deliver a message but forgets to add atmosphere (title track).
How, within less than a year, the band went from an album that at least faintly glimmered with a sense of (cross) purpose, to this batch of songs that try to growl but show no healthy teeth whatsoever, is not exactly clear. We can blame Cozy Powell, whose presence had always ended up a bane for the band and who is back in the saddle here; or Neil Murray, whose return in Geezer's stead is equally deplorable; or the producers; or the rapper; or Tony Martin's ridiculous oversinging on the pop choruses. But ultimately, the blame probably rests on Iommi for allowing this underwritten, overproduced piece of metal junk to go public — a decision which, according to his own admission, he'd since come to regret.
Thumbs down with a vengeance and all, yet at least one good thing came out of it: this was the last ever product to bear the name of «Black Sabbath» that did not relate to the original Black Sabbath. With Forbidden, The Great Tony Martin And Cozy Powell Experiment finally came to a close. These days, Tony Martin is said to occasionally front his own band called — guess what? — right, Headless Cross; and I can only imagine what sort of stuff they play before fans who are generous enough to give them money — yet, all the same, good luck to them in whatever it is they do, even if it means replicating Ice-T's parts on stage. Apparently, Iommi booted Martin out rather unceremoniously (just hung up and never called him back or something), and Martin said that he'd never go back to Sabbath after being humiliated not once, but twice. Formally, that was very bad behaviour on Iommi's part, and I hope he blames himself for that — but thank God, we never got to see the proper follow-up to Forbidden.