Written by Valkyrjia
Release Date: January 14th, 2022
Heavy Metal from England
Label: Dark Star Records
It’s a new year! And with a New Year often comes New Music, sometimes with new bands but, in this case, what was once old is new again, and we’re treated to what can only be deemed as a metal legacy paving the way forward with hellfire and chaos.
Former Black Sabbath vocalist, Tony Martin is due to debut his latest album “Thorns” on January 14th, 2022 and we were one of few whose ears got to take a first listen. Joined by greats like Danny Needham (Venom), Magnus Rosen (HammerFall), Scott McClellan (who helped in co-writing), and Greg Smith who performed with the likes of Alice Coopers, Blue Oyster Cult, Rainbow, and more, Tony says that this album has “got several surprises that will lift people’s eyebrows I am sure.”
Largely based on Scott McClellan’s riffs, it is a diverse, melodic, and powerful composition of high standard. Tony most commonly known for ‘Headless Cross’, among one of the best-known Black Sabbath albums featuring his work, and ‘Scream’, his solo album from 2005, unveils unparalleled lyrical creativity, and passionate songwriting throughout this album.
Our introduction comes in as an absolute banger – “As the World Burns” which was released with a fiery lyric video on December 5th and feels like the epitome of Heavy Metal to its core. It’s over-flowing with melodic vocal highs, menacing riffs, and hammering drums that are difficult to resist. It’s an upbeat adventure from the first second in and keeps hitting you with wave after wave of musical genius. From back-breaking drops to body-swaying solos, this is not a track to skip.
“Black Widow Angel” is a slower burn but, still ripe with thick bass, pounding drums, and rich shredding that comes with the foundation of Heavy Metal music. It’s weighty, with Tony’s howling vocals echoing out like a banshee wail in all its terror. But, it’s the hearty solo at near 3-minutes that adds some atmospheric pressure and elevates this track to the next level.
The third track, “Book of Shadows” is a haunting melody with ritualistic chanting and lingering rhythm that creeps over the mind like an eerie fog. What you expect from this track is different than what is revealed. Rather than fiery drops and jaw-dropping solos from the get-go, it’s a lingering nightmare that weighs on the soul like some long-forgotten oath left unfulfilled. Of course, that’s not to deny the unique solo at the end that sends this haunt into a whirlwind trance of questions and fears – what will the Book of Shadows reveal for you?
“Crying Wolf” is an acoustic journey, focused much more on vocal spotlight than previous tracks. There is a chance to home in on lyrical work such as with verses like “always down, never high” with notes elevated into the clouds and bringing an astronomical sound to a previously assumed calm tune.
As we move on through the album, we’re hit by tracks “Damned by You,” and “No Shame” which are both solid all their own with varying flavours of heavy metal amplified by lyrical intricacies and well-balanced harmonies. Accompanied by Scott’s viciously creative riffs, there are some surprising solos that will raise some eyebrows, just as Tony had mentioned.
“Nowhere to Fly” is a heavy ballad and another nod to the songwriting creativity Tony has polished over his decades in the industry. “Passion Killer” follows up and drops in like a wolf, howling with the rain and a hungry pack at its back. It’s heavy but, not overbearingly sludgy and filled with balanced vocals and shocking melody combos that make it an easy repeat for any playlist.
“Run like the Devil” is speedy and catchy, filled with the fast pace we’ve been hungering for. Vocal highs and rapid verses mixed in with quaking riffs and steady bass make this an easy favourite for me.
“This is your Damnation” features a very Blue Oyster Cult-like introduction, well-spoken and adding another distinctive touch to this album. If you’re a fan of slower, story-driven tracks, this is one to crank on the speakers.
The title track, “Thorns” rounds out the album with gentle acoustics and talented instrumental. “Sealed within her empty heart are the wounds she carries like a locket charm,” is a powerful and emotional evocation, revealing the depth of this song, and Tony’s songwriting passion. Naturally such emotion builds and the pace changes like a storm becoming wild and unpredictable, resulting in a track that is not only deep but, dynamically breath-taking.
The Bottom Line
I hope we don’t have to wait another 15 years for Tony to put his songwriting mastery back into the music world. Thorns is a treat for young and old fans alike, those who are familiar with Sabbath, and those who came to find Heavy Metal’s early 2022 bangers. With tracks filled with lyrical brilliance, eye-widening riffs, and skin-peeling solos, it’s an album that many Heavy Metal fans will be clawing at to have in their collection as it is not only a display of skill and experience but, creativity and passion in a genre that some say have already sang it all.
Favourite Tracks: Thorns, As the World Burns, and Run like the Devil.