Since Ozzy left, Black Sabbath has undergone so many personnel and stylistic re-alignments that much of the music produced since has only caught me on the rebound.
We all know that Black Sabbath is Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill… and then Ronnie, and Vinnie, then Ian, then Glenn, Dave, Eric and Tony. Then Cozy and so on. However, Tony Iommi has been the only constant member of the group. In a way we should be grateful for Iommi’s willingness (and ability) to keep the Black Sabbath brand going, and through that – for some reason – we don’t readily remember all the versions of the band. It’s usually just the war between Ozzy and Ronnie.
Both Born Again from 1983 and Seventh Star from 1986 were almost released under Iommi’s own name, but – probably fortunately – it was decided that releasing them as Black Sabbath albums was better for business. By the time Seventh Star was released – Tony Iommi was the only original Black Sabbath member left in the band, so its release as a Black Sabbath album is even more significant in terms of ‘keeping the name alive’. In fact – it was released as ‘Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi’. It’s a little absurd, really, but anyway…
In 1994, Black Sabbath was a powerful melodic rock band. And a good one at that. Cross Purposes is one of those albums that may have eluded Black Sabbath fans and other rockers due to all the band’s re-alignments. You need to be able to look at much of the post-’83 Black Sabbath from a non-Black Sabbath viewpoint. There’s no Ozzy, and only a little Geezer, Bill and Ronnie. And no Ian. For Cross Purposes, we almost have a collective. And that’s alright. Remember – we’re not thinking Black Sabbath; we’re thinking a group of rock dudes with Tony Iommi on guitar. That’s pretty cool.
The album takes no time to get the tone set. ‘I Witness’ rocks pretty hard from the word go. With a solid beat, fluid rhythm, powerful soaring vocals and blistering guitar antics. Iommi’s playing is menacing. ‘Cross of Thorns’ and ‘Virtual Death’ remind us a bit of Ronnie with its medium tempo plod with wailing vocals. ‘Psychophobia’ could have come from the Born Again era. The vocals on ‘Evil Eye’ get a little bluesy – but the slamming plod and creeping bass-work keep it tidy. Geezer Butler had made it back to the line-up at this point, and if you have any idea – you’ll know how Geezer can fill a space.
Co-producer Leif Mases’ previous engineering credits list an interesting array of artists including Ian Gillan, Jeff Beck, some random glam rockers, a Swedish artists with a complicated name, and Frida (from ABBA)! Don’t laugh! That’s not important right now. What is important is that he was also involved in engineering Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door and Coda. Yeah! Actually the other stuff is important because it should give you an idea of the thoroughness of his work, and in turn, this production. The sound is full, well constructed and nicely detailed. So Leif was a good choice.
As a handful of bands did in the Nineties – there’s the seemingly obligatory nod to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ that appears as a little part of the body of ‘Cardinal Sin’, but all is good. No funny business like with Kingdom Come…
There are no apparent weak points here. This is a solid heavy rocking album, but it is quite understandable if you missed it. I did. If you know Eternal Idol, or are coincidentally lucky enough to be familiar with Jake E. Lee’s band Badlands’ first album – this fits more or less into the same bracket.
Worth three packets of cigarettes and a reasonable bottle of vodka. Lekker.
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