While it is indeed true that the post-“Mob Rules” era of BLACK SABBATH is marred by a fair share of patchy moments (“Cross Purposes” and “Forbidden”...sheesh) I cannot help but be puzzled by the extreme reactions that their 1990 release “TYR” has elicited. The Sabs faithful is split right down the middle on this one – at the time of writing it holds an average of 91% (based on 7 reviews) on Metal Archives, while others like Allmusic slapped the album with one out of four stars. To each his own, but in the mind of yours truly “TYR” easily rates as one of the best Tony Martin era Sabs albums together with its immediate predecessor “Headless Cross”.
I bought this album back in 2002 but sold it some time later in a moment of immense daftness, and seeing as how “The Devil I Know” re-ignited my BLACK SABBATH craving I decided to revisit this album. Thing is, it has been deleted just about everywhere so I had to settle for a lousy download. Anyway, it was great hearing these songs again after all these years and it more than confirmed to me yet again that this is a greatly underappreciated album. This album is simply solid all the way through and while some may snigger at the SPINAL TAP-ish nature of the Norse mythology centred lyrics the album is a sure-fire winner when it comes down to the riffs, vocals and arrangements. “Anno Mundi” is a solid mid-paced opener with deft choral touches during the chorus parts and is overall one of their more atmospheric tracks around – sprightlier than their usual gloominess but great nonetheless. “The Law Maker” is straight up 80s Speed Metal with more than a handful of excellent opening leads too boot, while “Jerusalem” and especially “The Sabbath Stones” hark back to their early sound – epic and doom-tinged to the max, with Martin adapting his vocals quite well to the harsher sound of the latter track. The next trilogy of tracks (“The Battle Of Tyr”, “Odin’s Court”, and “Valhalla”) form the centrepiece of the album, heaping on the classy riffs, effective choral touches and a suitably epic vibe. “Valhalla” is perhaps on of the best songs on here, with Martin belting out the lyrics in fine style (he mimics Dio closely on here). “Feel’s Good To Be” seems to be a source of contention for most, and while its true that its relative commercial sound (think WHITESNAKE with swathes of FOREIGNER...) seems a tad out of place on this Battle-minded album it is nevertheless a solid ballad in its own right and a great way to bring down the pace a bit. The album closer, “Heaven In Black”, despite its promising title, is then the only real weak track on here – it feels jumbled and less cohesive but the faster pre-chorus parts are well done.
All in all this is a quality album that definitely needs a reappraisal of sorts in the future. Martin continues to prove himself as a superb vocalist (no small feat considering whose boots he had to fill... that brief flirt with Gillan doesn’t count), Iommi churns out more great riffs (more upbeat and speedy than his usual dinosaur-footsteps-in-the-woods fare, which was refreshing), while the rhythm section of bassist Neil Murray and journeyman drummer Cozy Powell keep a steady rock-solid beat throughout, spiced up by the subtle but effective keys of Geoff Nicholls. Yes, the production is a bit on the thin side (this is a far cry from the grungy heaviness of “Dehumanizer”) but the underlying level of songwriting is high and this is an album that should be acquired by all true Sabs fans. Good luck trying to find a copy of this one though...
(Online May 31, 2009)