TONY MARTIN – “Thorns”

By Colonel Angus

TONY MARTIN should be a household name. The fact that the tagline of “Former Vocalist of BLACK SABBATH” is added to promotional items is such a shame because he has been a part of some quality releases over the years; some solo and many as collaborations with other great musicians. Ever since he came onto the scene replacing Ray Gillen for the “Eternal Idol” album, he has been active with many different projects culminating in the 2013 album with the GIUNTINI PROJECT. From that point, Martin quite a few guest appearances but no full records. When I read that he was putting out another solo disk, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I knew I was going to enjoy the tunes but the question was “how much”? Was it going to rival his 2005 effort “Scream” or will it take a different turn and give us something like his first solo outing “Back Where I Belong” (which I love BTW)?

For those of you who have been following his career, this group of tunes follows more in the vein of his last solo record. Scott McClellan is his guitarist on “Thorns” and while I won’t compare him to the riff-master supreme Tony Iommi, he does show himself to be a perfect fit for Martin’s vocals. The riffing and solos are top notch and in some instances, sound like unused bonus material for BLACK SABBATH. McClellan is someone who I’ll definitely keep an eye out for more material especially since he not only provided the guitar work but also co-wrote all the material. Danny Needham from VENOM lends his hard hitting drum attack to “Thorns” while former HAMMERFALL bass player Magnus Rosen completes this heavy rhythm section.

Things start off pretty damn heavy right off the bat with “As the World Burns”. The previously mentioned band members produce a heaviness that brings things into 2022 while still keeping elements of Martin’s previous efforts. Slowing things down a bit for “Black Widow Angel”, Martin and band compose a track that easily could have fit on “Cross Purposes”. My favorite track “Book of Shadows” is next and is easily the best vehicle for Martin’s lyrics and vocal delivery. Epic is the best word to describe that song and if Martin tours on this record, he should definitely make sure it is in the set list. Other great moments on this disk are “Run Like the Devil” which is another great heavy track similar to the opening tune and the doomy balladry of “Nowhere to Fly”. No one does a ballad with heavy doses of doom quite like Martin. The title track is also a standout moment with the inclusion of Pamela Moore (Suite Sister Mary) whose vocals portray a sense of despair that helps bring the lyrics to life. The odd moments on the record, “Crying Wolf” and “This Is Your Damnation”, work well but they do break up the flow of the disk as a whole. The latter reminds me of the Japanese bonus track on “Scream” “Unbearable” but “This Is Your Damnation” is much better.

One thing that stands out that I haven’t touched upon yet is the vocal performances throughout the disk. While many other vocalists have seen their capabilities diminish over the years, Martin still sounds as powerful and full range as he did those many years ago when he first joined BLACK SABBATH. As I mentioned at the beginning, TONY MARTIN should be a household name and he should be on any list of “Top Metal Singers”. “Thorns” is another great release and my hopes are that metalheads propel this album into the top spots for 2022. If you are a younger metal fan, you owe it to yourself to get acquainted with Tony Martin’s work and there is no better place to start than with “Thorns”.