Is it possible to write a review about a Tony Martin solo album without mentioning Black Sabbath? The answer to this question is, of course, “Yes!”. However, I love the masterpieces Headless Cross and Tyr so much that I would like to take this opportunity to officially bow to Tony.
Thorns is the third album to be released under the name of Tony Martin, following Back Where I Belong (1992) and Scream (2005). In addition, the 64-year-old Brit was/is active in a few other bands, whose outputs I must admit I am not familiar with. After Thorns, this will presumably change.
Martin’s third studio album turns out to be the first highlight of the year. This is primarily due to the master himself: Tony continues to have a grandiose voice, which is especially suited for sublime epic doom anthems. If you like the Sabbath albums mentioned above, you can get this one without hesitation.
However, Thorns is quite a varied story: The sometimes very modern riffing may scare off some traditionalists – but in combination with the vocals I like it a lot, similar to the recent works of Pretty Maids.
“Book of Shadows“ is undoubtedly the highlight and a must-play. Whoever doesn’t get goosebumps here has never loved epic doom metal! The good six and a half minutes show who has inspired bands like Sorcerer in the past – and it may be that Martin has also listened more closely to the Swedes’ last works. If the whole album would remain on this level, a place on the podium in the Best of 2022 list would probably already be firmly assigned.
The title and closing track is similarly strong, with Pamela Moore – once heard on Queensrÿche‘s Operation: Mindcrime – contributing excellent guest vocals. So if you’ve checked out “Book of Shadows“, be sure to listen here: Martin sings like a young god – full of passion and highly emotional. The same goes for the track “Nowhere to Fly“, which also scores with the most beautiful doom riffs.
I would like to positively emphasise the fact that Thorns also contains some songs where the accelerator is pushed a little and the riffs are extremely hard. Martin can prove once again that his vocals can also ennoble straighter heavy metal compositions that need a shot of aggression.
Is there anything to complain about? Not much, but the acoustic number “This Is Your Damnation“, which sprays some country (!) vibes, is a foreign body in my opinion – on top of that, it doesn’t meet my taste at all. Otherwise: Almost all the vocal lines on Thorns are catchy and captivating, except for “Passion Killer“, which would be a pretty strong number with a more creative chorus.
All in all, Tony Martin offers us a good album whose weak points are negligible. Mostly strong songs, including “Book of Shadows“, a hot candidate for the title Song of the Year 2022. I really hope we don’t have to wait another decade and a half for the next solo work. Martin is one of the most underrated musicians in our scene. Maybe the announced reissue of the Sabbath work with him on the mic will contribute to him now getting the appreciation he deserves without ifs and buts.