TONY MARTIN – Thorns (2022)
After 15 years of silence, TONY MARTIN roars back with a fiery new album titled “Thorns“, a melodic, powerful and thought provoking record, of course focused in his impressive voice and at the same time the killer riffs of Scott McClellan (who helped co-write the album), a guitarist new to the rock world scene but after first listen a guy who has proved to be a worthy partner in crime for this release.
The album feature some renowned musicians as well; drummer Danny Needham (Venom), bassist Greg Smith (Alice Cooper, Rainbow, Blue Öyster Cult) and Swede Magnus Rosen (Joe Lynn Turner, HammerFall, Billionaires Boys Club) who also previously played bass in Martin’s live band, Tony Martin’s Headless Cross.
”Thorns” shows that Tony Martin still has the voice, and the songwriting skills that made him a force in ’80s Black Sabbath.
Being the first solo outing from Martin since the 2005 LP “Scream,” “Thorns” proves to be a jolting detour into mercilessly aggression for anyone with a familiarity with his past work. Opener “As The World Burns” kicks things off with a veritable iron fist to the gut, starting on a pounding two chord drone that sounds eerily similar tonally to the intro to classic Black Sabbath anthem “When Death Calls” and then launching into an up tempo, riffs galore festival of sludgy thrash that could rival the faster offerings on “The Great Southern Trendkill.”
It doesn’t find an equal in the intensity department to any of the ten songs that follow, though the speed metal-tinged crusher “Run Like The Devil” comes pretty close.
The resulting contrast between the bottom-heavy instrumental presentation and Martin’s largely clean and soaring vocals that have lost none of their power at the age of 62 is pretty stark, yet these two opposing extremes work together effortlessly to create a highly unique and nuanced take on the modern metal aesthetic.
Taking things in a chugging, mid-paced traditional heavy direction is the rocking crusher “No Shame”, while the somber balladry turned bleak blares of “Nowhere To Fly” recall similarly styled anthems like “Cross Of Thorns” and “I Won’t Cry For You” from the Sabbath days.
Yet the real charms of this album are revealed when the traditionally metallic character of this album is augmented with some unconventional additives, such as a wild slap bass solo section courtesy of Rosen on the otherwise pummeling and dark metallic slough “Black Widow Angel”, the church-like wall of choral voices and keyboards that adorn “Book Of Shadows” and a melancholy violin solo adorning the punchy riff monster “Damned By Your”.
There’s a couple of bluesy acoustic numbers in “Crying Wolf” and “This Is Your Damnation”, proving this album is a highly varied beast.
In the grand scheme of Tony Martin’s highly accomplished and prolific career, this stands as one of the most unique offerings to carry his name, and definitely among the strongest notches in his expansive belt.
The songwriting partnership between Martin and McClellan is almost as compelling as the former’s was with Tony Iommi, and in some ways even a tad more eclectic, and hopefully if another installment of this duo is to come to light, it will manifest itself in a span of less than 17 years.
Existing fans of this highly underrated master of the metal microphone will not be disappointed, and there is a far broader appeal to captivate newcomers as well.
01 – As The World Burns
02 – Black Widow Angel
03 – Book Of Shadows
04 – Crying Wolf
05 – Damned By You
06 – No Shame At All
07 – Nowhere To Fly
08 – Passion Killer
09 – Run Like The Devil
10 – This Is Your Damnation
11 – Thorns