A decent return from hiatus
When it comes to numerous Black Sabbath vocalists that followed in the wake of Ozzy Osbourne's departure in 1979, Tony The Cat Martin would have to be the most overlooked.
Joining the band in 1987, Martin helped rebuild the bands name with a string of credible albums (Including 1987 The Eternal Idol, 1989's Headless Cross and 1990's Tyr), before stepping aside for Dio's return for the lacklustre Dehumanizer in 1992. Martin returned once again for 1994's Cross Purposes and 1995's Forbidden, but in 1996, Black Sabbath opted for a reunion of the original line up, leaving Martin to determine his own future as a solo artist.
Obviously disillusioned about the demise of Black Sabbath, Martin kept himself busy over the next nine years with guest appearances with artists such as Empire, Rondinelli, The Cage, M3, Giuntini Project and Misha Calvin, but nothing that could officially be considered a true solo effort to follow up his 1992 release Back Where I Belong. However, in the last couple of years, Martin has decided to focus his attention solely on getting his own career back on track, and after a thirteen year wait, he's finally completed work on his new solo effort Scream. In a sense, this really is a solo effort as Martin performs a vast majority of the instrumentation on the album's nine tracks (Including some guitar, violin, bass and drums), with his youngest Joe Harford helping provide most of the guitars on the album and Geoff Nicholls (Ex-Black Sabbath) on additional keyboards.
Opening up the album in typically Black Sabbath fashion is Raising Hell, which is perhaps most noted for it's drum performance from the late Cozy Powell. Reminiscent of Rainbow's Man On The Silver Mountain (On which Dio featured), the track sees Martin in fine form with his distinctive vocals and the songs strong melodies.
Bitter Sweet (Featuring Geezer's guitarist Pedro Howse on the solo) could have easily appeared on a Black Sabbath album with it's Tony Iommi like heavy riff (Think Virtual Death), as could have Faith In Madness in places, while I'm Gonna Live Forever is a little more up-tempo and hard rock orientated.
The title track Scream is certainly one of the stand-out cuts with Martin using the full extent of his vocals through the choruses, but it's also quite interesting how Martin manages to replace the standard guitar solo for a violin, without having it sound out of place or lose any of the intended heaviness.
On Surely Love Is Dead, Martin manages to fuse together elements of Rainbow and Black Sabbath into a classic hard rock sound, while the acoustic based Led Zeppelin like Wherever You Go shows a new side to Martin style wise.
Saving the best until last, Martin completely abandons himself to the Black Sabbath sound of old in Field Of Lies (Especially with Nichols' atmospheric keyboard work), and while it tends to leans a little close to The Shining in places, it's still classic Martin era Black Sabbath through and through. The only track that doesn't work in any shape or form is the dreadful The Kids Of Today (Don't Understand The Blues). The cheesy keyboards and the lightweight backing music really make it stand out as something entirely different from the rest of the album, and not in a good way I might add.
Unlike Martin's various projects over the years (Or Back Where I Belong), Scream is the sound of Martin finally accepting his contribution to Black Sabbath's sound and history, and wearing those influences with pride. Overall Scream may not have the longevity compared to the albums he helped on with Black Sabbath, but at least Martin has returned after a self imposed hiatus with a new solo release, with the promise of more to come in the future.
(MTM Music/S.P.V./Riot! Distributors)