Forbidden at 25

If you’re the kind of fan who thinks Black Sabbath died after 1978, or are one of those fans that say “No Ward, No Sabbath”, then you might as well stop reading now.  This article won’t be for you.  I’m here to talk about the 25th anniversary of one of the more maligned albums in the band’s back catalogue, 1995’s “Forbidden”.

Please note that a lot of this is taken from a similar article I wrote from the 20th anniversary.  I went through and tweaked things, added a couple of extra bits. I thought it was a good article then, and it still is, so check it out for the 25th!

Tony Iommi live on the Forbidden tour 1995

1995 brought us the final album in what I like to refer to as the “classic” era of Black Sabbath.  A word about the release date.  In prepping this article, I was going to launch it on the actual release date.  Which I thought was June 8th.  But on June 7th, I looked at the calendar for 1995, and realized that June 8th was a Thursday, which meant that the release date was invalid (nobody released records on Thursdays).  Fortunately that same evening I read the old press release further down and it said that the release date was 20th June, which was a Tuesday.  Given this was for a US market, I’m confident that 20 June, 1995 was the US/North American release date for the album.   The UK/European date is a bit sketchier.  After talking to some fans on Facebook, I’m pretty convinced that date is either 5 Jun or 12 Jun.  Not entirely sure.  If anyone has any honest to God concrete evidence (not “I think it was” type stuff, but real, verifiable facts) proving the UK/European release date, I’d love to hear it.

Anyway, enough of that.  Lots has been written about this album over the years.  Mostly negative, to be honest.  I’m not going to sit here and lie out my ass and say I think it’s the best Black Sabbath album.  Far from it.  It’s got some issues, sure.  That’s mostly the same problem that Born Again has, which is the mix.  But I also can’t just jump on the easy bandwagon and say it sucked, because it didn’t.  Even the lesser Sabbath albums have gems on them, and this album has some, too.  More on the mix (er, remix) later.

Before we get into a lot of detail, lets examine where Black Sabbath was before this.  The album previous to this, Cross Purposes was finishing up its world tour.  It ended with some shows in South America that had Bill Ward on drums instead of Bobby Rondinelli, who had been there for the Cross Purposes album and tour (which I saw twice, btw).  A small bit of trivia about those shows. One of them was in Sao Paulo Brazil, and Bill was so affected by what he saw there relative to the state of the residents and their poverty that he wrote some lyrics which turned up on his 1997 solo album, “When the Bough Breaks”.  But I digress.  After that tour was over, naturally attentions turned to the next album.  At this point in the band’s life, you had 3/4 of the original Black Sabbath in there.  Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, & Bill Ward.  This was a strong pedigree.  I had read at the time that Bill was going to stay there and record/play with Sabbath on the next record (as at that point it was believed that Ozzy would never EVER return to Black Sabbath).  Then the “NIB” tribute album happened.  Story goes there was some stink between Tony Iommi and Geezer’s wife over issues relative to that tribute album, and it caused Geezer to quit Sabbath again.  Bill went with him, and it left Tony Iommi as the only original again.  I asked Gloria Butler about that once.  She said “Well, yeah, sometimes shit happens” – but she didn’t elaborate (ha).  Anyway, what was left was Tony Iommi, Tony Martin, & Geoff Nicholls.   While I have nothing against Murray & Powell, I have to confess I was looking forward to a rhythm section of Butler & Ward again.   Didn’t happen.  Oh well.

Album Production

The last gig on the Cross Purposes Tour was Sep 4, 1994, and I was told by Neil Murray that writing for the Forbidden album started in October 1994 (and going through November), so Tony Iommi had to have decided quickly what he wanted to do lineup wise.  This basically brought back the Tyr lineup of Tony Martin, Tony Iommi, Neil Murray, Cozy Powell, & Geoff Nicholls.  Writing for this album took place at Bluestone Farm, Pembrokeshire, Wales.  Neil Murray was MOST KIND to send me some photos from these sessions at Bluestone Farm that he was the photographer of for this article.  As far as I know, they had never been seen before the original publication of this article 5 years previous.  Check them out:

When I saw these pictures, I asked Tony Martin if he still had the tapes from back then, and he said he did, but finding them and converting them to a digital format in the amount of time I’d need them in for this article wasn’t possible.  But he did say he still had the stuff, so hopefully he can get that stuff converted.  That was in 2015.  Still no stuff in 2020 – come on Cat!  :)


The album was recorded at Parr Street Studios in Liverpool.  I don’t know what it looked like in 1994, but this is what it looked like in 2012, when Google’s Street View car went down the street.  :)

The first date of recording was 4 Dec, 1994.  Neil tells me that the bass and drum parts were completed by 10 Dec, 1994, but further guitar and vocal recordings were done following this.   I got this from Geoff Nicholls about the writing part of the process:

“Got to be honest Joe it was a bit of a heavy time trying to write the album in 10 days the place we stayed was where Take That worked out all their Dance moves and stage shows  and we  had all the story’s about them at meal times from the Landlady”


Photo (c) Tim Shockley

Additional recording and mixing was done in both London and Los Angeles in March of 1995, so the album wasn’t complete until fairly close to its release date in July 1995.   There’s a lot that was made about who produced this album, and a lot of fans call it the “Rap album”, which I find unfair.  That is solely based on the fact that Ernie C was the producer of the album, and he worked with Ice-T in the group “Body Count”.  To call this a rap record is wildly unfair.  Most of it probably comes from the spoken word bit in the middle of the song “The Illusion of Power”.  One of the other people who were involved in the production part of things was Bobby Brooks, who also worked with Michael Jackson.   So you have a production team that is mostly known for rap, and also from working with Michael Jackson.  It leads to, well..  a weird combination.

The IRS press release for the album lists this from Tony, “We were going to try Ernie on four tracks to see how it sounded and go on from there”, remembers Iommi, “but he came over with the idea of doing the complete album – so we went for it!”.

Most fans tend to agree that the mix in this album is kind of flat, and based on comments I’ve heard from various band members over the years, that is borne out by everyone. Here’s a few comments I’ve seen from people about the album/mix:

Geoff Nicholls: I dont think anybody liked the mixes and it was a shame as there were some good songs on there, but it was the last IRS Record and I think they just wanted it finished to move which they did

Tony Iommi: I really like the album but I was never happy with the overall sound so I’m going to re-mix it before it comes out again.

Tony Martin: Mainly people that slag the album are only hearing the production, which really does suck! There was a meeting called one day that I remember, by the Sabbath management, and it was when they told us that they had plans to  use the rap guys to produce and perform on the album, …….. no wait …….. we already knew that they had plans to use these guys, they came to ask our thoughts on the subject, because some of us had complained about it. Me for one, because I had no idea at that time if I was actually going to sing on the album, all they would say was wait and see what Ice T comes up with, but that was really unnerving cause right up to recording the album, I still wasn’t sure what would be kept. This was because they wanted the backing tracks for ice T to listen to, to see which track or tracks he liked. Cozy and I both had deep reservations about using the rap guys cause they really had no experience of rock music. And Cozy was right up front about his reservations.  In the end they convinced us that every effort would be made to keep the album Sabbath sounding. Well I have to say, I told you so. and so did Cozy. BUT, the songs are really valid songs. They worked well on stage, MUCH better than on the album. And the lyrics worked perfectly with the tracks when they were played. It really is the production that let it down. I will say that, Ernie C and Ice T and the other guys that worked on the album were great people, and we got on with them real well. I have nothing bad to say about them personally. I just feel that the management of the album NAILED it. If they had left the production to the band  especially Tony and Cozy as they did with Headless Cross and Tyr, I honestly believe that the album would have done much better than it did.

I get the impression that the album came together in a hurry, and then it wasn’t much of a “band experience”, and from reading things over the years, I always felt that it was an album that was kind of hurried out to towards the end of the IRS contract, nice to have that confirmed by Tony above..    It wasn’t the final album on the IRS contract though, that was the compilation the following year titled “The Sabbath Stones“.

The “band experience” part of it seems to be borne out by this quote from Neil Murray.

Neil Murray: After the bass & drums were recorded, there was no time when outside commitments prevented us (Cozy & I) from any more recording, because we were never asked to be available. Perhaps Tony wanted us to be calling up every day, asking to hear how things were going, but in fact we felt shut out of the album recording once the backing tracks were done.

To reference Ian Gillan on another album from Sabbath’s past, I always wondered if Tony Martin saw the cover and threw up, and then heard the mix and threw up again.  ha.

I also found this tidbit from Tony Martin in an old email about the name of the song “Get a Grip”.

I got slagged by Aerosmith for using the title get a grip, well that was Ernie C’s idea. I had originally called the track Black Ice, and Ernie said I couldn’t use it because of Ice T, being black and his name and all. So he looked over the lyrics and came to the conclusion that get a grip would be better. Talk about politically correct. Well there you have it.

Album Release

So we jump forward to June 1995, and the album comes out.  Anyway, given who I am as a Sabbath fan, I was aware of the album coming out, of course – but I don’t recall seeing much in the way of promotion in magazines at the time (which isn’t a huge surprise looking back – IRS probably didn’t want anything to do with it, really).   I do have around here an original press release from IRS for the album.   You can read it here:



That lack of attention from IRS was borne out to me on a few things I saw that summer.   The first was the album’s presence on release day.  This was 1995, and it was before physical music sales tanked.  You could still go into a record store and find boatloads of CD’s and tapes to buy.  Can’t do that anymore.  But then you could.  So it was on that morning that I walked into one of the local record shops in Dallas (Amazon and iTunes hadn’t taken over yet), and went to buy a copy of the new Black Sabbath album on CD.  This was like 10 minutes after the store had opened this morning.  I had initially gone to the Black Sabbath bin, and didn’t find it, so I went to the one store clerk that was working at the time.  Told him I was there to buy the new Black Sabbath album that was out today.  He looked it up in the computer, confirmed the date, and then informed me that the store had ordered just one copy of the CD.  ONE.  For Black Fuckin’ Sabbath!!!  Now I know the mid 90’s was a much different beast insofar as album sales go for Black Sabbath as it was in years gone by.  I accept that.  But still, ONE FREAKIN’ COPY?  For the whole store?   I asked if it had been sold, and he said no, it didn’t look like it (which was likely as he was the only one working on the floor).  So I asked him where it would be, and he said probably still in the box of stuff from UPS.  At which point I asked if he could go get it, since I wanted to buy it.  He didn’t seem thrilled at the prospect of digging through all the stock to find just that one CD, but he did find it.  Probably had something to do with the fact that I seemed to know what I was talking about, and was actually going to buy it vs just wasting his time.  But that still bugs me to this day.  Just a single copy pre-ordered for the store.  I blame that on IRS not pushing the album at all.  I always wondered if the store ever ordered any more, or if I permanently sold out the store on Forbidden in the first 30 minutes the store was open on Day 1.   Does anyone else have any stories like this?  Was I the only one who ran into this scenario buying Forbidden?   Let me know in the comments below.  Back then I used to listen to the radio still – and I never recall hearing anything from this album on the radio.  I still have this CD 25 years later, the same one I made the guy go into the box and get.   It’s in the pictures below.  :)

Sometime after that, I happened on the Japanese CD.  In 2015, I can’t recall how I got that.  I *THINK* there was a guy who was a fan of my site who was stationed in the Army in Tokyo who sent it to me, but I’ve lost track of that over the years.  The Japanese CD was where the track “Loser Gets it All” comes from, but there was also some “swag” of sorts in there.   Below is a picture I just took on Jun 19, 2015 of this stuff.  I long ago took my CD’s out of actual jewel cases and put them in large binders so to reduce the amount of space taken up by all of them, but I still keep my stuff nice.   Anyway, here’s the “stuff” that came with the Japanese CD shown in the picture below (L-R):

  • Album cover art sticker – This is a sticker that you could peel the back off of, and stick the cover art somewhere.  I never took the backing off, so presumably I could still stick the Forbidden cover art somewhere.  But given I’ve never done it in 25 years, I’m probably never doing it now.
  • The actual CD itself, showing “Loser Gets it All” on the track list.
  • A fold out paper, in all Japanese that tells the story of Black Sabbath.  A decade ago I had someone translate that, but I’ve lost it.  If you can read Japanese, I’ve scanned the thing and put it online.  It’s huge, though.  It’s a 3.4Mb png file with pixel dimensions of 2814×2700.  If you are able to translate it, let me know.   Also, the flip side of that has more Japanese writing, but it is just lyrics for the album.
  • The Japanese Obi.   What’s an Obi?  Here.
  • The regular CD insert for the album.  Nothing special in there, it looks just like the US version, except Loser Gets it All is mentioned in there.  Mine is signed by Neil Murray.   Always meant to get Cozy to sign mine, and then well…  :(

Forbidden Japanese Stuff

Somewhere along the line, I bought it on pre-recorded cassette tape, too.  Here’s a few pictures of that version of the album:

Forbidden Cassette
forbidden-tape4 forbidden-tape3

And then in the Spring of 2020, I picked it up on vinyl.   Traded someone one of my copies of Paranoid for this.   Forbidden in its original form in 1995 was only printed legitimately on vinyl in Brazil.  Nowhere else that I can find.  If you have it on vinyl, it’s likely a bootleg, as there are a TON of bootleg versions of Forbidden on vinyl.  The one I have is a bootleg.  Don’t really care.    Come on Tony – get that remix out there, I need a legit copy, dammit!  Anyway,  check out this page over on discogs, you’ll see what I mean about all the “unofficial” versions.

There wasn’t much in the way of sales, as the album apparently only charted for one week – likely the week of its release, when the most hardcores (basically, me) would have bought it.   Even that week was only #71 on the charts (see results).  Word of mouth probably prevented much in the way of sales after that.

BumfuckThere was also a funny quote in the liner notes that I never got an explanation for until recently.  It says “Hand Out publicity shots by : K-Mart One hour photo, Bumfuck, Iowa”.    You can see a shot of it to the right (thanks to Matt Ouellette for reminding me of this).  I inquired about this, and was told “Tony Martin humour I’d think, no meaning.”

As was the custom at the time, an album release was accompanied by a music video.  Sabbath did one here too.  Come to think of it, every Sabbath album since Seventh Star onwards produced just ONE music video per album.  Born Again was the last album to have more than one video for it (until 13 many years later).  The song that was chosen for a video was “Get a Grip”.   That video was quite bizarre.  I’ve asked a few of the guys in the band what that was all about, and none of them had any idea themselves.  I can’t even find out who was behind the animation, although to be honest, if I had to guess, it was the guy behind the Ogri character, based on his appearances in the video.    If you’d like to take a stab at telling me what’s going on, be my guest:  :)


A Personal Look at the Tracks

Some time ago I wrote a piece called “Forbidden is a Good Album!”.  It was my attempt to dispel the notion that it was a crappy album, and broke down the entire album track by track and gave some personal thoughts on each of them.  I’m going to replicate that piece here.  Long time readers of my site might remember this.  But it seems like a good time to use this, as it’s a personal (in a few places VERY personal) look at what the various songs on the Forbidden album mean to me.  Here goes…

I like the Forbidden album. Now before you start laughing at me, I wanted to say why I like this album. Back in 1995, I was  with a woman who was living with me. Long story short, a lot of the lyrics on the Forbidden album (in particular the songs Can’t Get Close Enough & Shaking off the Chains) really spoke to me a lot on a personal level due to this woman. The lyrics speak of relationships, and endings and troubles, and my life was a big mess in 1995 emotionally because of her.  As I look back on it, I can take from that relationship a greater appreciation of that year’s entry in the Black Sabbath catalog – not anything I got out of the relationship directly.  ;)

I recognize that most people don’t like the album, and that’s fair enough – I’m not here to make everyone like it. I know its reputation, and most people consider it the weakest/worst studio album of the 18 they’ve put to that point (or the couple since). Nor do I think it’s the best. But I’ve always maintained that in the darkest hour of anything, you can find a gem or two. I don’t think this is Sabbath’s worst album – I don’t know if they have a truly “bad” album – it’s hard to say anything Iommi is on is flat out “bad”, just ones that are better than others.

As I write this I’m listening to Forbidden, and at the moment I’m listening to “I Won’t Cry For You”, and I have to say that I truly enjoy the album. To my ears, the album isn’t as bad as it’s reputation is. Outside of the emotional attachment of the songs, I have to say that the songs themselves are actually quite good. I think part of the perception problem people have with Forbidden is that everyone always hears “Ah, it’s their shittiest album”, and slag it off. Again, that’s fine, but I’m here to say WHY I like the Forbidden album – song by song.

There’s been plenty of stories about the production of the album – from Ernie C’s (mis)production, to IceT’s guest appearance, to the cover art, to bla, bla, bla. I’m not here to talk about that stuff. I’m here to talk about Forbidden as a positive album, and something you should check out.

Keep in mind, I’m not a musician, and I know some folks tend to analyze songs based on whether the drum fills are in the right place, or the song has 3/4 timing, or the bridge is proper between this verse and that verse. I don’t give a crap about any of that. Something Ozzy said in an interview back in the mid 80’s has stuck with me ever since. And that’s “All that should matter to you is whether a song makes you want to get up and stomp your feet.” He’s right. All that should care is whether YOU like the song – nothing else. I realize that most people don’t like Forbidden – but FUCK IT. I do, and here’s why, in a track by track breakdown:

  1. Forbidden Press Release PhotoThe Illusion of Power – This is the only song on the album that doesn’t really do a whole lot for me. It’s not exactly “bad”, but this song strikes me as the one most heavily influenced by IceT & ErnieC. It’s also the answer to a trivia question; being “What is the only song in Sabbath’s history with a guest vocalist”? IceT’s “rap” in the middle of the song is interesting from a novelty standpoint, but not much else. I honestly wish they had picked a different song as the first one on the album.  Of course, it gets the “meh” song out of the way immediately. ;)
  2. Get a Grip – This song had commercial potential, and was the only song from the album that had a video made of it, and it was cartoon, no less. The song isn’t the most inventive musically in the band’s history, but for me, the simple riff works. Having said that I really enjoy the last minute of the song, as it goes into a kind of riff that I really like – it’s a hard driving simple one, but is really effective in conveying “power” and speaks to the mastery of Iommi’s licks, in that something so simple can be so damn effective. The song is about anti violence if I understand the lyrics properly, although I still don’t know what “Get a grip & shake the can” means lyrically.
  3. Can’t Get Close Enough – This is the first of the super emotional songs for me. At the time, I was trying to get close to this woman, and it didn’t seem like anything I could do worked. Tried and tried (although Lord knows why, she was all wrong for me), and eventually broke through briefly, but I spent most of my time trying to convince her that she was worthy mostly of herself (as she had no self esteem, was not totally a very “with it” person). The music in this song is mostly pedestrian as Sabbath goes, but for me, it’s the lyrics of this song. It could be Iommi farting in tune with this one, and I’d love it because of the lyrics. This song *REALLY* hits home with me.
  4. Shaking off the Chains – The flipside of the last song. This too speaks to me about my relationship in 1995, but on the back end of it. Without boring you with my entire life story, when the relationship ended, it ended in a way that I couldn’t find anything left of my feelings for her (turned out she was pregnant by someone else when she left me). This song speaks more towards my anger and disappointment at what didn’t happen between us. Musically, it has a nice churning riff which I think goes well with the negative emotions displayed in the lyrics.
  5. I Won’t Cry For You – Another moody mostly slower song. It’s not a true “slow song”, but the understated but effective use of Tony Iommi’s guitars on here coupled with Tony Martin’s vocals make for a nice tapestry of emotion for me. This didn’t directly tie in to my emotional attachment to the songs on the Forbidden album, but it’s in the neighborhood. “Can’t Get Close” & “Chains” are the closest for me, but this sorta feels that way, but I think it’s more the music in this one than the lyrics.
  6. Guilty as Hell – This is one of the weaker songs on the album for me. Nothing terribly special goes on lyrically for me here, and the song is just kind of “there”. Most people would probably call it a filler song; I don’t know if I’d go that far. I do like Cozy’s drumming in it for some reason. It’s not his best moment either, but it’s cool, and I do like the last thing you hear, the guitar “outro” thing at the absolute end of the song. Guilty as Hell does have one novel moment – it’s one of the two songs that I’m aware of in Sabbath’s back catalog that has the word “fuck” in the lyrics.
  7. Sick & Tired – or.. “Hey, Cozy Powell is on this album!!!” This song starts off with probably the only true “Cozy Powell” moment on the album, a nice drum intro before anything else gets going (can’t wait to hear this in the new remix). There were interviews I read where Cozy said that he didn’t feel like this album was his best work, and I’d probably agree with that.  However, what makes this song really great for me is Tony Iommi’s guitar solo. For me, this is the most unique guitar solo he’s ever done in all the years I’ve been listening to him. Again, I’m no musician, so I can’t tell you technically what it is about it, but the playing – the texture just feels radically different to me, and I really liked it – I also loved the end of the song again, had a similar guitar “ending” like the last song did. At the time this song was new, I wondered if this song was lyrically about the situation Sabbath was in at the time insofar as not getting any attention. I realize that’s just me, but that’s what I thought.
  8. tm07951Rusty Angels – Probably the most commercial song on the album – has a great hook. I really wish THIS was released as single instead of Get a Grip. Get a Grip was more simplistic, I feel this is a bit more complex in construction, and the main guitar riff here is very catchy, and I think would have worked better. Probably wouldn’t have gotten ’em a lot more attention, but I as a fan think this would have made a better single. I also think if this would have been released on one of the more popular albums, it would be a classic tune – if this song appeared on Headless Cross, I bet it would be one of the most popular songs to this day. A very overlooked gem in Sabbath’s catalog.
  9. Forbidden – The title track of the album usually is a song that stands out for some reason. When this album was not yet released, the working title was “The Illusion of Power”, and then it was changed to “Forbidden”. That indicated to me that the band liked the song for some reason, or at the very least the title. In listening to the song, it’s not the best on the album. It’s by far not the worst, but I wonder what the attraction is here. It does have a nice sound, especially in the choruses, it’s pretty enjoyable. Not my favorite, but when it’s on, I like it.
  10. Kiss of Death – Oh my god! BY FAR AND AWAY the best song on the album. This is absolutely perfect. It’s moody, has [censored] awesome guitars, great lyrics, and is just for me perfect in every way. There is no comparison to anything else on this album. And for me, this may be the best track in the entire Tony Martin era. I simply cannot say how strongly I love this song – I’d put it up with the all time best of Sabbath’s entire catalog. This is a song that in the slow opening and closing parts I can sit there with my eyes closed, and really be into this song. It has a wonderful power to it, that I wish more people could have seen, but it has the misfortune on being on an album that most people think is total crap. Again, I don’t know if I’m reading too much into this, but I always felt the song was big ol’ middle finger to those who counted Sabbath out and dead. I really was filled with a pride that I thought was felt by the band members about themselves. Again, that is likely myself imposing my own feelings about the song and the band upon lyrics that may fit that feeling. But dammit, that’s what the song means to me, so I’m sticking with it. I was disappointed they didn’t play it in the US legs of the Forbidden tour (which I was lucky enough to see). It was added for the European dates, but it wasn’t played. If anyone has the Philadelphia bootleg from 1995, I can be heard screaming “Kiss of Death!” a few times on it.
  11. Loser Gets it All – To me, this is the second weakest song on the album. Nothing terribly excites me here. The only novelty I suppose is that it’s a track that most everyone hasn’t heard. It was available only on the Japanese version of Forbidden – and it did also turn up on 1996’s “Sabbath Stones” (which most people don’t even KNOW about). Again, it’s not like it’s a crappy song, but I don’t know if I’ve ever gone out of my way to say “Yeah – now that’s the song I want to listen to”. I’m sure some like it, but it doesn’t do anything for me. I also feel that as originally constructed Kiss of Death should have ended the album. Loser Gets it All doesn’t feel right as the last song on the album – I wish they had stuck it in the middle or something. In fact, as I listen to it now, it’s not actually all that bad, I think my irritation comes from the fact that I think Kiss of Death is SO perfect as an end of album song, that having this tacked onto the end annoys me – which means my irritation isn’t so much with the song, but with it’s placement. I might have to rethink my opinion on this one here.

So that ends my what turned out to be mini-novel length essay on Black Sabbath’s (at the moment anyway) final studio album from 1995, “Forbidden”. I didn’t write this to change the world’s opinion here, but hopefully what I’ve said might make at least a couple people here and there give it a spin when they wouldn’t have done so anyway – and maybe see it in a different light.

As a slight bonus, here’s the song “Loser Gets it All” for ya to listen to.  I know most have never heard this track before, so I wanted to include something here.  I tried to dig up a copy of “The Illusion of Power” totally sung by Tony Martin, but was unable to find it.

The Tour

Black Sabbath Live 1995

As is the custom, the band went out on a tour to support the Forbidden album, and from what I can gather, there wasn’t a lot of support from IRS for this, either.   There actually were nine more dates than were listed in that press release from earlier on the page on the North American leg of the tour.   I actually saw them on this tour.  A bit of a story about that.

I moved from Philadelphia to Dallas in late 1992.  Black Sabbath back in the 80’s used to play a place in Philly called “The Spectrum“, a 17,000 seat arena.  The last time they did that was the Seventh Star Tour.  In the US, they never came here for the Eternal Idol tour, and for the Headless Cross tour, they were playing in a place called the Tower Theatre, a 5,000 seater (click here to see the place).  They never came on the Tyr tour, but for all the other tours (Dehumanizer, Cross Purposes), they played the Tower again.  So, when the Forbidden tour came to the US, they booked the Tower yet again.  However, they were having a hard time selling that.  I was living in Texas at this point, and that weekend coincided with my cousin’s wedding, so a trip back home for both events was on the books.   Around this time, the old email Black Sabbath newsletter was going (being run by two other chaps before I took it over some years later).  On this list I got an email while I was in Pennsylvania saying that the show I had bought a ticket for (July 12) had been changed.  It was changed to July 11th, and at a totally different place, called “Theater of the Living Arts“.  TLA in Philly is a VERY local type venue.  It was one of those tiny little places with no seats that holds at most 1,000, and even THAT wasn’t sold out!  If you want to see what I’m talking about, look at the embedded map below (or click here if the map isn’t working). I discovered that Google Maps will let you look inside the place.  THAT is where Black Sabbath played in 1995 in Philly.  I went, of course, but I was a bit surprised there was no sort official notification that the venue had changed.  If it wasn’t for that Sabbath mailing list, I never would have found out.  To this day, I bet there were people who showed up on the 12th at the Tower, only to find out the band had been there the night before elsewhere.  I blame that on tour management, aka IRS.  I wonder where else that kind of thing happened.

A day after I posted this article originally, I got a comment on this article from Sabbath fan Brian Brookley about the Philadelphia show.  Turns out Brian was at this show too, and told me something I never knew before.  Here, I’ll just quote his text..

Great article! Just wanted to add that I lived in Philly at the time. There were announcements on local radio that the date and venue had changed but the show was to be at the Trocadero theater. I showed up that day at the Trocadero ( same as other fans) and there was a piece of paper on the door saying the show was going to be at the TLA. No biggie just a 20 minute walk. But, Trocadero is slightly larger than TLA so ithe show was moved twice based on poor ticket sales. There was a review of the show in the Philadelphia Inquirer the following day which had a fantastic review of both Motorhead and Sabbath but mentioned ticket sales as less than 500. I think about that strange day frequently. Pretty cool you wrote about that.

I find it quite interesting that I get a new factoid about the show I saw 20 years later.  I had no idea they had tried at the Trocadero, and couldn’t get it done there, either.  That they went to a third venue makes me more amazed they even played the gig, and didn’t just cancel it.  I wrote Brian privately, and asked if he had any pics or anything.  He didn’t, but he told me the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a review of the show the next day.  They were quite complimentary, he tells me.  But he also told me they pegged the attendance at 500.  FIVE HUNDRED.  To see Black Sabbath.  Ouch.

2020 UPDATE: I went and found that review he spoke of, or at least I thought I did.  This article speaks very poorly of Sabbath, and doesn’t mention the 500, so I’m not 100% sure this is the same one.  Still..  Here’s the review if you want to read it.  It appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 13 July, 1995.

On the positive side, that was the only time I ever saw Cozy Powell live.  I remember at the time being both sad that Sabbath was in a place like that, but elated that it *WAS* in a place like that, because it was such an intimate venue.  I remember at the time thinking that it was really great seeing Black Sabbath in such an intimate setting, but I also thought “Jeez, if this is the only kind of place they can play these days, they’re not coming back”.   I also have a very strong memory of Neil Murray’s performance there bringing back a song in my mind that I had stopped listening to, which was “When Death Calls”.  That was a song I had kind of burnt out on, but Neil’s live playing made it come alive again.


Photo (c) Tim Shockley

In the US, the tour was supported by both Motorhead and Tiamat.  That was the second US tour in a row for Motorhead, as they opened for Sabbath on the Cross Purposes tour, too.   Tiamat also stuck with them for the bulk of the tour once it got out of the US, as well.  Funny moment at that gig – the power blew out during Motorhead’s gig.  When they were fixing it, Lemmy was dancing on stage saying “I’m up here to entertain ya!”  :)

Speaking of the end of the US leg, the last date was 3 August, 1995 in Universal City, CA.  That gig is notable, as it was Cozy Powell’s last gig with Black Sabbath.  He left the tour after this point, and was replaced by Bobby Rondinelli, who was behind the sticks for almost the entire Cross Purposes tour (and the album).  There was some talk at the time that Cozy’s replacement was going to be Vinny Appice, but this stems from the fact that Vinny Appice was actually at that concert, and was pointed out by Tony Martin during in show banter.  But it was Rondinelli who was behind the kit when the tour started up again on 19 August.

The tour ran through December 1995, spanning a ton of places around the world.  There were a handful of canceled gigs during this time, but there was a real problem with this issue in November and December.  NUMEROUS gigs were canceled, including what appears to be the entire Australian leg of the tour (eight gigs).  The actual last gig of the tour was 14 December in Bangkok, Thialand.

That made the end of the tour strange, because the last gig they had played in the Asian leg was Nov 22nd, and then a bunch of canceled Australian gigs were to be from Nov 25 to Dec 9th.   They played the final two gigs in Singapore & Thailand, finishing off the tour.  Oddly enough, there were originally supposed to be two additional gigs on Dec 16th (in Manila) and Dec 19 (Saigon, Vietnam), but those didn’t happen – canceled.  Which seemed to be a theme of the back end of the tour.

One unique thing that happened around this time was on 19 November in the Tokyo Japan gig. Black Sabbath played the song “Changes” from the Volume 4 album.  Something they haven’t done live since 1973.  If I was at that gig, I would have been shocked to hear it.  I hope people at that gig recognized how rare that was.  Fortunately you can hear that at this link on Youtube.   You can’t see it unfortunately, so I asked Geoff Nicholls about it, under the assumption it was he who played the piano on that song.  What he told me was a bit of a surprise.  “Tony Iommi played piano and I played Mellotron.”.   Now I REALLY want to see video of this, but I’ve never heard of video from that show ever surfacing.

Speaking of Youtube, I did find a complete concert there, from 25 August in Malta.  I’ve included it below.  Check it out!


The Sabbath StonesThere’s not much to tell about what happened with Forbidden after the tour, because honestly at that point the band effectively imploded.  There was never any formal announcement that it was over, but I’m told by Tony Martin that he was “terminated”, and Neil Murray said his contract expired at the end of the tour, so it just from this fan’s perspective just faded away.

In 1996, there were rumours that Tony Iommi was thinking of bringing in Rob Halford to Black Sabbath on a permanent basis.  Stories at the time talked about writing sessions Rob & Tony had back then.   But as we all know, nothing came of that, and in 1996, Tony Iommi was involved in a few things.

  1. The Black Sabbath compilation, “The Sabbath Stones“.    This covered pretty much the whole of the Tony Martin era, plus a couple of other tracks from the 80’s.  This was the final release on IRS.  I’ve read much about Forbidden being the album that got Tony Iommi out of the IRS contract, but I remember when this was new hearing this compilation existed to end the IRS contract.   Sabbath Stones was never released in the United States, and it was a shame, as it was a great cross section of non Ozzy era material, as Ian Gillan, Ronnie James Dio, & Glenn Hughes have tracks on here in addition to all the Tony Martin stuff.   The Sabbath Stones also has the track “Loser Gets it All”, which was the Japanese exclusive track from the Forbidden album.  I really wish they would have used “What’s the Use?” from Cross Purposes, as that was a far better track.
  2. Tony Iommi also recorded what would eventually become “The 1996 DEP Sessions“, although it wasn’t released until 2004.  In the interim, it was widely bootlegged under the name “8th Star”.   This was an album with Glenn Hughes on vocals (similar to 7th Star, hence the bootleg name).  I loved this as a bootleg, and was overjoyed when properly released.

But basically, most of 1996 was probably spent talking about how to get the Ozzy Osbourne version of the band back together, as they did (without Bill Ward – where have we heard that before) in 1997.   So basically, the end of the Forbidden tour was the end of what I called the “classic” era of Black Sabbath (which meant album, tour, album tour).  After Forbidden, it took 18 years to get an actual “Black Sabbath” studio album again (14 if you count “Devil You Know”).  So this was “the end”.  It’s a shame, as I really was into the 90’s era of Black Sabbath.  Shame more people didn’t feel the same.  I know Tony Martin felt that way, as he shared this with me in email about Forbidden:

Nice to know some of you guys still like the work I did, all we need now is another million or so of you and we’ll be ridin high. I do appreciate your support, and thanks for your interest in what i’m doing.

The Cover Art

One thing that’s always bugged me from the first day I bought Forbidden 25 years ago until this day is that I have no idea who the heck is on the cover art.  I asked several people about it over the years, and I’ve never been able to piece together everyone on the cover.   The band is obvious, as was Ice-T, but beyond that, I had no idea who anyone was.  I tried to get this resolved in the weeks leading up to this article, but nobody I asked could remember who everyone is.   I even contacted the original artist about it (Paul Sample), but I never heard back from him.   I did get Neil Murray to have a go, and he could identify a couple of non band guys, but like others, it’s lost to time for the most part.  The best I can get is the others are mostly record label types.   Maybe for the 35th anniversary in 2030?  :)

I did inquire as to “Why Ogri”, because it’s all over the cover art, and it makes up the video for “Get a Grip” as well.   I was told it was “Cozy Powell’s idea I believe, the guy did a cartoon strip in a motorbike magazine and was a buddy of his.”

Here’s what has been positively identified (via thanks again to Neil Murray).  I will continue to try and find out – if I ever get any (not holding breath), I’ll update.   I also think the dogs at the bottom of the “pile” were probably Tony Iommi’s dogs at the time.  He’s always been a big dog person.  I mentioned that to Tony’s people, and got back a “yeah, probably” response, so I’m going with Tony’s dogs there unless I hear otherwise.

Forbidden Cover Art

Forbidden Cover Art

Random Pictures

US Forbidden Promo Disc

US Forbidden Promo Disc

Japanese Forbidden CD Front

Japanese Forbidden CD Front

Japanese Forbidden CD Back

Japanese Forbidden CD Back

Forbidden Vinyl Inside

Forbidden Vinyl Inside

The Forbidden Obi. What is an obi?

The Forbidden Obi.

My office at work - 2006. Note the Forbidden poster on the wall. :)

My office at work – 2006. Note the Forbidden poster on the wall. :)

In Conclusion

I know Forbidden takes a lot of shit from fans.  It’s routinely listed at the bottom of the list of “Favorite Sabbath albums”.  Now I’m not trying to claim it should be up the top, but it somehow feels unfair to be “last”.   To me, there are no truly awful Sabbath albums.  But I’m no fool, I realize why it’s down the bottom usually.  Still, having said that, I personally liked the album for reasons I stated above in the section where I broke down the tracks.  I have an emotional tie to some of the songs, and it *IS* bloody Tony Iommi.  It’s hard to say anything he’s done sucks, because it doesn’t.    There’s a few tracks here with nice catchy hooks, and something like “Sick & Tired” has a guitar sound in the middle of the track that I can’t remember Tony using on any other track in the band’s history.   And “Kiss of Death” is up there with best overall Martin era Sabbath tracks, so yeah, there’s some goodness in here.

The biggest shame is it, along with the rest of the Tony Martin catalogue (save Eternal Idol) is out of print, and has been for awhile now.   I’ve written about this subject elsewhere on this site.  If you’ve never read my article entitled “Tony Martin Era Deluxe Editions“, please do so.  If you’re at all interested in reissues of the Martin albums, then you’ll want to read that.   In that article (which I first wrote back in Aug of 2013), I mentioned that Tony Iommi was planning on remixing the Forbidden album.   It was never picked up as news, but when Tony Iommi mentioned the 20th of Forbidden on Facebook a week ago, he brought this up again.

Joe Siegler reminded me that June is the 20th anniversary of ‘Forbidden’.I really like the album but I was never happy...

Posted by Tony Iommi on Friday, June 12, 2015

Now that comment was five years ago.  The remix is still not out, but I can say this.  The work on the remix has been completed.  It was done by long time friend and producer Mike Exeter.  I have not heard any of it, despite a few creative attempts to do so.  For those wondering – yes, it will get released.  It has not been forgotten about.  There are two other projects I’m told that need to happen first before Forbidden and the other IRS Tony Martin albums get re-released.  But it WILL happen.  Just not as fast as we want it to, I think.

I did ask about an update to the IRS situation now, and was told I can say this..

Management say they are currently negotiating a new deal for all of the IRS Records to be released.”

So – huzzah!  Looks like there might finally be movement.  Bet your ass I’ll report back when there is something new to say there.

Finally, I need to take a moment and thank Neil Murray​.   Neil helped me out a ton with a million questions about dates, and facts, and “Did the recording studio look like that”…  He also provided me with the behind the scenes snaps during the writing part of the album’s creation.  So thanks to Neil, who is ALWAYS generous with his time.  This article couldn’t have been anywhere near as cool without him.

Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think in the comments below…

“Get a Grip. Get a Grip. Get a Grip. Get a Hold of Life…”

P.S.  I listened to the vinyl I have of Forbidden a full three times this afternoon as I worked on this new edition of the article.  Ready for the remix!


  1. Great write up, Joe. I’m looking forward to Tony getting to work on those reissues eventually; mainly for HC (in my top five for the band), but also for this one since it’s the only Sabbath album I don’t have a hard copy of… I’m just in my twenties and by the time I got that deep into the band it was long OOP and a little pricey to buy secondhand. I do have that oddball ten-song compilation of the IRS years (got it at Walmart for like $5) and it has “Kiss Of Death” and “Guilty As Hell”.

  2. Great article! Just wanted to add that I lived in Philly at the time. There were announcements on local radio that the date and venue had changed but the show was to be at the Trocadero theater. I showed up that day at the Trocadero ( same as other fans) and there was a piece of paper on the door saying the show was going to be at the TLA. No biggie just a 20 minute walk. But, Trocadero is slightly larger than TLA so ithe show was moved twice based on poor ticket sales. There was a review of the show in the Philadelphia Inquirer the following day which had a fantastic review of both Motorhead and Sabbath but mentioned ticket sales as less than 500. I think about that strange day frequently. tretty cool you wrote about that

  3. When I finally tracked down this album last year I was pleasantly surprised; there are a lot of great tunes here. I’m due to give it another listen.

    For being such a revered, classic band, Black Sabbath seems to routinely have less-than-professional mixes on their albums. Weird.

  4. Forbidden was my very first Sabbath album ever (still got the cassette), so I will always have a soft spot for it. But even without the nostalgia glasses I think it’s a pretty solid album and far from the worst the band have ever recorded (to me, that dubious honour goes to The Eternal Idol). I’m looking forward to the remastered version – don’t disappoint us, Tony!

  5. I was aware Guilty as Hell has the “f” word…..what is the other song?

  6. Scotty of Como Park says

    Call me crazy, but I’ll listen to anything by Tony Iommi…his guitar playing is just the cure for the daily blues.

  7. MacGregor says

    Thee has been plenty of comment over at Classic Rock over the past week, in regards to Forbidden. Tony Martin’s vocal for one, his voice is suffering big time from ‘over doing it’ perhaps! Even on the studio album he sounds terrible! Embarrassing at times, especially live in concert! A remix won’t save this album, there are a few good tracks on it, but it is a ‘tired’ album to many ears! When I stumbled upon it back upon it’s release, I thought it was a cheap. dodgy best of or something! With that appalling cover, it certainly has that look about it! A shame Iommi hasn’t as yet, got into the other Martin albums, the ones that matter! Nice to see a live version of The Shining on this gig footage! Hindsight is a wonderful thing at times, & looking back as i also thought when this album was released, the end should have been after Cross Purposes, when Geezer jumped ship! Not to worry! Even after Dehumanizer perhaps, when Dio spat the dummy! Although I do like Cross Purposes, it has some strong songwriting on it & a decent sound to it! A footnote in regards to the ‘Australian dates’ for this tour, I don’t recall ever seeing anything about a tour. Back in 1989 there was. the Headless Cross tour was announced with tickets etc, but pulled a little later! Disappointed to say the least back then! When Martin could sing & with Cozy on drums, what an album that is!

  8. MacGregor says

    Two different visuals for me watching this concert are, Geoff Nicholls on stage as a member of the band, rather than a additional behind the scenes player, so to speak! The other is the guitar that Iommi is using on Can’t Get Close Enough, what is that guitar, i will have to suss it out! Different to see Iommi on stage with a ‘strange’ guitar!

  9. MacGregor says

    Found that unusual guitar Iommi is playing, it is a Gibson Barney Kessel.

    A left handed version of the jazz guitarist B. Kessel artist model, built in the first half of 1960;
    – See more at:

  10. Matt Dennett says

    I finally got this album on cassette last year, a cracking solid album, no where near deserves the crap it gets. I prefer this album over Tyr any day. The production is a bit dry admittedly, but it has a solid sound and the drums dont over power everything as they do on Tyr, and they arnt as over produced as they are on CP. It contains some great tracks, the main riff in Illusion of Power is classic graveyard Sabbath. Get a grip and Cant Get Close Enough are chock full of heavy riffage, ok the second half of CGCE is very Meglomania but to me that just makes it even better. Guilty as Hell could be straight of Born Again, to me a definate bonus, and Rusty Angels plus Kiss of Death are superb hard rock, quality song writing. I sent a copy to my older brother and he agreed with me, he thinks its a great album, loves it and listens to it regularly. Sabbath/Tony Iommi doesn’t have a terrible album, just some albums that are more liked/loved than others. I would certainly rush out and buy a remix/re release Forbidden, no questions asked. A vinyl version would be immense, I hope TI gets round to this soon…

  11. Matt Dennett says

    …just dug out my tape to listen again, I can safely say Get a Grip and Cant get Close Enough are my two favourite TM era tracks of all time! Superb!

  12. John naisbett says

    Great write up Joe. I live in the UK & when the album came out I struggled to find it & had to order it. I still love the album.

  13. Robert Cam says

    Rusty angels… one of the Best songs Sabbath ever recorded….

    Robert Cam

  14. Great write up, Joe! This was the first Sabbbath album I was able to buy as a new release. I was 15 that summer and Sabbath/Motorhead/Tiamat also became my first concert! Lots of differing opinions on this album. I actually have always loved “Guilty as Hell”, mostly for that main riff which I can’t get enough of. In general I think a revised track order with some of the catchier material up front would have changed a lot of people’s perception of the album. In the end, you can never go wrong with Iommi, so bring on the reissue!!

  15. I agree with you Joe – “Kiss of Death” is really the best song on “Forbidden.” It reminds me of my enemies. Hahaha. It also makes me an indestructible human being.

  16. Chris Andresen says

    I do remember getting this CD when it first came out although I can’t remember the exact date. There was a “real record store” here in Indianapolis, IN with a CD bin and I used to always go around to this place and others every week after work. I found this CD in the bin and was actually shocked because I had heard nothing at all about it being worked on let alone released! I really liked it right away except for the first song, not so much, and of course the production was muddy. Kiss of Death is a great, powerful song. Neil Murray is one of my top bassists, if you listen to the old Whitesnake stuff, he is one of the greats, and then you got Cozy Powell. Great lineup. I have watched some bootleg concerts from this period and they were really good also. If it does get re-mixed it would be cool to have the bonus track and a concert. Thanks for the article.

  17. I got into Black Sabbath shortly after this album came out but like a lot of people (unfortunately), at the time, only the Ozzy era was on my radar.

    Barely a teenager, I didn’t have a lot of money to spare. One day in October of 1996, I saw a discount bin in Best Buy. Most of the CDs in there I had never heard of but then I came across Black Sabbath’s Forbidden for $1.99 (and a notch out of the spine). I had no interest in any non-Ozzy Sabbath but I couldn’t pass up a CD for $1.99 (long before it became common). I’m sure most people are aware but if you’re not, sometimes CDs are essentially given to a company to get rid of and they take a notch out of the spine or the barcode to signify that the retailer didn’t actually purchase those so the consumer should not spend regular price for it.

    I listened to it and liked a few riffs but as I said, I had no interest in that lineup at the time. Later as I learned more about Sabbath and Ozzy’s lack of lyrical contributions (to his own “solo” work as well), I began to open my mind and listen to the all of the other eras. I then revisited Forbidden and while it took me a long time to get into, once I recognized some of the similarities in style to other Sabbath eras, the album finally clicked. I think a song like Rusty Angels really has a Technical Ecstasy and Dehumanizer vibe. Can’t Get Close Enough has a very Sabotage sounding section. I Won’t Cry For You sounds like TYR. So I really grew to love the album although I totally understand why people are not impressed with the production. Even some of the lyrics I feel are too blunt for a Sabbath album.

    I’m glad this album is finally getting the praise it deserves. I would love to hear a remix. Mr. Iommi, I agree with Joe. Quit messing around with that Ozzy guy and concentrate on remixing this album!

  18. Jon Percy says

    I got the album from on the day of release from Volume Records which was a local chain in the north east of England at the time. They had four or five delivered that Dave, the store manager, had ordered for specific people (like me) he knew would come in and buy it that day. They also had two that the company had allocated to to them for general sale. I remember Dave telling me “you won’t like it, the production is crap and his voice is shot”. I think that in twenty years I’ve listened to it twice.

    Joe, you were talking about promotion for the album and I remember that it featured heavily in a Sunday night family drama show in the UK called Ballykissangel. It was a relatively light weight comedy drama about an Irish Village. In the episode in question the very straight laced local policeman has to infiltrate a biker gang who are all massive Sabbath fans, mixed wuth this is a sub plot about trying to get his new born son to sleep. He has to get up to speed on Sabbath and plays lots of it in the house. After a clip of Paranoid is played early in the episode every other Sabbath track featured is from Forbidden. The baby will only sleep if Sabbath are playing and this allows the cop to learn about Sabbath and catch the baddies!

    I found this product placement a totally crazy one which made no sense then or now. It was a hit show granted but really not Sabbath’s audience. I only saw it as I was visiting my grandmother who watched it every week. I can’t imagine the meeting where it was suggested or how it was approved.

  19. Matt Dennett says

    Its a shame that Malta show isn’t available as an official dvd release. I would certainly buy it. Its a great gig with an excellent set list. Band politics and bullshit aside, it shows five top musicians playing quality heavy hard rock and an audience who are loving it. If TI could get the rights, tidy it up and package it nicely he would be on a winner. TM gives a better vocal performance than the on the CP video. Plus – yes it is nice to see Geoff Nichols in stage too, rightly so!

  20. In 95/96, I was in the middle of my discovery and consumption of the whole of the Sabbath catalogue. At the time, I had recently bought all of the Ozzy and Dio stuff, and was just getting into the rest of it. I was blown away by Cross Purposes, and was devouring the Castle remasters, and in the midst of all this, I happened along Forbidden. I had no idea it existed, it just sort of “appeared” in the store. The previous few albums had at least some advertisement, but this one was just kind of slipped under the door, so to speak. I was confused; “what the heck is this?” and realized that it was “new”. So I bought it straight away. It’s definitely a different sort of album. It has warts, but it’s kind of dark and ugly, and its flaws actually give it kind of a special personality. I thoroughly enjoyed it immediately. It’s by no means a perfect album, its sounds is kind of thin, and it’s kind of lacking in guitar solos, but it was 1995 and anyone doing metal not named Pantera or Metallica was kind of struggling to find new ways to get noticed. You couldn’t get on the radio anymore as a rock band unless you were doing grunge or alt-rock…. so metal in general was kind of in a stage of “finding itself all over again”. Forbidden likely arose out of that context. So the chances taken kind of made sense in that way. It’s certainly an album that wouldn’t have come at any other time. So, while it’s not the strongest, I have a certain appreciation for it, and it really works on songs like “Can’t Get Close Enough”, “Get a Grip”, and “Kiss of Death”. I actually thought “Illusion of Power” was pretty cool too; the main riff and the chorus are a new kind of evil for Sabbath, and I liked the spoken word Ice T part too. Metal traditionalists scream about that bit especially, but for me I found it to be kind of a neat left turn thrown into the mix. Rap-metal was a trend at the time, but despite the presence of Ice T, this little bit was definitely not in that vein… it was something else, kind of an odd little thing that’s just enough to grab attention and then it’s over.
    I wonder what a remix will bring, and if there are any oddities left on the cutting room floor that we might get to hear.

  21. Another Ancient Warrior says

    About “Loser Takes it All”: Curious that this received only Japanese release. Tony’s main ostinato DOES sound to my ear, a lot like the Japanese Instrument called a Koto. That’s a dulcimer/zither usually played with a big plectrum. Some players might use mallets, but in the main, it’s a plectrum. You can bend notes by pressing on the string, beyond the bridge pieces.

    And, I love the FULL chords that Tony used–the modality used definitely has a “Japanese” feel to it–over the entire span of the song, that must have had a peculiar familiarity to a Japanese ear. It’s possibly in my all-time Top Twenty, of all of Tony’s compositions. I’ve never been to Japan, but the song put visions of Fujiyama, cherry blossoms, geisha women, and the frenetic hustle and bustle of Japanese Mega-Cities, into my head. When I finally do go to Japan, I shall be playing this song, over, and over, and over.

    “Scotty”? The TRUE Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor, HAS cured , has healed you!

    The San Francisco Warfield show, was my all-time Second Favorite Sabbath/Iommi show, because it was a relatively small nightclub-type venue, that places one in intimate contact with the musicians. And, I loved Cat’s harp playing in “The Wizard”–with a bit of Gospel-/Jazz-style call-and-response to Tony’s guitar.

  22. Great article, Joe – very well written. While Forbidden still remains my least favorite of the Sabbath catalog, it does have its moments. I’d welcome a remixed version of it and see if that colors my opinion of the album…

  23. Just for the record, you weren’t the only one that ran out and bought that album on the release date.

    I don’t think I’ve ever given that album a serious listen and something you wrote reminded me of why that was the case. What a terrible idea to make the first song be the song with the rap in it. I hated rap. I still hate rap. I don’t consider it music. If I recall, hearing that song as the first song just flipped a switch in my mind and I never really could give it a fair chance. That was a point in my life where I had enough disposable income to buy 2 or 3 cds a week, however my time was very limited. A disc got one, maybe two chances, to wow me. If it didn’t it got thrown on the pile of “misfit discs” and never listened to again unless I heard the song somewhere else and felt differently (in which case I would give the entire album another try). Needless to say “Forbidden” never got that second chance. Come to think of it, I bet I have 300 cds that ended up on the island of misfit cds. I suppose when I finally retire, I will have a chance to revisit those titles. In the meantime this article has given me a desire to check this album out again. However I think I will skip the first song this time until I’ve heard the rest of the album.

  24. Mickey G. says

    Here is something to check out, supposedly a rough mix of the Forbidden album prior to the vocals being added in. No idea if it’s legit or someone’s playing around . It’s origin is a Cozy Powell tribute site:

  25. You bring up the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby (just outside West Philadelphia). It brings back some memories for me. I was a graduate student at Penn in Philly ’89-’81. I saw Ozzy and his new band in I believe March 1981 at the Tower Theatre (it was like a 10 minute drive from Penn in West Philadelpha). Black Sabbath had booted him from their band and the summer before released Heaven and Hell. No one at the time in Philly (or the US) even really knew that Ozzy was in a solo band or really cared. This was before Ozzy bit heads of doves and made it in the US. I was a Black Sabbath fan since high school in ’74. When the band booted Ozzy, I had two allegiances. The new Dio-singer band which was great stuff and Ozzy’s band. I had a friend in NY that worked for a Wall St. firm that did a lot of business with the UK. He would read the UK’s music newspapers and pass down to me all the articles about Ozzy and his new band. The news about Ozzy and his band at the time (fall/winter 1980) was big in the UK but not here in the States. Via my friend in NY then, I bought the Blizzard of Ozz album from a NY record store in like Nov. 1980. The store had imported it from the UK. It was on Jet records I believe. During the Christmas break of 1980 I was in NYC with friends and spent a few hours searching the local record stores in Manhattan for an Ozzy EP which was released which had the song “You Said It All” on it which ’til this day is very rare. Good song. My friends to this day remind me how we hit almost all the record stores in Manhattan until I found that desired UK mini-LP.

    Back to the point, Ozzy and his new band did a debut tour in the states in early ’81. One venue they were playing at was Tower Theatre and I bought tickets. My friends in Philly at Penn were like you’re buying tickets to see who? Tower Theatre was like half filled. The Blizzard of Ozz album had zero radio airplay in the US at the time. It was March 1981. But my brother came in from NY (I was from NY) and we saw Ozzy and Randy Rhoads and the band. Ozzy wore his Sabbath frayed sleeve cover of Vol. 4-like shirt. The band did a bunch of Sabbath numbers at the end. We were up on the balcony first row and I remember doing the Ozzy peace sign that he did back then in the 70s. I was sure that he would see me as my brother and I were over 6 feet tall and the Philly fans were not at all that receptive to who Ozzy was at that time. It was a real good show. Later that spring and summer 1981 Ozzy took off in the States. He bit the heads off live doves in LA and that gave him immense popularity in the States. The Blizzard of Ozz album was then released I think on CBS records and Ozzy’s career took off. I graduated from Penn in summer of ’81 and got a job in LA (I’m an aeronautical engineer) in August ’81. Ozzy was big in LA and the US then. He would do bigger arenas than Tower Theatre sized venues but he’s got to remember where it all began.

    By the way, I saw the “Cross Purposes” tour in NYC in I believe April ’94 at Roseland. Sabbath was called a dinosaur by the NY newspapers then. I think Motorhead and Morbid Angel also played. Sabbath was relegated to playing smaller venues then. I was lucky enough to see Ozzy and Sabbath together in NY back in ’78 during the “Never Say Die” tour before Ozzy was kicked out in ’79. I also saw Sabbath do the “Seventh Star” tour at the Spectrum, 3rd row from stage, in Philly in ’86. I believe with Glenn Hughes before he bugged out of the tour. Saw Sabbath in LA in ’82 and many times in 80s, 90s, 00s (as Heaven and Hell). Met Tony during his NYC “Iron Man” book signing in Huntington, LI, NY in Nov. ’11. He presented himself well and thanked me for being a fan for all those years. My brother has met Ozzy backstage back in ’84 in LA. I would have liked to meet Ronnie James Dio because he was a great singer and gentleman. I am 57 years young these days but as I tell many people these days my brain still thinks I’m 17. I live in Atlanta now and admit that in order to see Sabbath again on their next tour (hopefully) I will have to travel up to north to NY (or Philly). Atlanta just isn’t going to draw hard rock or heavy metal shows like up north (but I would be pleasantly surprised if not the case). —Ron S., Smyrna, GA.

  26. Ron Segall says

    Please correct “I was a graduate student at Penn in Philly ’89-’81,” should be ’79-’81. Typo.

  27. OzzyIsDio says

    Thank you for the great article Joe!

    As a diehard Ozzy era fan, but a fan who enjoys all the eras, Forbidden is my favorite Martin/Sabbath album, I never got the knock downs this album received, I like every single song on the album, of all the Martin/Sabbath albums, this one gets the most spins.

    I have it on cassette, bought it when it was first released, bought it again on CD, used of course as I couldn’t find a new copy anywhere, and again on Vinyl, just recently.

    I look forward to someday the Martin years being re-released as a box set and the Martin years Sabbath getting the respect it so much deserves.

    Last but not least, I have to give the man credit who got me into this great era after the albums being buried and forgotten in my Sabbath collection, Doctor John.

    Joe, thanks again for this informative post on my favorite Martin/Sabbath album and for providing the forums where we may discuss our favorite band Black Sabbath, without you none of this would be possible.

    Thank you so much.

  28. Randy Bateman says

    Great post,I really enjoyed reading this!
    I bought the CD at a now defunt store called “Incredible Universe”. They had quite a few copies because they had everything in the world of 1995 there. I saw the tour on a Friday July 28 at an old place in Tacoma WA called the Temple Theater. It was a great show and the new songs worked way better than them playing the old Ozzy stuff. The second time I ever got to see Cozy Powell,the first was when he was with ELP in the 80’s.

    • I remember Incredible Universe! We had one in Dallas. That same location is a Fry’s now. I never bought CD’s there, but bought a lot of computer hardware there. :)

  29. Did not like it as an album.I do like songs like “Illusion Of Power” and “Guilty As Hell”.I do like Ice T and Body Count,as well.

  30. Steve Dee says

    Joe – A few comments:

    1) THANK YOU! for all of your work covering Sabbath…even through some rough times. I’ve nothing but wonderful thoughts regarding your kind work.

    2) “Kiss of Death” is absolutely brilliant and also MY favorite Tony Martin – era song. Fantastic lyrics. “Nothing you do will hurt me, I am indestructible. This is no ordinary soul that you’re destroying. Not just another life that drifts along with the sands of time”

    3) Here’s my vote. “13” is the 2nd best Sabbath album (after Paranoid of course). Relentless, beautifully recorded, Geezer’s classic lyrics…and the classic Black Sabbath sound. The 7th classic Sabbath album (the first six plus “13”). I will listen to this masterpiece forever…

  31. for me its a very good album tony martin and cosy powell did a great job prehaps with the future remix version everybodies says that he was a great album!

  32. This album is quite a gem. Sometimes i’ll find myself cooking or cleaning while blasting it. In my closet, somewhere, I have a long sleeve shirt depicting the cover, with Black Sabbath running down one sleeve, and Forbidden on the other. Picked it up on ebay for I think 10 bucks a few years back on ebay. I can send you a pic if you like.

  33. Randy Miller says

    Joe, well-written and (as usual) exhaustively researched.

    I had tickets to see the gig in Kalamazoo, Michigan (hoping to see Cozy Powell, but it turned out he’d been replaced by Bobby Rondinelli by that time). However, it was cancelled. I had seen the Cross Purposes tour the year before (Iommi, Martin, Butler, Nicholls, Rondinelli) and they were excellent.

    The main problem with the album was getting Ernie C involved…he just didn’t grasp the Sabbath sound. The songs were not horrible at all, but the production was. Cozy’s drums need to sound as “full-throated” as they did on “TYR” and “Headless Cross.” It seemed like the production was trying to be too “minimalist ’90s.”

    However, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the playing or singing. The album had some of Tony Martin’s most personal lyrics.

    If TI does indeed remix the album (hopefully to “Headless Cross” standards) I’ll certainly be up for a new one.

  34. Glenn from New Zealand says

    There was also due to be one New Zealand date on the tour, cancelled as was the Australian run. I wasn’t much into Forbidden so I don’t think I’d made the decision to go, but I probably would have on the basis of history rather than current material.

    Having said that, I do like some of the songs and Illusion Of Power is an all time Sabb favourite of mine. It’s slow and doomy, and I have no problems with the Ice T bit at all. It works quite well in the song.

  35. The Forbidden album, like all of Tony Martin’s albums is criminally under rated. I really wish I had the chance to see them on the Forbidden Tour but my parents wouldn’t let me go because I was only 16 at the time. I like all of the songs, especially Sick and Tired, Rusty Angels, Kiss of Death, Can’t Get Close Enough, and I Won’t Cry For You. I really hope I will see Tony Martin live in concert someday so I can hear material from his era in Black Sabbath.

  36. Ryan Fraioli says

    Ha. Guilty As Hell is one of my favorite tracks on Forbidden. I would LOVE to hear a remixed album! Can’t wait.

  37. This is a good album. Maybe not great, but it is undeservedly maligned. The album has a number of strong tracks even if the mix is rough. I do hope Tony Martin gets his own reunion gig like Dio and Ozzy got. It would be great to see.

  38. I got this album when it came out. I didn’t hear any news about Forbidden at all, just happened into the local store and found it. The small Texas town I was living in at the time was/is a ferocious country music is the only music (rock and roll and heavy metal are the devil!) kind of place. First impression was mostly the consensus opinion. I didn’t really like it. I remember thinking that the artwork was not as good as past Sabbath releases. I think I bought the only copy they ever got too.

  39. peter chrisp says

    What a gr8 read with the original Sabbath the Ozzy era on Warner Brothers and with Tony The Cat Martin now at the helm and with a couple of albums under his belt,
    a change of scenery & a number of lineup changes and a slightly different direction production wise as opposed to their previous what i would say although not quite classics but none the less there is some good stuff in Tyr Cross Purposes The Headless Cross & The Eternal Idol, it was interesting to see what direction Sabbath
    would lead. At that time it sounded like it was a rushed record in other words a more of a contract obligation just to say goodbye to the IRS label who knows, as i know very little about the label in actual fact i have never heard of it up until now. Judging by Geezer although i cannot judge he seemed as though he wasn’t too happy with the direction the Sabbs were heading and in his case would you blame him? And what a crack up you go to a record store and only one copy, well it just goes to show
    at that particular time how popular Sabbath were without Ozzy!! I’d hate to think how many copies it sold uhh not many you reckon. As i have never listened to the album i will give it a go, great reading though

  40. So, it seems that the remasters are now dead and buried… which is a pitty as this one really needed one, and even a new mix.

  41. You have to remember that since Seventh Star most of the Sabbath stuff has been Tony Iommi solo work under the Sabbath monicker. I’ve enjoyed all the releases because Iommi is on of my heroes and I thought there was nothing wrong with Forbidden when it was released, but it will be interesting to hear the remix.

    • That is incorrect. They are Black Sabbath. They’re not solo work.

      • Believe what you want.

      • Sometimes being a fan can blind you to obvious truths and many fans, like yourself Joe, seem to suffer from this affliction. Stating obvious facts does not change the affection you have for the band and it’s music – just be honest about it.

      • Martin Steel says

        You are wrong Joe and sadly a little naive. Sabbath’s music is not about headless crosses, Norse gods and the like, it is about the very English cynical and pessimistic view of the world born out of living in the post war times in the English Midlands – I know, I grew up in that area and those times as Sabbath did and unfortunately as an American (which I believe you are) I not sure you can fully understand that. There is a world of difference between the original Sabbath’s music and the Dio/Martin releases, it is as clear as day – They are different bands under the same monicker. If you can’t see that then I’ not sure you understand the essence of what Black Sabbath were and are about and I don’t think you ever will!

        • Sorry you feel that way. Shrug.

          I’ve been doing this since since 1995. I work for Bill Ward, Geezer Butler, and help Tony Iommi. I know what the deal is. My cred is well established.

          • So, the next obvious step in this debate would be to ask Ozzy, Geezer and Bill whether they believe albums such as The Eternal Idol, TYR, Forbidden and Headless Cross are Black Sabbath albums? I’m pretty sure I know what the answer will be! At least the Dio era was remedied by renaming it Heaven & Hell and I believe the forthcoming reissues with IRS, for example, should be rebranded in a similar way with Tony Iommi’s name highlighted in their titles. The quality of the music in all the different line ups has never been in question as far as I am concerned, it is simply a matter of the name.

        • that is a bit short sighted, bands evolve over time, every Sabbath album is Black Sabbath, the essence of black sabbath is not a singer or a point of view, tho I can argue Tony Iommi is Black Sabbath. the band essence I think is a band playing as a whole, about dynamics and creating a mood with the atmosphere of the music. all the albums have this, Headless Cross and Tyr has it for sure, and if you want “cynical and pessimistic”, then Dehumanizer has you covered there, the Dio albums in general being the most Heavy Metal and dark at times in the whole catalog. Perhaps I am sick of this whole “ozzy is the true sabbath” rubbish, seems like ignorance in my opinion, when alot of black sabbath fans I have met love every era of the band, hell when a band does 20 albums and not one of them is bad or awful? thats impressive, you can find something in every album, as a fan that means it is great for us.

          I wanna add also, I like Forbidden more then 13, Forbidden sounds more like a Black Sabbath album.

    • Okay, that is your opinion, but clearly not everybody’s and especially not Tony Iommi’s … now, I have had the great luck seeing Black Sabbath under very different occasions (1989, 1990, 1995, 1998, 2005, 2009) and with very different line-ups, but I must say, that they have been Black Sabbath every time … even under the Heaven and Hell moniker.

      They have never been billed as Tony Iommi solo and they have never performed like that.

      You should really consider this. Twice.

      • Martin Steel says

        I would suggest that you read what you have just posted on this website, you are now denying the Heaven & Hell name and calling them Black Sabbath!!! Think about it yourself, you are clearly delusional my friend. I have seen Sabbath in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and you would need to be blind and deaf not to notice the difference – stop kidding yourself and stop being so precious over the Sabbath name, the music has always been great that has never changed but come on my friend – be honest, it’s not a crime to criticise your favourite band.

  42. I was working in Philly about a month before the show there in 1995 and I heard Sabbath would be there at the Tower Theater. I scheduled to go back out the week of the show. Me and a coworker, who said he would go to the show with me, went out and we would come back the day after the show. I bought the Forbidden cassette for the ride out. On Tuesday, my coworker was about to go out for a jog when I heard the concert was being moved to Tuesday at the TLA. I told him and he changed and we headed downtown, not exactly knowing where the TLA was, but we did find it. I didn’t find out who the opening act was until much later. Motorhead came on next. This was the second time I had seen Motorhead, they opened for Ozzy on his first tour in Johnstown, PA. Then Black Sabbath came on and I thought it was great. In your review of this show, you mentioned that was the only time you saw Cozy Powell. This was the second time I had seen him. The first was my first Black Sabbath concert in Pittsburgh on Feb 1, 1974. The opening act was Bedlam and I found out later Cozy Powell was their drummer. Unfortunately, Bedlam didn’t get much response from the crowd. And because the show in Philly was moved up a day, we had to go work with a customer doing training. Needless to say, my hearing was very poor and I stood much closer to the people I was training.

    As for the Forbidden album, I like it a lot, much better than a few other ones. But everyone has their own tastes and for me, I was happy with it.

  43. I remember I was 16 when TYR was released and it literally blew my mind. Then I bought Headless Cross and then I can assure you that the era with Tony Martin became my favorite. Even Forbidden seems like a great album to me. I think that affirming that there is only Sabbath with Ozzy or Dio, is to be very limited intellectually, because for some, the fact that different topics are covered is something that some will never understand. Bands evolve, vocalists can come and go, but Iommi’s riffs are always the one and only Sabbath.

  44. Tristan Black says

    Excellent article Joe as always. Though I haven’t made it all the way through it just yet. love the pictures of the guys in the studio. Just to comment on the NIB album with the band original line up dissolving at the time. I used to have a video interview with Tony Iommi speaking to (if I remember right) Head bangers ball outdoors in a parking lot around this period. They asked about Geezer leaving the band and about the Tribute album and it was more between Tony and Gloria at that time because he wasn’t asked to be a part of it meanwhile they had Ozzy, Geezer, and Bill on there, and Tony being the main Solid member of the band. I guess it didn’t go down very well. Once Geezer got out of it and went to work with Ozzy he was dead set at the time that he’d never do anything with Sabbath again at that point.

  45. Francisco Pacheco says

    Great Article, I personally like this album, however, is not even in my top 10. We all need a Deluxe version of the Tony Martin era catalogue reissued, First Black Sabbath Album I heard was Dehumanizer back in 1992, then with all Costa Mesa mess the band put together a great album… Cross Purposes (Which is by far my Fav from Martins era). If you ever read this Mr. Martin, there is a lot of love for your work with Sabbath, keep on rocking!!

  46. Aaron McMahon says

    For the back cover artwork, next to Miles Copeland, and behind/above Ice-T, is Ernest Chapman, Tony Iommi’s long time manager, who has recently passed away.

  47. Great article. I admit i gave up on Sabbath (until the reunion) at this point but on reading this have gone back and re-listened.
    It’s a really good album. Those slower songs are great. I think it was done down by the really bad press of the day & the never ending soap opera of rotating singers and band members which gave an impression of chasing the money in search of a magic formula as opposed to a musical vision. Thanks for the reappraisal and i for one am glad to have rediscovered a Sabbath record. Roll on the Tony Martin era remasters. Hopefully Tony will get some of the financial and critical acclaim he deserves.

  48. William Anders Jannusch says

    I have always loved the “Forbidden” album very much. I also never thought that it needed a new mix that bad. That might make it sound better. Who knows? But really, in my opinion, one either likes or doesn’t like the songs and Tony Martin’s vocals as they have a certain feel and really the production isn’t going to change that . Tony Iommi wrote some killer riffs and solos and song arrangements on this album. Ice T’s spoken part didn’t bother me on “The Illusion Of Power”. The other songs are really good though A lot of people want to blame the mix. In that same regard, people do the same with “Born Again”. They say the mix was bad. I love the sound of “Born Again” and it remains one of my favorite albums ever and I love the mix especially the Sanctuary remastered 2 CD edition. The mix on “Forbidden” was kind of raw but it sounded very clear. I wouldn’t want it to suddenly have a big 80’s reverb mix. The artwork was kind of strange. I would’ve passed on the cartoon drawings. A more serious and more evil cover could also helped the reception. But like I said, if you truly delve into the music here, it’s a damn good album. I actually like it more than “Cross Purposes”.

    Now, I won’t downplay the fact that I love the Ozzy Osbourne era the best and had an absolute blast with the Ozzy era Black Sabbath super deluxe 5 vinyl boxsets as I am a massive collector and just bury myself in the collectibles, books, posters, programs ! I bought them all! I love all of the Black Sabbath line ups and albums with Ozzy, DIO, Ian, Glenn, Ray, Tony Martin etc. By the way, I have seen Black Sabbath 26 times live in concert through the years since from the time when I first became a fan at 9 years old in 1981, when my Uncle Dave gave me Black Sabbath’s Greatest Hits and Ozzy’s “Blizzard Of Ozz”(I started at 8 with KISS), until the final THE END our in 2017. I met Sabbath’s original members in 1998 at a Tower Records “Reunion” signing and Ozzy again later in 2001 at a “Down To Earth” release photo with the fans meet and greet. I also saw Black Sabbath and Motorhead on the “Forbidden” tour in 1995 in Tinley Park IL/Chicago area at the World Music Theater. It was extremely weird since the theater holds about 50,000 people and all the years I’ve seen Sabbath there with Ozzy the place waa packed. But in 1995, on the “Forbidden” tour it was more than half empty. But they still played a killer show and so did Motorhead.

    Back to the subject, I loved your review of “Forbidden”. Strangely enough, I was going through an emotional breakdown with my late ex girl friend in 1995 similar to yours but with mine, we had been together for years and she was deeply abusive and it was a damaging relationship, though her and I had our good times too earlier on. I agree that the “Forbidden” songs truly lend themselves to being so much a part of my life back then since they seem to reflect and also bring a therapeutic feeling of closure to that relationship too. The songs seem to sing of that type of pain. I have been a loyal follower of every Sabbath album and line up and still am. I also agree that “Forbidden” the title track as well as “Kiss Of Death”, “Shaking Off The Chains”and “Rusty Angels” were some damn good Tony Martin era Sabbath tunes. I am a huge fan of “Headless Cross”, “TYR”, “Cross Purposes” and “Eternal Idol” too. I loved your review and I love your site.

  49. Forbidden was almost the first non-Ozzy album that I bought.

    Aged 16 I’d been a fan of Sabbath for a couple of years and owned a couple of Ozzy era compilations and Sabotage but I knew all their post 70’s work was done with other singers and varied drummers and bassists. So I popped down to the local music shop owned by an English guy who I knew was a HUGE Sabbath fan and sifted through the Sabbath CDs and my non-Ozzy options were Born Again, Cross Purposes and Forbidden, which had a NEW RELEASE sticker on it. Wanting to be on the bleeding edge of Sabbath sounds I was about to get Forbidden but I paused and asked the shop owner’s opinion. Of course he instantly pointed me in the direction of Cross Purposes, saying it was “Solid, not their best and I don’t have any Dio in stock, but it’s a solid album”. He didn’t bag out Born Again or Forbidden as anyone with good business sense wouldn’t discourage potential sales, but his reaction to me holding up Forbidden said it all!

    Even though it was late 95 the owner told me that Forbidden was “their final record”, so I assume he was up on the latest goss via magazines or this newfangled Internet thing and was reading between the lines that the poor ticket and album sales on the back of 16+ years of internal turmoil had ended the Iommi Sabbath project. To my surprise, a couple of years later I’m browsing HMV and on a prominent stand there’s a new Black Sabbath release called Reunion. I did a double-take when I saw Ozzy and Bill on the sleeve.

  50. Paul Phillips says

    Tony in his New Year message has said the Martin era albums will be re-released this May, really looking forward to hearing his remix of this underrated album.

Speak Your Mind


For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.