Anno Domini 1989 – 1995 Review

The time has finally come.  After all this time (we’ve been waiting since 2009-ish), the Tony Martin era IRS albums are back in print!  On 31 May, this is released to the world!

Up until today (22 May) I’ve been under an embargo not talk about it, but this morning that was lifted, so here goes.  I bought all these albums when brand new, so I know them supremely well.  I’ve been banging on for over a decade to get these things back out there – you may have seen my old wishlist post with info about them.   So here goes – my thoughts on this set.

Overall / Generic Set thoughts

Now first off, I wanted to get into one thing I’ve seen pop up a lot since this was first announced a little while ago.  That’s the people who are complaining that this isn’t an all encompassing set with multiple discs of extras, every demo ever recorded, unreleased stuff.  That’s *NOT* what this set is, nor was it ever intended to be.  The primary reason this exists was to get these albums available again.  It’s been an exceptionally long time since these four albums (Headless Cross, Tyr, Cross Purposes, & Forbidden) have been in print and available.  THAT is why this release exists.  These albums needed to be heard again – and they haven’t been.  If you’re just gonna foam at the mouth and rant that this release sucks, and is a “cash grab” or some bullshit like that…  Sigh.  Move on.  You won’t care for what I’m gonna say then anyway….

Given these albums were on IRS originally back in the day, those rights had expired and as such a new deal was needed.  This is being released by BMG worldwide, except for Warner/Rhino in North America.  The best part is that these are going to be available digitally – FINALLY.  That is the reason they’ve never been on Apple Music / Spotify / etc before – the old IRS deal had expired and never had online rights as part of the original deal.  They’ll finally be there after all this time, which I will be glad for, as it’s probably the #1 question I’ve been asked running this site.

Minor sidetrack/rant: Places like Spotify are what I call legal theft.  Yes, they’re legal, but the amount of money they pay artists is microscopic – and they’re always fighting for lower payments.  If you want to support your artists, BUY the music, do not rely solely on streaming services, as they basically give the middle finger to artists when it comes to paying them.

This is definitely packaged as a box set, not so much as individual albums.  Oh, they’re all in there with their proper artwork and such, but I’m speaking about a more “touchy feely” thing.  For example, the labels on the vinyl & cds are all visually similar.  They don’t have the OG art on them, which makes them seem like a single thing vs four individual albums.  That’s not a bad thing, but I saw someone online say they wanted them to be like total reproductions of the originals in their printed materials, and they’re not.  This extends to the CD’s themselves.  In the BMG version, the individual albums say “1/2/3/4” so it makes them feel more like a “set”.  As I write this on 22 May, I haven’t seen the US domestic print.  I expect it to be the same except it says Rhino instead of BMG, but I wanted to put that out there right now.

Also, the individual CD’s have as protectors those oddly shaped soft plastic things (see picture to right – not sure what the official name is) vs paper inserts in the sleeves. I never personally cared for these things and is one of the few things in the set that made me go “really?” and check off something on the negative list (which is super short).

The CD’s all have proper cd text.  If you look at this picture below, you’ll see me playing Headless Cross in my car, and it shows you what the CD text looks like.  All four CD’s have this set up properly, which is nice.

The vinyl version has black printed vinyl sleeves – they’re standard vinyl sleeves, just with nothing printed on them (click here to see a picture).  The vinyl version makes out better than the CD version here as the “sleeves/protectors” for keeping the physical media protected.   The actual vinyl cases look pretty good on their own, and honestly don’t look a ton different from the original versions.

The four vinyl covers side to side.

The other stuff besides the physical media are a booklet with stories and quotes about all the albums here (it even touches on other stuff like Dehumanizer which happened in the middle of this, and what happened after Forbidden slightly).  There’s also a replica of the Headless Cross tour program, and a Headless Cross poster.  Both the CD & vinyl sets have identical material, but the physical size of them is obviously larger in the vinyl version.  The poster is folded over on itself, and if you intend on framing it, you’re gonna have to flatten it out well before you can actually do that.  BTW, the size of the poster from the vinyl version is 24 inches x 36 inches.  I didn’t measure the CD size, but you can see them together in the pictures below.

I was asked recently if I contributed to the booklet.  They did ask me to participate, but at the time they required the material I was going through treatment for my prostate cancer, and was not in a place to be creative, so I had to decline unfortunately.

Still, the most important thing here is the music, and that’s properly handled, and is spectacular, IMO.  Headless Cross, Tyr, & Cross Purposes have all received remasters.  Forbidden has been completely remixed.  I’ll get into the particulars on each individual section, but all four have received some sort of sonic upgrade.  How much is dependent on which one, as the OG masterings for the albums weren’t all to the same level (IMO).

Click on any of these pictures for a larger version.

Individual Album Remarks

On my gear, I can hear the differences on vinyl – but I found when listening to them in the car on CD or using headphones things are much more noticeable.  That’s probably just my own hearing (tinnitus sucks), but I wanted to mention it.

Also, I know a lot of people make a big deal out of audio compression, “loudness wars” and things of that nature.  That’s never been that much of an issue to me.  I remember back in the mid 80’s Ozzy said something that stuck with me and is a foundational part of how I enjoy music.  He said (i’m paraphrasing) that music shouldn’t be about how this sounds technically, or whether this part of the bridge has this note perfectly aligned – it should be about listening with your ears, and whether the song makes you want get up and stop your feet or throw your fist in the air”.  So to that, I’m not providing some review with meter readings saying how much this was mixed up.  I just put the music on and listened – and enjoyed it.

I’ve also been told there are no plans to re-release these four albums on their own individually – it’ll only be part of this set (either CD or vinyl).  Additionally, I’ve been told they intend on keeping these in print.

These are the four labels on the vinyl discs showing how the artwork is a more cohesive unit vs the individual labels they had when originally released.

Headless Cross

Headless Cross has been in need of a remaster for quite some time.  It’s lacked some punch in my opinion in its original 1989 master, and this one delivers.  It has a sonic fidelity the original lacks.  It packs more of a wallop, it’s cleaner than it was originally, and I can hear parts I couldn’t before, like the bass seems more prominent to my ears on the title track.

The CD version has the bonus track “Cloak & Dagger”, but it is not on the vinyl version.

In my opinion, it’s the album that’s benefitted the most in this new box, as it has a nice clean sound it didn’t have before.  The music video released for Headless Cross uses the remastered audio from this, so you can check it out there.


Tyr actually is the one album I didn’t think needed much in the way of remastering – because I always felt the OG mix of Tyr was pretty good as is.  I can hear improvement here too, but not nearly as much as I did on Headless Cross.

There’s no bonus tracks here at all, on either the CD or vinyl versions, it’s the album we remember, but that’s not a bad thing, as it’s an underrated one in the overall Sabbath catalog.

Cross Purposes

Similar to Tyr, Cross Purposes was one of the better OG mixes, and didn’t need a ton of work, IMO.  But it has been remastered and sounds clearer in places if perhaps not the quantum leap forward sonically that Headless Cross was.  But that’s more a factor of HC’s OG mix than Cross Purposes.

Not that this has anything to do with the box, but it’s my favorite Tony Martin studio album of the lot.  I mean, Geezer is here.

The CD version has the bonus track “What’s the Use”, but it is not on the vinyl version.  This is a track that I’ve known about since 1994 – I have the original Japanese CD this was released on.  It’s a virtual unknown, as it never was released anywhere else.  I’m super glad for more people to hear this, as it’s one of my fav Sabbath tracks of all time.


1995 bootleg vinyl and 2024 remix vinyl covers

This is the one that people were most interested in.  The new remix of Forbidden.  It is DEFINITELY different.  Overall, it’s VASTLY improved.  It has a different sound in places – but keep in mind.  The songs are still the same.  It’s not like it’s going to be a totally different album all of a sudden.  Just some parts have a different guitar sound, some instruments are mixed more up front (or behind), other unused guitar bits added.  It’s a different flavor for sure.

The CD version has “Loser Gets It All”, and the vinyl version does not.  Both the CD & vinyl sets have the new remix.  The original mix is nowhere to be found.  Not on CD or vinyl (or digital when that happens on the 31st).  This new mix is “the mix” going forward.

The first time I heard it a few weeks ago I took notes.  I decided I’m going to include my notes here below – keep in mind these are my knee jerk reactions to each of the individual songs on first listen.  Not intended to be any comprehensive list of every change on the album, I’ll let you discover that on your own.  Also, all of the songs have an overall cleaner sound than before even without the remix work, so the base level is improved.  However, the changes are the most interesting thing given I know the album really well in its original form. As has been stated, I seem to be one of the few people who have a proper affinity for this one, so I wanted to detail this one for sure.  Anyway, here are my raw remarks from first listen of Forbidden’s new 2024 remix:

The Illusion of Power

  • Slightly different tone.
  • Ice-T vocals mixed down just a little (not as out in front as before), and some accents that weren’t there overall.
  • The ending of the song has some guitar bits that weren’t there originally.

Get a Grip

  • Crunchier sound overall.
  • Fade out lyrics slightly different than original.

Can’t Get Close Enough

  • Guitar intro reworked. Sounds similar, but different.
  • Oh wow, the remix here is huge – has a fatter and clearer sound overall as compared to the original.  Like that.

Shaking off the Chains

  • Guitar intro more in your face than before.
  • Martin’s vocals stand out far more than before.
  • The “double echo” behind certain individual words Martin sings in the original chorus are gone.

I Won’t Cry For You

  • Neil’s bass more pronounced.
  • Tony’s vocals are now echoed in chorus – he’s singing background for himself.
  • The guitar solo feels different.
  • In fact, this can hear the drums clearer too.
  • Outro vocals feel different too.

Guilty As Hell

  • Vocals sound a bit more mixed than before, but overall this sounds the closest to the original of anything on the album.  That’s not bad, I really liked the original. Not to say it’s identical, it’s been remixed too (some vocal echoing is here too).

Sick & Tired

  • Cozy’s drum intro seems a bit enhanced here, and overall drum sound cleaner here.
  • Guitar solo in middle seems less in front than it was before, can hear the rest of the band better here.
  • The echo guitar effect at the absolute end of the song is GONE.  I LOVED THAT!  It’s gone, darnit!!  :(

Rusty Angels

  • The intro the song is noticeably different. I suspect some won’t like the change. Riff still the same, but sounds different if that makes sense (hello remix?)
  • Chorus sounds more like the original than the intro does.
  • As much as I thought Guilty as Hell sounds mostly the same, this one feels more changed. Once again, it’s not a new song, but this is VERY remixed.  Given the OG version was one of the best songs on the album, I’m not sure how this will be perceived.


  • The main guitar riff seems to have had its tone changed a bit. I wonder if Tony redid this?
  • Guitar riff also has a secondary riff playing with it (new or just previously buried in mix?)
  • This is also changed a lot in places.
  • The middle part sounds totally different guitar wise.

Kiss of Death

  • Overall vibe is way heavier than before.  Always thought this was heavy, but it’s even moreso now.
  • Once it gets to heavier guitar part about 3/4 of the way through the main riff feels a bit rearranged.
  • Even the tick-tock at the end feels slightly different.

Loser Gets It All

  • Honestly – I never cared for this track.  I always skipped it, so I’m just gonna do the same here.  :)


OK, I can say a little more than that, but..  You really should buy this set.  People have been asking, screaming, begging for the Tony Martin era albums to be re-released, and they’re finally here (on 31 May).  So get out there and buy the sets.  Yes, they’ll be on Spotify, but that shows next to no support for these products.  Buy them.

Bottom line – the four albums represented here are a noticeable audio upgrade, and to my ears are worth the time we waited to get them.  If you were never a fan of the Tony Martin era, I don’t think this will change your mind, but if you liked the Martin era before, you should go pre-order this immediately.  You’ll enjoy it, I certainly did.

“… listen for the feet as they pound the land to the tune of thunder…. “

P.S.  I’ve been asked several times about Cross Purposes Live since posting this. That was never intended to be part of the set, as the set was about making the studio albums available again. However, I’ve been told Cross Purposes Live WILL get addressed down the line.


  1. Joe good job, I always enjoyed your site. I saw you at Tony’s book signing in Ridgewood,NJ. Me ,You,and Tony are cancer survivors.God bless. Tony was on Eddie Trunk today,Geezer on Tuesday. If you get a chance check out my old band New World Order recorded in 1991 fallen angel on top of world cover .released digitally finally in November 2023 Spotify,iTunes,apple,etc.all platforms worldwide. I also released a single in 2021 under GenSloot “Nobody Cares “ also all platforms. Peace .Sabbath forever 🎸🤘🏻✝️✌🏻😄

    • You didn’t see me – I wasn’t there. My friend Damian was there and filmed the event, there’s video about it on my site elsewhere.

  2. MIke Neuberg says


    Would you happen to know why Tyr never had any bonus tracks for Japan? I vaguely recall reading a Tony Martin interview that said there was some leftover songs during the Tyr sessions (in particular, one song called “No Time to Die,” I think it was) – but admittedly, I don’t recall if he said how finished they were.

  3. Awesome detailed review and thanks been waiting for these a long time too and nice to finally have them out.

    Just a small point, those inner sleeves you’re not fond of are anti-static usually polylined plastic sleeves to protect the CDs from surface scuffs caused by the cardboard or paper they’re contained in. Similar to those found in records/ vinyl etc. While not essential and this set appears to be a comfortably housed and less likely to get scuffed, having experienced the results of not having that extra protection for CDs housed in cardboard or paper sleeves made too tight for the Disc personally recommend them on a case by case basis ;)

    Anyway awesome read and thankyou for the continued passion and taking the time to write m/

  4. Panschop says

    I’ve been listening to the remix of the Forbidden album and I just can say that I’m blown away by the overall sound!! Drums are oh! so clear now, and the power of the mix is just what I expect in a Sabbath album.
    I think justice finally has been served to Forbidden, feels like a completely different album, so fresh and powerful!! Totally worth 13 years of waiting!!

  5. Joseph Anthony Angel says

    Loser Gets It All has a LOT of changes….

    Added parts, removed parts, added vocal verses (Iommi and Martin must have went deep in the vault to decide to bring some of these vocal lines back), probably 40% of the song has been changed.

    I liked the song as it was. the new sound is fantastic, but they changed this song probably THE MOST over the whole album.

  6. George Berk says

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned that the CD cover of “Forbidden” is different from that of the original IRS release on CD. The original IRS release on Cd has the full cover of the reaper with NO Tony Martin cartoon face on the left hand side. I do have the vinyl version of this & it has the Tony Martin face on the left hand side. The CD does not, only on the back cover. Has there been any word if “Cross Purposes Live” will make it out on DVD? I feel they should have included it with this set. Also, any explanation why “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” was skipped over in the deluxe version sets

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