Contact Us

25 Years Ago: Black Sabbath Release ‘Headless Cross’


The release of Black Sabbath’s ‘Headless Cross’ should have been a cause for celebration of the fact that it coincided with their 20th anniversary. But by the time Sabbath’s 14th studio album arrived on April 24, 1989, guitarist Tony Iommi was all that remained from the original foursome, and the band’s career was moving into a slow downward spiral amid numerous ill-fated personal and business decisions. Considering all of that, the only suitable form of “celebration” might have been a funeral.

Then again, if there’s any band capable of making a wake work to their advantage, it is Black Sabbath. Despite ridiculous musician turnover, Iommi had shown some serious songwriting momentum on the band’s prior offering, ‘The Eternal Idol,’  Meanwhile, the relatively unknown but very talented Tony Martin was back for his second album as lead vocalist, and the legendary Cozy Powell (Jeff Beck Group, Rainbow, Whitesnake, etc.) was also on hand to provide his percussive thunder. When it was all said and done, ‘Headless Cross’ would make good on the recent promise of ‘Idol’ by delivering quite possibly the most impressive and consistent set of songs found on any Sabbath LP not fronted by Ozzy Osbourne or Ronnie James Dio.

These songs ranged from widescreen, malevolent doom anthems like the title track, ‘Kill in the Spirit World’ and the positively awesome ‘When Death Calls’ (featuring a guitar solo from Queen’s Brian May), to comparatively streamlined modern metal juggernauts like ‘Devil & Daughter,’ ‘Call of the Wild’ and ‘Black Moon’ — all of which benefited from excellent keyboard shadings courtesy of longtime Sabbath sideman Geoff Nicholls and inventive bass lines from jazz-trained session ace Laurence Cottle (later replaced by Whitesnake alum Neil Murray for touring purposes). Capping it all off was a rare detour into acoustic guitars by Sabbath lynchpin Iommi, who blended them with his patented cyclopean power chords for the exquisite album closer ‘Nightwing.’

All this would help ‘Headless Cross’ earn Black Sabbath some of its best critical reviews in years. Unfortunately, however, subpar marketing efforts and widespread distribution issues seriously hampered the album’s prospects in America and other key territories. As a result, an project that under more propitious circumstances might have constituted something of a comeback, instead became a well-kept secret. For now, Black Sabbath’s return to total respectability would have to wait.

Next: Top 10 Black Sabbath Songs

Recommended For You

Around the Web

Best of Ultimate Classic Rock

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your points and personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing VIP profile. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to using your original account information.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

(Forgot your password?)

Register on Ultimate Classic Rock quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!

Not a member? Sign up here

Register on Ultimate Classic Rock quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!