VERSUS: Forbidden vs. Demolition

VERSUS: Forbidden vs. Demolition

Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history, compare them, and see which one was the better record.

In this edition of Versus, it is a matchup between two legendary bands. Although, we are not tackling the band's best material, but rather their not-so-great material. Albums that were panned by the fanbase and critics. With some of the lowest ratings on sites like Blabbermouth, Metal-Archives and MetalStorm. One band, that following the release, would go on a long hiatus following the album and would reform it's original lineup. The other, would also be the final album with the band's newest singer and following that release would reunite with their original vocalist. Two titans, two missteps, two rising from the ashes of these albums to return to their true form. Let's look at these two albums closely in a matchup I'm calling "Rising From The Winds of Change"

In this corner, we have Black Sabbath with the band's eighteenth studio album Forbidden in 1995. This would be the last album to feature Tony Martin on vocals and Geoff Nicholis on keyboards. Forbidden would received negative criticism from the fans and critics, citing the songs as being "boring, bad production and easily avoidable". The album being the lowest ranked in the band's discography, and appeared on many worst metal albums of all time in my research for this matchup. Is Forbidden really THAT bad of an album? Is it truly one of the worst metal albums of all time?

The album opens with "The Illusion of Power". The song opens with clean, electric guitars by Tony Iommi before ringing distorted guitars join in. The doom metal opening riff with pounding drum strikes by Cozy Powell are drenched in reverb. Tony Martin's vocals have a Dio-esque tinge on the delivery. Its a low-and-slow, classic Sabbath sounding riff with modern production. The vocals are amplified and doubled on the chorus, creating depth and filling the space of the mix. Featuring Ice-T in a spoken word section, the drums have double bass flurries and an eerie, ominous guitar piece behind it. With Martin adding his sorrowful wails. After that section, we return to a section similar to the opening of the song. Martin's vocals rise in volume, interspersed with demonic laughs and rising guitar feedback. The song ends with a ringing distortion feedback with Martin speaking the song's title as it slowly fades out. "Get A Grip" has a more up-tempo and aggressive guitar and drum combo. To me, it sounds like a classic 80's metal song of the time of the previous decade, and doesn't really have the vibe of Sabbath. Almost like Sabbath covering the song and not a Sabbath original. Very out of character for the band in feel, delivery and sound. It doesn't match the band, especially compared to the opening track. Iommi's guitar solo is pretty good around the halfway mark. The pace change into a more faster, bouncy drum section near the end, is a good transition as it heads to the close. "Can't Get Close Enough" starts with a grungy, dark down-tuned opening guitar with Martin singing over it. Martin's vocals have echo and delay at certain parts, filling the space and trying to create depth in the ambience. Around the quarter mark, the riff gets layered and picks up with matching drum strikes by Powell. Bassist Neil Murray adds a little bounce with his bass playing, adding little accents to the drums. Another good, 80's sounding guitar solo by Iommi as it transitions back into the chugging riff on the verses. Martin belts out the song's title with all gusto as it mirrors the opening passage as the song wraps up.

I love the grimy, grungy guitar tone on the opening of "Shaking Off The Chains". The vocal matching with the guitar is kind of "off" to me. Like I don't know if it was the right vocal choice or the way he delivers it. The riff is a little repetitive until about the halfway mark, when it picks up and the song hits another gear in the drumming and guitar. Changing the energy of the track and makes you instantly bob your head along to the snare hits. Very Dio-era Sabbath vibes with the track in my opinion. Then, the song returns to the repetitive riff again, but with an underlying solo by Iommi as the song fades out. On "I Won't Cry For You", we start with a very 80's power ballad sounding opening guitar. With light bass plucks underneath, Martin rises and fades in his vocal performance. We get some nice keys/synths by Geoff Nicholis on the track as the band kicks the door in with the riff and bass leading the charge. It immediately comes back to the opening clean guitar and bass right after. Almost like we spent so much energy in that section before coming back down. I was kind of expecting to continue it with more strings or power in the second verses section, but it just didn't deliver. It kind of has a re-hash feeling of "Can't Get Close Enough" to it, like "didn't we already hear this song?" kind of feeling.

"Guilty as Hell" has a nice, bouncy groove with the bass, reminiscent of "N.I.B.". The song has a 90's sounding Sabbath tone to it, which I like with this track. Martin sounds really good on the track. This is the sound I thought the album would be like, instead of an amalgamation of 80's/90's production and sound, with power ballad moments. The riff is classic Sabbath, vocals are strong, and the bass and drums are so driving and a great punch in the mix. I like the building drums and riff at the bridge of the track. Heading into the chorus for the closing moments. This is my favorite track off the album. With the opening drum fills of "Sick & Tired", the song goes heavy and fast in the opening as the riff joins the party in classic, bluesy, doom heavy playing Iommi perfected. Nicholis pipe-organ like synths lead the song with Martin & Powell amping it up, almost again in a variation of a power ballad. A nice, complex and wailing guitar solo by Iommi with the band really letting him shine with the rhythm section keeping the pulse and the synths accenting his emotional playing.

"Rusty Angels" has a nice, up-tempo building riff with hammer-ons and pull offs throughout the opening as the band joins in. I love the bass undertone, adding that driving, pulsing beat to the song. Martin delivers a pretty good performance on the track. The album's title track has a dark, gritty opening guitar riff with pounding snare hits behind it. It's an ok track, it again sounds like an 80's metal track. Something you'd hear Sammy Hagar cover or an 80's hair band trying to sound 90's like Bon Jovi. Kind of skippable in my opinion. The album's closer "Kiss of Death" opens with a clean guitar opening with bass plucking with Martin belting his heart out. Iommi's distorted riff coming into the track hits good and mixed beautifully, but then the song returns to the similar opening with additional strings behind Martin. It does this a couple times in the song and it gets frustrating, like the song can't decide if it wants to speed up or slow down the entire way. The closing half of the song does pick up with some bouncing and driving drums with a matching guitar. Again, closing the song on the same formula of looping back to the intro on the outro of the track. Closing out a lackluster album from a heavy metal legend.

Their opponents, is Judas Priest, with the band's fourteenth album Demolition in 2001. The last album with their front man Tim "Ripper" Owens, who replaced former vocalist Rob Halford in 1996. Owens' debut with the band, 1997 Jugulator, was received with mix reviews and many fans claiming there wasn't enough melody on that album. With more aggressive lyrics, even warranting a Parental Advisory sticker on the album's cover, and the album produced by guitarist Glenn Tipton, the album didn't receive the response from the band's fanbase with the release. Many fans even claiming it to be the weaker of the two Owens-era albums. But is the album really as bad as everyone says it is? Are we just blinded by our nostalgia glasses and feel differently twenty plus years after it's release?

The album opens with the track "Machine Man". An opening, eerie build of effects with reverberation building slowly behind it. The opening double bass drums of Scott Travis and the ringing bass of Ian Hill, build into the machine-like riffing of K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton. Owens' vocals have elements of Halford in his vocals, but sounds more like his normal singing voice. The more toned down delivery on the chorus is different, especially going into the swearing and pummeling riff and bass combo of the song. Travis' double bass has so much depth in the mix with every kick. Owens' vocals have so much punch, and the layered harmonies on the chorus sound really good, especially into the section of the bridge with Owens saying the song's title. Nice, straightforward guitar solo at the halfway mark. Rip-roarin' opening track. "One on One" opens with some distortion-effects before ringing guitars enter the party. Great, classic chugging opening riff with Ian Hill's bass adding oomph and power to the drums. A darker tone in the song's delivery. Lots of industrial elements, guitar effects and gritty vocal effects add to the angry, pissed off energy of the song. Owens' vocals can be a little cliché in the tough guy role, but his delivery and range in the aggression of his vocals does add power to his delivery.

"Hell is Home" has a very dark, foreboding intro clean guitar with ringing feedback behind it. I like the cross-mix of acoustic guitar strumming and eerie, anxious feedback. Then, the riff comes in down-tuned and heavy. Very Black Label Society-style in it's sound. Travis & Hill add the evil tone to the pulsing rhythm of the track as Downing & Tipton add chugging and ringing guitars, trying to counter-melody the darkness of the rhythm section. Nice, reverb heavy guitar solo, with piercing highs and phaser-like effects to the solo. Raising the song from the depths for a brief moment during that piece. With "Jekyll and Hyde", keyboardist Don Alrey adds nice synths to the opening and during the verses. A more mid-tempo track, with a nice, chugging palm-muted riff with pulsing war-like drums into the chorus. I like the song along vocals. The band plays with different elements of bass leads, to atmospheric keys, to pace changing and do it really well on the track. "Close To You" opens with clean guitars, soaked in chorus and reverb. Owens slowly rises with his vocals and volume in the mix. Travis' punchy snares behind him, adds little accents of punch in Owens' vocals. The song is almost like a dark power ballad in it's performance by Owens, which fits the overall darker aesthetic of the album.

"Devil Digger" has another Black Label Society-style opening riff with pounding drums behind it. Owens' vocals have a lot of effects on the track, and he is singing deeper in his range, adding more piss and vinegar feeling to his vocals. The bass thumps along with the snare hits, as Downing & Tipton lead the chugging and gain-heavy riff. Not a big fan of the track, but I can see what they were going for with the evil, ferocious tone of the song's theme. With "Bloodsuckers", we have another similar opening build to the album's opening track. With ominous whispers and thudding industrial drum hits, the beat rises until the wailing guitars appear in the background of the track. I do like the track with the double bass, classic Priest vocal delivery, and bass gurgles behind the classic New Wave of British Heavy Metal guitar playing. "In Between" has a very nu-metal sounding opening riff and drum strike section. Which I'm starting to hear what the direction the album was kind of heading towards. A lot of the lyrics, riff style and tone, definitely channels the rising nu-metal scene and some songs do it well. This one, doesn't really nail it and it's skippable to me.

"Feed On Me" has a really nice opening, 80's kick drum build into a nice, heavy chugging riff. Owens' vocals are strong. I love the straightforward riff on the song. Not trying to do other genres or sounds, this is modern Priest and it works on this song. Similar to "Bloodsuckers" in its classic Priest sound for the 2000's. On "Subterfuge", we get some of the nu-metal elements with the aggressive electronic sounding drums and heavy down-tuned guitar tone. Especially with the gurgly bass and the lead guitar notes sounding VERY similar to Korn. Although, the band does make it work in this example. Incorporating elements of the 2000's nu-metal sound, but fusing it to the Judas Priest formula and not commandeering it. "Lost and Found" has a beautiful opening acoustic guitar piece. Owens' self-reflection in his vocals and delivery fits the longing and melancholic tone of the track. His vocals are a real stand-out on the track. The band is gelling well together on the song, with everyone in the band getting little sections to showcase. "Cyberface" has HEAVY reverb and loud production on the track compared to the rest of the album. Owens' vocals are prominent and heavy as all hell at certain points, but also is competing with the riff, bass and double bass on the track, which really becomes distracting or hard to hear him until he delivers his high screams. It's an ok track to be honest. "Metal Messiah" is the album's closer. With piercing guitar bends, the song starts off with aggressive drumming by Travis. Then, we get Owens "kind of" rapping his vocals throughout the verse before going into the chorus. It definitely has a punchy sounding chorus, very classic Priest, but then the vocals on the verse is just a sharp contrast. It is a strong and heavy closer for the album. Especially going into the crescendo of the close of the track.

With this matchup of two of the missteps in these band's legendary discography, who do I declare the winner of this interesting matchup? It's not even close, the winner is Judas Priest with Demolition. With Demolition, Priest did incorporate the rising trend of 2000's nu-metal with distorted, down-tuned guitars and vocal delivery. There were some examples where Priest didn't pull it off completely or missed the mark, but it did have better success than their opponents. My only critique with the album is not every song needed to be four minutes or longer (only one song was under four minutes). I think if the album was also fine-tuned to maybe ten tracks, it might have been a stronger record. Long song lengths created bloat or had me looking at how much longer was left on the song and going "really?". Forbidden is an album that doesn't really know what it wants to be. With it's opening track, instantly channeling the sound of classic Sabbath, to a lot of the songs being too similar or easily forgettable and formulaic. I think the sound they were going for was just NOT what fans wanted or were digging. And the predictably of how the songs was structured was VERY noticeable on a lot of the songs. As I listened, I could EASILY predict where the song was going, where Martin's vocals were going to go high/low and how the song would end. Predictability can be a death nail to an album, and if every song is like that, especially if the songs aren't good to start with to begin with. It becomes a slog to get through. Which made it an overall mess of an album. Making it an easy pick for Demolition to be the winner of this matchup.

Following the Forbidden album and tour, Iommi would disband the current iteration of the band and reunite the original Sabbath lineup of vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward. The band would co-headline with Osbourne's solo band on the 1997 Ozzfest tour. Black Sabbath would release the band's ninetieth and final album 13 in 2013. Although, Ward would not appear on the album due to "contractual disputes". The drums on the album were performed by Rage Against The Machine & Audioslave drummer Brad Wilk. A Martin-era Sabbath box set titled Anno Domini 1989–1995 wwas recently released. The albums will be remastered and remixed by Iommi himself.

Following Demolition, Judas Priest would reunite with Halford in 2003 and begin working on a new album. In 2005, the band released their fifteenth album Angel of Retribution. The album received positive reviews from critics, claiming as a "return to form" and fan's happy that the classic version of the band had returned and with full force. The band released their brand new album Invincible Shield in March of this year.

Guitarist K.K. Downing would leave the band in 2011 due to "relationship conflicts between himself, the band and management." He would form a new band called K.K.'s Priest. It would feature Downing on guitar, Owens on vocals, Hostile guitarist A.J. Mills on guitar, Tony Newton on bass and ex-Priest drummer Les Binks on drums. The band would release their debut album Sermons of The Sinner in 2021. They would release their follow up two years later with The Sinner Rides Again, featuring new drummer Sean Elg.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

VERSUS: Forbidden vs Demolition - Online Poll - StrawPoll
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