Released: 2012, Frontiers Records
Ex-Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin has kept a relatively low profile since his exit from the legendary doomsters, although he has kept busy. His collaboration with Italian guitarist Dario Mollo is probably his highest gig, the duo having released two previous successful albums (THE CAGE, and THE CAGE 2). Both releases are considered minor hard rock/metal gems, so there is a certain amount of buzz generated when these two work together. The, ahem, imaginatively titled THE THIRD CAGE is effort number three for the duo.
The album opens with the stomping “Wicked World”, showing off Mollo’s knack for writing heavy but melodic riffs, very much in the vein of Martin-era Black Sabbath. Having never heard Mollo’s other gigs (Crossbones, Noize Machine, Voodoo Hill) I can’t say if this is his natural way of writing, or if he’s tried to match his riffs with Martin’s stylistic comfort zone. Whatever the case, you would be excused for thinking that most of THE THIRD CAGE were pulled from Tony Iommi’s mythical box of riff tapes. Given this, it’s odd that Martin himself sounds a bit strained on “Wicked World”, initially making me concerned for the rest of the album. Fortunately, the next nine tracks prove that he’s still got the range and power he always did – he sounds great.
You’d think that this would be the makings for a great album, but there are some points that drag the album down. Firstly, the forays into commercial hard rock are, frankly, painful – “One of the Few”, “Can’t Stay Here”, and “Don’t Know What It Is About You” are cringe-worthy rockers at the level of the worst hair band excesses of the late ‘80s. Oddly, another song with the title “Still In Love With You”, sounds like it should be similar to those missteps, but in actuality it’s an intriguing Zeppelin-esque crusher. The second problem I can’t shake is that these songs, as I alluded to above, just sound like second-rate ‘80s Sabbath riffs that would have been left on the cutting room floor.
That’s not to say that the album fails – Mollo and Martin are far too talented for that. However, given the abilities of these two men, I was expecting more. THE THIRD CAGE is a solid hard rock album with a bit too much filler – worth checking out for fans, but most will be safe in passing on it.