Dario Mollo / Tony Martin
The Third Cage
posted on 1/2012 By:
I'm not here to pull the wool over anyone's eyes; this particular brand of hard rock is not likely to have a great deal of appeal with the majority of our regular readers. And even for those who do dip into the less extreme end of the pool, The Third Cage still manages to sneak through some cuts that will firmly test the mettle of your cornball threshold. But it's Tony Martin behind the mic, folks -- that's the real draw for most of us -- and he sounds every bit as good today as he did when he stepped up to the plate for Black Sabbath during an era that produced some of the band's most under-appreciated gems: Eternal Idol, Headless Cross, Tyr and Cross Purposes.
But crikey, the moment "One of the Few" blows into the room, all the rough-and-tumble strength built up by the album's opening three cuts immediately topples as if hit by an over-exuberant hip thrust from Kip Winger circa 1988. This tune and the equally saccharine "Don't Know What it is About You" sound as if they were ripped directly from MTV's Headgiver's Ball during a time when videos actually existed and mostly featured coked-to-the-gills "actresses" spread-eagled on the hoods of borrowed sports cars while poodle-haired "dudes" cooed about the joys of having too many hoes to kick off their jock. Yeah, it's a tough sale, particularly to an American market that's generally more interested in gauge earrings and sludge draped in incomprehensible lyrics. (Honestly, I'm really starting to miss simply Speeding at Night.)
Fortunately, despite further bolstering the themes of amour, "Still In Love With You" manages to up the bluesy boogie ala Weisse-schlange's "Still of the Night," and closer "Violet Moon" strips away the candy coating in favor of closing the album out on a simply mellow note.
Apart from the album's soft mid-section, which also includes an upbeat sassy rocker that features Martin laying down some unexpected "shooby-doo-da's," The Third Cage does flash some thoroughly enjoyable moments. As mentioned, the first three songs increase the heft and come across more like latter-day Dio with a touch more of a hard rock stance -- "Cirque du Freak" and the smoky "Oh My Soul" standing out as album highlights. Plus, even when things are at their frostiest, Martin still sounds great, and Dario Mollo really does know his way around a melodic fretboard, particularly when soloing, which happens often.
Really, the bottom line here is that this record doesn't deliver the type of material that's terribly marketable to the typical 18-35 year old metal-lord who's chomping at the bit for something new. If you don't like hard rock, The Third Cage ain't likely to convert you. But in an effort to highlight this project's strongest selling point, there's definitely a lot to grab ahold of if you're a fan of Tony Martin's voice. And if you find yourself curious but dread the idea of "love songs," I suggest you steer yourself toward Sabbath circa '87-'97.
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