THE THIRD CAGE
I get the math. When a major band changes singers, the next guy never gets the respect of the first. If they change again, that guy always gets disrespected greatly. Look no further than the once again popular Van Halen for proof. Anyone want to argue that Gary Cherone was ever given respect in that band? I thought not. In my eyes though, the single most disrespected singer in rock history has to be vocalist Tony Martin. Martin had the distinction of being the guy who replaced Dio in Black Sabbath. You remember - Dio replaced Ozzy, and then Martin replaced Dio. As third guy on the totem pole of Black Sabbath, I would argue that his catalog from start to finish was stronger than the Ozzy era (the whole Ozzy era, not just the first 4 albums). I personally will always reach for an album like HEADLESS CROSS long before something like TECHNICAL ECSTACY. Maybe it's just me, but I have long respected and sung the praises of the Martin era of Sabbath.
For THE THIRD CAGE, Tony Martin continues his decade long relationship with Italian guitarist Dario Mollo to create some cool, albeit friendlier, hard rock that is enjoyable to listen to. Martin sounds as good as ever vocally, even if the music isn't the intense type that many remember him doing with Black Sabbath or even on his solo work like SCREAM. The music is much more Journey / Foreigner / Night Ranger like than you might expect. Still, Martin's powerful pipes power the material here. Songs like "One Of The Few" prove just how strong a singer Martin truly is. This song, which sounds like a cross between the late era pop-rock Scorpions and something Jeff Scott Soto might record, if full of Martin's flowing vocals and some virtuoso like solo fills and riffs provided by Mollo. For his part, Mollo is a tremendous guitarist. There are times when he heavies things up a bit, like on the thick rocker "Still In Love With You". Simply, Mollo can play, and showcases a lot of different styles on THE THIRD CAGE.
The lone drawback to this project is that it doesn't feel hugely organic at all. While I have no idea if this is a project or a band, it definitely feels like a project. It would not surprise me at all if this project was put together via MP3 trading. Again, I have no way to know that as true, but there's just something lacking here. It just doesn't feel like they were in the same room, where the energy would have flowed between Mollo and Martin.
PITRIFF RATING - 73/100 - A solid effort from one of the most underrated singers in the business. My hunch is this would sound a lot better performed live as there would be a new vibe to it, but it's still not too bad.