Headless Cross

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Headless Cross
Studio album by
Released24 April 1989
RecordedAugust–November 1988
StudioThe Soundmill, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England
Woodcray Studios, Berkshire, England
Amazon Studios, Liverpool, Merseyside, England
Genre Heavy metal, doom metal
Label I.R.S.
Producer Tony Iommi, Cozy Powell
Black Sabbath chronology
The Eternal Idol
Headless Cross

Headless Cross is the 14th studio album by English heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Released on 24 April 1989, it was the group's second album to feature singer Tony Martin and the first of three to feature drummer Cozy Powell, along with Tyr and Forbidden .


Recording and production

According to Tony Iommi's autobiography, Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath, the band were dropped from Warner Bros. Records in 1988 after an eighteen-year deal and after Vertigo Records had also dropped them. He soon met Miles Copeland, who owned I.R.S. Records at the time. Copeland told him: "You know how to write albums, you know what people want. You do it and I'm fine with it". This persuaded Iommi to sign to I.R.S. Records. [1]

Iommi contacted famous British drummer Cozy Powell, who had played with Jeff Beck, Rainbow, MSG and Whitesnake, among others, to see if he wanted to join Black Sabbath. Iommi and Powell started writing songs in Iommi's home with Tony Martin joining in for rehearsals. Iommi had originally had the idea of bringing Ronnie James Dio back. He soon got a call from Gloria Butler, wife and manager of Geezer Butler, who said Geezer wanted to rejoin Sabbath; this reunion with Butler never happened as Geezer had joined Ozzy Osbourne on his tour promoting No Rest for the Wicked . [1] At the same time, Powell, who knew Iommi was looking at other singers, convinced him to let Martin stay in the band. Powell and Iommi decided to produce the album themselves.

Laurence Cottle played bass on the recording on a session-basis, but was never an official band member. [1] Cottle did appear in the video for the title track, but was not featured in any promotional photos. For the tour, the line-up was completed by Whitesnake and Gary Moore bassist Neil Murray. The track "When Death Calls" has a guitar solo by Queen guitarist Brian May.

Conceptually, the lyrics have predominantly occult and Satanic elements, arguably the only time in the band's career where an entire album is based on such ideas rather than select songs. The song "Call of the Wild" was originally going to be titled "Hero", but when Ozzy Osbourne used that title on his album No Rest for the Wicked , Tony Iommi opted to change its title."Devil & Daughter" also had the original title "Devil's Daughter", but was changed for the same reason. "Call of the Wild" and "Devil & Daughter" are also the only songs that do not end slowly fading out with Tony Martin ad-libbing (though "Nightwing" has only the band performing fading out with no ad-libbing on Martin's part). Reportedly, according to Tony Martin, the vocals on "Nightwing" were actually the original guide vocals, due to the fact that Tony Iommi thought they sounded better than the later recordings. [1]

According to the sleeve notes, the cover image was designed by Kevin Wimlett. The sleeve was designed by The Leisure Process at their offices in Little Portland Street London. The UK sleeve was in black-and-white, whilst the German release added colour.


For the live show in support of this album, "Ave Satani", the main theme from Jerry Goldsmith's Oscar-winning soundtrack for The Omen , was used as the intro tape, beginning as the house lights went down. This would then segue into a taped recording of "The Gates of Hell" before the band would begin the show with "Headless Cross". This intro-tape of "Ave Satani/The Gates of Hell" was used as many times during various tours over the years up until the Reunion shows. "Headless Cross" would be played on all subsequent tours when Tony Martin was in the band but the only other track from the "Headless Cross" album to last beyond that tour was "When Death Calls".

Black Sabbath were one of the first bands to tour Russia, in 1989, after Mikhail Gorbachev opened the country to western acts. Black Sabbath played a total of 25 shows, 13 at Moscow's Olympic Hall and 12 at EKS Hall in Leningrad. The two (afternoon/evening) 19 November shows were professionally filmed and eventually released on DVD in some territories in 2008.

Tony Martin currently tours with a live band named after the album, going by the name of "Tony Martin's Headless Cross". They included another former Black Sabbath member, Geoff Nicholls, [2] until his death in 2017.


The bonus track "Cloak and Dagger" was the B-side to the "Headless Cross" single, and was later on the vinyl picture disc edition. At the time of the album's release, the only CD versions of the "Headless Cross" edit and of "Cloak and Dagger" were on separate promotional CDs.


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [3]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide Star full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [4]
Rock Hard (de)8/10 [5]
Martin Popoff Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [6]

Headless Cross was praised among critics and fans, being considered the best Sabbath album in years. Said AllMusic's Eduardo Rivadavia: "Arguably the finest Black Sabbath album since Ozzy or Dio, Headless Cross also featured one of Black Sabbath's most formidable lineups ever... In short, for those wise enough to appreciate Black Sabbath's discography beyond the Osbourne and Dio essentials, there can be no better place to start than Headless Cross or its worthy predecessor, The Eternal Idol ".

The album spent eight weeks on the Billboard 200 chart where it peaked at number 115. Sales in the US were low, leading to the curtailment of the tour. Iommi told Black Sabbath fanzine Southern Cross: "When we had the first record out with I.R.S., Cozy and myself went into record stores in Toronto, Canada, where we are pretty big. Nobody could get the record, it wasn't in the shops... unbelievable. We had such a fight with the local rep. I really came close to chinning him – it really was that bad. At the end of the day, it's us that suffer. They say, 'Oh, it didn't sell.' How can it sell if you haven't got the record in the shops?".

In 2005, the album was ranked number 403 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time. [7]

Track listing

All tracks written by Black Sabbath (except where noted).

Side one
1."The Gates of Hell" (Instrumental)1:06
2."Headless Cross" (Tony Martin, Tony Iommi, Cozy Powell)6:29
3."Devil & Daughter" (Martin, Iommi, Powell)4:44
4."When Death Calls" (Iommi, Powell, Geoff Nicholls, Martin, Laurence Cottle, Brian May)6:55
5."Cloak and Dagger" ((Picture Disc Bonus Track))4:37
Side two
6."Kill in the Spirit World"5:11
7."Call of the Wild"5:18
8."Black Moon" (Martin, Iommi, Nicholls)4:06
9."Nightwing" (Martin, Iommi, Powell [8] )6:35


Black Sabbath
Additional musicians

Chart performance

United Kingdom31
United States115


RegionCertification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI) [9] Gold100,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. 1 2 3 4 Iommi, Tony; Lammers, T. J. (11 December 2012). "Headless but happy". Iron Man: My Journey through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press. ISBN   978-0306821455.
  2. Warrell, Richard (27 July 2012). "Tony Martin's Headless Cross concert review". Born Music Online. Retrieved 9 August 2012.[ permanent dead link ]
  3. Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Headless Cross – Black Sabbath". Allmusic. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  4. "Black Sabbath: Album Guide". Rolling Stone . Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  5. Stratmann, Holger. "Rock Hard review". issue 32. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  6. Popoff, Martin (1 November 2005). The Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal: Volume 2: The Eighties. Burlington, Ontario, Canada: Collector's Guide Publishing. ISBN   978-1-894959-31-5.
  7. [...], Rock Hard (Hrsg.). [Red.: Michael Rensen. Mitarb.: Götz Kühnemund] (2005). Best of Rock & Metal die 500 stärksten Scheiben aller Zeiten. Königswinter: Heel. p. 48. ISBN   3-89880-517-4.
  8. Black Sabbath - Headless Cross picture disc LP EIRSAPD 1002
  9. "British album certifications – Black Sabbath – Headless Cross". British Phonographic Industry.Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Headless Cross in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.