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Originally intended to be Tony Iommi’s solo debut, there is no denying that Seventh Star has the oddest status in the Black Sabbath discography. It doesn’t get torn apart like Forbidden or divides opinion quite like Born Again, but rather seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle with its successor The Eternal Idol. Context aside, this album is still responsible for many of the tropes that the band would come to adopt through the late 80s and early 90s.
In addition to being the first Sabbath album to feature Iommi as its sole original member, Seventh Star saw them fully embracing styles that had merely been hinted at before. Songs like “In For The Kill” and “Turn To Stone” show a proto-power metal sound that Dio never could’ve predicted while “Heart Like A Wheel” is the band’s first glimpse at the blues since their earliest days. There is also inevitable influence from the time period in its prominent keyboards, reverb heavy production, and all-out power balladry on “No Stranger To Love” and “In Memory.”
The lineup may result in a faceless rhythm section but the overall performances are worth noting. Iommi himself is as smooth as always though his leads are more focused than his riffs as the always-underrated Geoff Nicholls dominates “The Sphinx” and brings some nice Hammond touches to “Angry Heart.” On the other hand, vocal legend Glenn Hughes contribution is sure to divide listeners as he provides his amazing range and soul but lacks the atmosphere that truly makes a standout Sabbath singer. At least Joe Lynn Turner was busy at the time…
And with that to consider, it is hard to recommend this to traditional Sabbath fans. It doesn’t quite match the riff-driven Ozzy era, the majesty of the Dio era, or even the B-movie darkness of their other 80s ventures. The new sounds are also a point of concern as they provide a source of transition but ultimately make the album a true product of its time.
Black Sabbath’s twelfth studio album may essentially be the best album that Rainbow never made, but it may have more in common with their other efforts from the decade than one would initially think. It is worth wondering how things would’ve been if this had been released properly, but thankfully the band evolved well from here and Tony for a few more chances at a solo career in later years. I’d go for Fused to hear an astounding Iommi/Hughes collaboration or Headless Cross for the best of late 80s Sabbath but this is still worth looking into if you get the chance.
“In For The Kill”
“No Stranger To Love”
“Heart Like A Wheel”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com
**Note: This is a review of the 2010 Deluxe Edition**
This has to be the goofiest title of a band ever. Seeing “Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi” is like if “The System Has Failed” had the title “Megadeth featuring Dave Mustaine. There is no one else anyone would expect being associated with these groups so I can imagine the bewilderment or laughter when metal connoisseurs saw this record when it first came out. It is understood this was supposed to be an Iommi solo record, but Warner Bros. wanted the Black Sabbath stamp on it. With that fact, this is not your typical Sabbath affair with heavy guitars and doom laden lyrics. It actually has more an eighties feel which works at times and also does not while also showing Iommi’s blues background. The addition of another former Deep Purple singer, Glen Hughes, is welcomed and delivers a great performance. A deluxe edition was made available in 2010 and features a concert from the Hammersmith Odeon in England with Ray Gillen on vocals and it all bundles up as a nice package capturing a tumultuous period in Black Sabbath.
In addition to Hughes, Iommi armed the rest of the band with a couple of young guns in drummer Eric Singer and bassist Dave Spitz as Geezer Butler had enough and Bill Ward could not be found. The combination of the four all lead to this varied selection of songs on “Seventh Star.”
To all the hardened fans that keep a skeptical eye on this product, I urge to remove the veils and take this for what it is. This album is not going to conjure up memories of “Sabotage” or “Heaven and Hell”, but it holds up well in the lengthy and varied Sabbath discography.
“In for the Kill” is quite literally the killer opener with a low riff and Hughes declaring his prey by commanding “Thunder shattered the dawn.” This bit of lyric tingles the senses and I love the way Hughes delivers the lines. In fact, Hughes delivers an awesome performance on this record. The way he laments on “In Memory…” and conjures up images of ancient Egypt in the title track is remarkable and is attention grabbing.
This is all possible because of the other major player and who this record features in the guitar god himself with Iommi. It is hard not to appreciate the riffs on display and the song arrangements leave plenty of room for Hughes to do his magic. The title track stands out as a top song because of the gloomy atmosphere and once the background hymns kick in with the chorus; it never fails to send a shiver up my spine. Iommi lets his blues background shine in “Heart Like a Wheel” and the combo to round out the album in “Angry Heart” and “In Memory…” leave memorable guitar parts. The former also has some acceptable keyboard parts provided by Geoff Nicholls and the build-up of the riff to the vocal lines is impressive. I love the contrast provided as it segues into “In Memory…” with the depressing acoustic guitar and the way Hughes says “It’s still haunting me” really makes the listener feel his pain and regret.
The only clunker is “No Stranger to Love” with its cheesy synths, cheesier lyrics, and sounds very eighties. This has no place on a Sabbath record, Iommi record, or any record for that matter. The guys are much more capable than this. Funny enough, this deluxe edition includes a bonus track of this song presented as an alternate version. The song is worthless in both formats, but the music video is good for a chuckle.
The other songs that resemble the eighties are “Turn to Stone” and “Danger Zone.” They are both straight ahead rockers that some would say have a glam edge, but the songs have some delicious riffs. “Danger Zone” is the stronger song due to some awesome drumming by Singer and complimented by a trademark solo by Iommi. The way the guitar jumps out the riff in the middle is a nice touch added.
“Seventh Star’s” second disc is a concert taken from the Hammersmith Odeon with Gillen on vocals along with Spitz and Singer. Gillen took over for Hughes because of his massive drug problem and he suffered an injury which caused him to not be able to sing very well. This concert is basically a glorified bootleg, so the sound isn’t strong, but it is nice to have Gillen featured on a Sabbath release and the guy has a great voice.
Gillen has the energy and passion of Ronnie James Dio, but he also can conjure up demons and doom like Ozzy Osbourne could. He sounds more natural on the Dio songs as songs like “Mob Rules” and “Neon Knight” seems more suited to his style. However, on the tracks “War Pigs” and “Black Sabbath” he sings with a higher tone because of his wide range, but he makes it work and keep the spirit of the original intact. In fact, his performance on “Black Sabbath” is remarkable because he sounds strangely similar to Osbourne in the beginning and the way his voice changes with a slight growl in when the song picks up shows he can be very diverse.
This extra concert is also a neat extra because you can hear two songs that will most likely not be heard in concert again in “Danger Zone” and “Seventh Star.” They work well in the live setting, especially the latter song. The keyboards are also more prominent in these songs as well as the whole concert.
Black Sabbath was in a time of great change in this period, but it still results in a good album. It is not Iommi’s best, but it has a lot of strong songs to take great enjoyment too. The deluxe edition also has plenty of pictures and the story of how this record came to be. The live concert with Gillen should provide extra incentive to procure this copy. The sound has been improved a little bit, though the bass could have been nudged up, but the sound levels are consistent and retain its balance. This would not the last collaboration between Hughes and Iommi as his guitar playing along with Hughes’ voice are a perfect match. The title on the cover is strange, but any Sabbath fan should take a dive into this album that features Tony Iommi.
Although guitarist Tony Iommi has always been the heart of Black Sabbath, an album with three quarters of the band missing doesn't quite qualify as a Sabbath album. Of course, the band had not suddenly split up. Rather, "Seventh Star" was supposed to be a solo album from Tony, not the latest disappointment from the masters that once brought us some of metal's best records. Even looking past this obvious oversight, "Seventh Star" is an undercooked piece of melodic hard rock. With weak production, generic riffs, and only a handful of decent songs, Black Sabbath have another bland album to their name.
This certainly isn't the first time I have found Black Sabbath short of quality, but "Seventh Star" feels even moreso out-of-place than other weaker albums like "Never Say Die!" or the more recent "Born Again". Of course, Iommi never intended for this to sound like his flagship band. Instead of their trademark doom or metal grit, this incarnation of 'Sabbath' emphasizes melody and bluesy soloing over anything. If I had to compare it to anything else in the band's discography, I might point the finger at the more streamlined sounds of "Technical Ecstasy", or perhaps even a de-clawed, anaesthetized "Mob Rules". After Ian Gillan's tenure with the band passed on as a failed experiment, we are introduced to Glenn Hughes, who- like Gillan- is better known for his work with Deep Purple. Compared to the vocalists who have contributed under the Sabbath banner before him, Hughes' voice feels like a vanilla, run-of-the-mill hard rock vocalist. His higher register is admirable, but he lacks both the distinctive charisma of Ozzy, and the acrobatic precision of Gillan and Dio.
As far as songwriting goes, the title track is quite good, enjoying soulful guitar leads and a memorable chorus. Uninspired composition is more of the rule here however; very rarely does it ever go beyond the call of duty. By-the-numbers song structures, flat melodies and average riffs are what define "Seventh Star". Even the rhythm section (performed here by bassist Dave Spitz and drummer Eric Singer) seem to do the acceptable minimum. Thankfully, Iommi has given himself some good room to work his guitar, and this is what saves "Seventh Star" from a final resting place as a coffee coaster in metalhead living rooms around the world. Of course, the 'riffs' themselves are bland and simple, but his lead work brings the feeling that the rest of the album seems to miss entirely. Unlike a regular Black Sabbath release, Iommi can ideally take all the time he wants to play leads, and though it still doesn't happen nearly enough on "Seventh Star", it makes me think that a pure Iommi guitar album would have been something great. As it stands, we have another chapter in Black Sabbath's history that is best left alone.
With the Born Again-lineup falling apart around him, and even Geezer, the bassist who had stood by him since the inception of the band, was leaving, Tony Iommi decided it was time to lay Black Sabbath to rest, at least for a while. Instead, he concentrated on making a solo album; something with maybe a lighter touch than what people had come to expect from Black Sabbath. A return to roots of sorts, taking cues from old blues and rock, while combining them with newer influences emerging in the western world. However, this was not meant to be. Due to label pressure, he was forced to release Seventh Star under the moniker Black Sabbath - not as a solo album - albeit the label conceded to tag on a description to clear up any confusions about the band. The description was "featuring Tony Iommi" which is rather confusing considering Iommi was one of the founders of the band and had always been a member.
Now that the context of the album is established as something of a return to Iommi's musical roots, yet under a lot of pressure from the label, the end product clearly resembles this. The first part of the album plays out like something from a cheesy 80s hard rock album. In for the Kill is made out to be a hit single for the crowds: simple staccato riffs with some long power chords thrown in, something a person who has never picked up a guitar could almost play, singalong melodies with puerile lyrics about the band not backing down from its position at the top of the pack. For the other label-forced hit song there's No Stranger to Love, not that surprisingly a power ballad about being hurt by love yet not being afraid of going for it again. It's appropriately melancholic with its verses, but where it fails is the chorus with its sappy major chord melodies. It would be a good situation to showcase Hughes's higher range, but supposedly with all of his problems at the time, they wanted to avoid that.
The middle part of the album is more of a standard Sabbath fare: Turn to Stone is this album's Neon Knights or Turn Up the Night, rapid pace with drums leading the way and very rocking riffs. The way the song is constructed with the verses subtly changing to the chorus and then back is very reminiscent of the aforementioned Neon Knights. Definitely an album opener if it wasn't for the label single. The title track is the long epic song of the album, sort of like Children of the Sea or Sign of the Southern Cross. It goes forward with a plodding pace with little variation and isn't quite up to the level of its predecessors. While serving as an advertisement for Eric Singer's lack of ability and flair when compared with the likes of Bill Ward or Vinny Appice, the song - together with its intro, Sphinx (The Guardian) is also an advertisement for the rarely heard talent of Geoff Nichols. The cool little intro, wholly his work, builds slowly into a crescendo just like it should and the background keyboards with their majestic sound give the most important part of the atmosphere on the song itself. But even combined with Iommi's great (yet sparse) leads, the song feels a little hollow due to Hughes not being at his best.
It's a real joy to hear Iommi and Hughes really letting it all go for the monster of a blues song that is Heart Like a Wheel. Iommi just never stops. With two extended solo sections and a shifting, bluesy, melodic riff playing whenever he isn't soloing, he is always busy. In the first solo he goes a little flashier than what he usually plays, but brings it down for a blues-type in the end and the second one is almost completely in that vein. But no matter what style, Iommi makes it fit the song with class. Due to its blues roots, the song doesn't feature a lot of changes in rhythm so the bass and the drums are there just to provide a backbone for the guitar to perform against. Hughes gets a couple of emotional, stretched, high screams here, which show that even though he wasn't in good shape, he could still perform well in ideal conditions.
The three last songs, Heart Like a Wheel, Angry Heart and In Memory (though the last two are really one song split onto two tracks), form the best and most unique part of this album. The imbued yearning and melancholy for glories and achievements past is at their core which is why the bluesiness adds a whole lot to them. While Heart Like a Wheel introduces the loss and fleeting nature of all things, Angry Heart/In Memory is how those things affect a person. Angry Heart is the heaviest song on the album and has a lot of forward momentum. It's not going to stop for anything. That momentum is driven by the pounding drums and guitars while a hammond, reminiscent of Perfect Strangers, adds a flair of its own to it. This is the exasperation and fury at the loss of the most important thing in your life, while In Memory is the sadness and melancholy brought on by the acceptance of said loss. A very calm and moody piece, with Hughes singing gently, simple, quiet riffs from the distorted guitar and a soothing acoustic guitar melody in the forefront. Hughes brings the song and the album to a climatic end with some screams where he gives it his all while the audio fades away.
As said before, the trilogy forms what is the core of the album with its blues-tinted melancholy and were the album a single with just them, it would get a very high rating. However, it is preceeded by a bunch of songs which, while not bad on their own, don't fit thematically or musically together and don't reach the same heights as the ending trilogy.
Out of every Sabbath studio release, ever, I think that this, 1986's Seventh Star is probably the least popular amongst fans. There are obviously quite a few reasons for this. I will admit that I LOVE Sabbath, in fact they are my all time favourite band but I think my review score for this album is fair even if I do like 90% of everything the band have recorded.
The first and most obvious reason this album doesn't quite get as much credit as most other releases is the fact that it is easily one of the least Sabbath sounding records Iommi has written. Ah yes, Tony Iommi- since this album, every Sabbath studio release bar Mob Rules before Seventh Star has featured Iommi on guitar, Geezer Butler on bass and Bill Ward on drums. Seventh Star on the other hand only features Iommi. Replacing Butler and Ward is Dave Spitz (bass) and Eric Singer (drums). And stepping on vocals is Glenn Hughes, who you'll know from his work as bass/vocals during Deep Purple's mark 3 line up. After this record, there were a few Sabbath releases with Iommi as the only founding member (Eternal Idol, Headless Cross etc).
The reason why this album isn't very Sabbath-y is that it wasn't meant to be a Sabbath record in the first place. It was, and technically is, an Iommi solo project. The only reason why it has 'BLACK SABBATH featuring Tony Iommi' on the cover is because the record company forced Iommi to put 'Black Sabbath' on there. Therefore this album can be forgiven for it's sound.
Being a bit of a Deep Purple fan myself, I think that Hughes does a decent vocal job on Seventh Star. Despite this view, he is, overall the weakest singer that Iommi has recruited and this is the only album he appears on. 'In For The Kill' is a typical great heavy metal opener. 'No Stranger To Love' is a more commerical ballad, but a very memorable number anyway. 'Turn To Stone' speeds things up again with a cool riff and lyrics. The title track is probably the best song on here with an extremely catchy riff and chorus.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album apart from 'Danger Zone' doesn't quite live up to the first half of the record. 'Heart Like A Wheel', 'Angry Heart' and 'In Memory' just never leave me wanting more. One of the strongest points however, is the guitar solos. In fact, Seventh Star may just be one of the best albums showcasing Iommi's skills when it comes to solos.
If you think of this album as an Iommi solo project, you'll enjoy it a whole lot more. The music is, overall, quality stuff. I wouldn't label this is as essential Sabbath unless you are a fan. And it certainly isn't as strong as a lot of the other post-Ozzy Sabbath albums. The following album, 1987's The Eternal Idol was, in my eyes, an excellent release and Born Again (Seventh Star's predecessor) featuring the legendary Ian Gillan is actually my favourite of the post-Ozzy Sabbath albums. Either way, Seventh Star is still a good heavy metal album regardless.
Seventh Star’ is the most misunderstood and judging by the reviews on this site, underrated…I was going to say Sabbath album, but that technically wouldn’t be true. Anyway lets get some things out of the way about ‘Seventh Star’;
1. This isn’t a Black Sabbath album, therefore complaining about a lack of heaviness is ridiculous. Why would Iommi release a solo album and write material in keeping with traditional Sabbath doom work outs?
2. This isn’t hair metal or glam…Both those styles are inherently poppy and upbeat listen to Poison then ‘Seventh Star’, very different. Black Sabbath (or Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi) may have had big hair in 1986 but this sure as hell isn’t hair metal, in fact this isn’t metal at all this is a melodic rock album.
‘Seventh Star’ is most notable for being the start of a long running collaboration between Tony Iommi and Glenn Hughes, both musicians shared similar backgrounds coming up in the early 70’s midlands rock scene. Hughes’ Trapeze would often play the same gig circuit as Sabbath did and the bands shared friendships, however the musical background and styling of the pair couldn’t be further apart. Glenn Hughes doesn’t really sing heavy metal, his idol is Stevie Wonder and he naturally plays a sort of funky American sounding rock (see Deep Purple’s ‘Stormbringer’ album). However, it could be argued that Iommi made this collaboration work by toning down his own heaviness and meeting Glenn halfway. ‘Seventh Star’ more so than any of Iommi’s works features the song writing of Geoff Nichols. Iommi’s long time keyboardist and general right hand man wrote most of the lyrics and a great deal of the music on ‘Seventh Star’ and as such he could no longer be refused a place on stage with the band.
Although some Metalheads may find some of the direction on ‘Seventh Star’ not to their liking its difficult to argue with the albums overall quality. To my mind there aren’t actually any bad songs on ‘Seventh Star’ and the album works as a whole. If I was to compare this to Iommi’s other works with Glenn Hughes, which are generally held in much higher esteem, I would say ‘Seventh Star’ outstrips them in terms of quality by quite some margin. ‘In For the Kill’ gets things off to a great start, lyrically it deals with the very metal theme of Vlad the Impaler and features some nice galloping in 7/8 time I do believe. Glenn and Tony really do shine on this one, the both excel with powerful vocal and guitar work. The title track is my favourite here, very ominous and majestic with an eastern feel in keeping with its lyrical themes. Geoff Nichols’ keys do really add another dimension to this track, often an eastern sounding song can seem forced but this one works and conjures up images off sweeping desert sands (or Scarborough, I’m not sure which I last visited). ‘Danger Zone’ is another departure for Iommi, a misguided reviewer referred to this riff work as typical and how very wrong he was. ‘Danger Zone’ recalls Thin Lizzy with its multi tracked harmonies and driving rhythms. It’s classic 80’s rock.
There are a couple of controversy’s here for some of my fellow reviewers most notably ‘No Stranger to Love’ which is a power ballad no question about it. Now, I could be a clever dick and state how ‘Sign of the Southern Cross’, ‘Born Again’ and assorted other Sabbath epics were all in essence power ballads as well. However the fact is ‘No Stranger to Love’ is very different from the aforementioned songs it’s a blatant attempt at commerce. However, if you take the song for what its worth and what it is rather than going “omg this isn’t Iron Man!” it’s a fair enough song, not the best on the album but a nice bluesy ballad and also its much better than the sub-Aerosmith abomination of ‘Feels Good to Me’ from the otherwise excellent ‘Tyr’ album. ‘Heart Like a Wheel’ is another one many here seem to have a problem with as it’s a straight up blues song but I find it an absolute joy to hear Iommi given free reign to rip all over this track. This album losses marks for having two songs which are a bit too generic rock, ‘Heart of Stone’ and ‘Angry Heart’ both fall into this category, the latter again features some very strong keyboard work and ‘Heart of Stone’ once again displays just why Glenn Hughes no matter how drug addled, out of shape and erratic was and always will be one of the finest vocalists in rock with a god like range and passion seldom passed.
‘Seventh Star’ features two relative unknown musicians, who do a fair enough job. Eric Singer is the weakest drummer Iommi has worked with however he’s still good, its just the production lets him down as his snare sound is somewhat muddy and the drums altogether lacking in definition (although no where near as the abysmal drum sound on ‘Born Again’). So he’s not really to blame if he can’t compete with the likes of Bill Ward, Cozy Powell and Vinny Appice. Dave "The Beast" Spitz does a fairly good job on bass too but again some of the power is lost in the production leaving the bass somewhat subdued. Iommi, as always is a force to be reckoned with, although these are far from the mans heaviest or greatest riffs these are still great and the soloing is frenzied, bluesy and full of feeling, hey maybe its because we’ve actually got love songs this time instead of singing about evil women and devil’s daughters. To my ears at least, this is Glenn Hughes’ finest vocal performance. Despite being in terrible shape due to years of Cocaine, Alcohol and Mars Bar abuse (no seriously, rumours circled of Glenn’s midnight Mars Bar habit) Glenn’s voice is phenomenal and much more rounded than his Purple days where he got more and more like Stevie Wonder by the minute…to the point of being both blind and black by late 1975.
‘Seventh Star’ may not be perfect and its far from a heavy metal album…in fact its far from Black Sabbath, but it was never meant to be. I feel this is Sabbath’s second weakest release of the 80’s (‘Eternal Idol’ doesn’t do much for me and is in fact far more hair metal per se than this). Don’t try to compare this to any previous works and certainly don’t go expecting ‘Heaven and Hell’ because it isn’t this is more Whitesnake or Deep Purple than Black Sabbath, but I happen to like both those bands. After this album and a failed attempt at going solo Iommi would fully resurrect the Sabbath name and by 1989 Sabbath had fully recovered with the stunning ‘Headless Cross’ but to be fair the bands (or Iommi’s and Nichols’ who were the only constant members in this period) mid 80’s slump from 83 to 87 was really a lot better than people give them credit for.
The later career of Black Sabbath is characterised by uneven uncertainty, and 1985’s ‘Seventh Star’ is the most significant departure of the lot. In its favour, guitarist Tony Iommi wrote the album with the intention of it being his first ‘solo’ release, the band consisting of an entirely different line-up than was the norm for Sabbath, even in the turbulent revolving door period of the eighties, and the music following a lighter, poppier and more blues-oriented direction than the sludgy heavy metal of Iommi’s previous work. Nevertheless, pressure from manager Don Arden resulted in the ‘Seventh Star’ release being credited informally as the twelfth Black Sabbath album, but credited specifically to ‘Black Sabbath feat. Tony Iommi,’ a peculiar choice of phrase considering Iommi is himself the only original Black Sabbath member present, and none apart from keyboard player Geoff Nicholls had been associated with the band prior to this.
The deliberate departure from the sound Iommi and his previous band members had pioneered and developed throughout the seventies and early eighties makes this a difficult album for long-time fans to appreciate, but the orientation towards a more commercial sounding form of rock would continue through the next three albums, assuring this record’s influential place in the canon. I should probably point out at this stage that this is my least favourite Black Sabbath album for all the common reasons, but still has enough in its favour as a release that was attempting to diversify to rate it at least equally to the albums ‘Technical Ecstasy’ and ‘Forbidden’ that capture different incarnations of Black Sabbath at their most tired and apathetic.
Glenn Hughes follows in the footsteps of Ian Gillan on the previous album as the second Deep Purple vocalist to act as temporary Black Sabbath frontman, and he performs about as well as can be expected in his capacity as third-rate sound-alike to the big names. The radio-friendly tone of most of the album, particularly the softer love songs, are sung just as anyone who’s ever heard an Aerosmith or Bon Jovi ballad would expect, while the more traditionally hard rock pieces such as the title track sound the more like Deep Purple under Gillan than the bombastic operatics of earlier Sabbath favourite Ronnie James Dio, and the whole thing is miles from the nasal shrieks of the band’s longest serving vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. Iommi’s guitar is commendably modest for what was intended to be a solo album, primarily seeming content to riff along with the rhythm section and performing the occasional solo, and if anything this album is his least guitar-oriented up to this point.
Dave Spitz takes over bass guitar duties from old timer Geezer Butler, who departed along with original drummer Bill Ward after the previous album, and he performs with complete mediocrity. Slightly better is Dave Spitz on drums, although he is relegated to providing a slow beat most of the time, while the necessary dreamy eighties atmosphere is enhanced by Geoff Nicholls’ polished keyboards, occasionally pushed to the forefront. These temporary Black Sabbath line-ups were always fairly disappointing, as a group of unconnected musicians are drafted into the studio and gradually fall off the world tour one by one, and it would take until the end of the decade for Iommi and co. to achieve a level of cooperative stability not seen since the Dio years.
A simple glance at the track-list reveals the formulaic structure of this album, boasting a mix of epic songs lasting over five minutes for the hardcore fans, particularly the enigmatic ‘Seventh Star’ backed up by its Egyptian sounding precursor, with the fast-sounding ‘In For the Kill’ and ‘Turn to Stone’ balanced by the obvious ballads ‘No Stranger to Love’ and ‘Angry Heart,’ all edited to running times of 7” perfection. While the album isn’t entirely predictable, sometimes harking back to the old Sabbath sound presumed lost and other times, such as the final two tracks, defying expectation a little bit, this is primarily an album designed to sell well rather than an artistic statement, with recycled pop lyrics avoiding the confrontational pagan and drug themes the band is better known for.
There’s still enough energy to keep things interesting for rock fans most of the time, particularly with songs like the afore-mentioned ‘In for the Kill’ and ‘Turn to Stone’ which play out almost exactly as I had imagined. The chorus vocals in the opening song are light and melodic enough to suit mainstream ears, but thankfully become a little less restrained as the song continues and Hughes starts getting into it. ‘Turn to Stone’ is even more hard-edged as the third track, keeping the energy levels up between the slower tracks two and four, but the structure and even the production sound make this sound more like classic Deep Purple than classic Black Sabbath, obviously enhanced by Hughes’ delivery. Both songs feature medium length guitar solos that aren’t particularly interesting in of themselves, but work as well as any others that escape Iommi’s stumpy fingertips.
Between these, sounding very out of place but obviously attempting to snag casual listeners as early as possible, is the single ‘No Stranger to Love.’ Iommi opens with a slow solo, sounding more like the calculated soaring melodies of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour than his usual blues improvisation, while a background of keyboards sets the scene for this Hollywood-esque ballad that wouldn’t be out of place in cheesy love scenes of contemporary films. Surprisingly, the music video isn’t a montage of such scenes, but does feature actress Denise Crosby who would soon after star in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The slow drums, Bon Jovi vocals and minimal, always melodic guitars follow the tedious template for all songs of this type, and personally I find that it can’t fade out soon enough.
My preferred section of the album is the middle, where something of the classic Sabbath sound shines through and Iommi tackles bolder territory. The pointlessly titled ‘Sphinx: The Guardian’ is a one-minute intro to the title track, ominously setting the scene for the coming storm with keyboards and windy sound effects alone, while ‘Seventh Star’ sees Iommi returning to the epic style of the classic ‘Heaven and Hell’ album. The song is slow paced, based on a bluesy riff that still retains elements of Iommi’s much-imitated ‘stoner’ droning style, with Hughes providing his best vocals that sound more relaxed and casual compared to Dio’s exhaustive falsetto. The keyboard provides an effective backdrop, dark and ominous in contrast to the light and airy backing of the earlier love song, and only resorts to a clichéd Egyptian melody a little towards the end (you know the one. Every metal band has its own Egyptian song that uses the same bloody tune somewhere, almost as bad as the nine-note ditty used to evoke China). The song perhaps lasts a little too long, not featuring the interesting diversity of previous epics, but is slow and relaxed enough that this doesn’t present a problem.
The song that follows is even longer, and even more in line with the Dio era, and as such is my favourite song on the album, the only one really up to the standard of ‘Heaven and Hell.’The pop elements are still there in the vocal delivery and lack of off-putting jam sections or drastic rhythm changes, causing this song to feel a little more restricted than the long-term Sabbath fan is accustomed to, but in this case the accessibility is primarily in the song’s favour. At medium speed, ‘Danger Zone’ is a faster mover than ‘Seventh Star,’ and the heavy guitar riffs are right at the forefront. ‘Heart Like a Wheel,’ the first of two surprising non-ballads with ‘heart’ in the title, is the most traditionally blues-based song on here, based largely on a plodding bass guitar with nicely dirty sounding production throughout, though it’s a little tedious for my tastes. The good news is that Iommi really lets himself go here, breathing in the heavy stoner atmosphere and setting free those squealy, pointless, enjoyable guitar solos for much of the song. The guitars plod along to such an extent that it’s not uncommon for me to space out completely and forget the song’s even playing as it nears the end, the only clashing element being the contrasting clean vocals that sound out of place on this song only, which would be more suited to a heavy smoker or old man.
The title ‘Angry Heart’ implies something of a conflict between the style found earlier in track one with that of track two, and the end result is something like that. It’s not a ballad, that duty falls a little onto the short final song ‘In Memory...’ which is more of a dreamy acoustic song than a cheesy love song in the vein of ‘No Stranger to Love,’ but it does commit the sin of including a Hammond organ (grr!), albeit quietly. The chorus is full-on Bon Jovi pop-rock, and the drums are quite nicely catchy. Both this and the next song are joined by the conceit of simply jumping from one to the other, making me question why this wasn’t simply two halves of the same longer piece as I wondered for tracks four and five, but as the album is only thirty-five minutes long at nine tracks in any case, it was probably another stunt to attract customers to this dying band. The pace does slow down for the final song, marking a change after a few seconds, and the blend of acoustic guitar over electric is quite nice, but this song never really goes anywhere. Hughes seems intent on going out with a bang, holding and ‘warbling’ his notes (for wont of a more technical term), while Nicholls’ keyboards set a pleasant, if unremarkable atmosphere.
So there you have it, a below-par release from a great band in serious decline, but also one that was unduly over-hyped as something it was not, namely a Black Sabbath album. The deviation would be more forgiveable if ‘Seventh Star’ was a truly independent anomaly in the Sabbath discography, but essentially this set the style for all of the subsequent albums up until the short-lived Dio reunion in 1992: commercial sounding rock that can barely be classified in the heavy metal genre Iommi and co. created in the early seventies, complete with soppy ballads and watered down guitars. The next vocalist Tony Martin would at least provide some consistency from ‘The Eternal Idol’ through to ‘Tyr,’ replacing these fickle Deep Purple throwaways, while Iommi’s solo career wouldn’t really take off for some years to come, eventually evolving into a far heavier form than the stinking MTV-oriented stuff on this record.
Almost all Black Sabbath albums are greatly inconsistent, which has always acted as part of their charm for me, as the contrast between classic rock songs and embarrassing failures keep the early albums endlessly entertaining. ‘Seventh Star’ fails so often not because it tries something new, but because it sticks to boring, over-used formulas created by other people, which Iommi, Glenn Hughes and those other blokes are only capable of mimicking, instead of trying something new with. Almost every song fades out after stretching its ideas to breaking point for lack of a strong ending, and the highest praise I can give is that whoever was in charge of these fades, presumably the producer, has a good grasp of average attention span, as nothing really outstays its welcome.
‘Seventh Star’ and ‘Danger Zone’ form a nice central section of twelve minutes or so that almost makes this album worth buying, but the rest is either too unremarkable or too truly terrible to waste time with. I guess ‘No Stranger to Love’ might not seem so terrible to people who are into that sort of thing, but for me it’s a real abomination in the Sabbath discography. Apparently, this album was never released on CD in America after the original vinyl didn’t sell too well, and like much of Iommi’s output after Dio left the first time, is consigned to the vaults of the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Mediocrity.
"Seventh Star" was initially to be a Tony Iommi solo album, before pressure from the record company forced it's release under the Black Sabbath name. Musically it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the Sabbath catalog, and the album has somewhat of a bad reputation with some fans. Certainly not the best representation of Black Sabbath, but there are some decent tracks.
After a few false starts, 1986 finds guitarist Tony Iommi the sole original member of Black Sabbath. Iommi, along with longtime keyboardist Geoff Nicholls, recruited some impressive musicians for the album: drummer Eric Singer (later of Kiss), bassist Dave Spitz, and former Deep Purple bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes. The album itself shows some diversity, with typical heavy numbers such as opener "In For The Kill," "Turn to Stone," and "Danger Zone," the mysterious title track and instrumental "Sphinx," the bluesy "Heart Like a Wheel" (which shows that Hughes was a logical follow-up to ex-vocalist Ian Gillan), and ballads "No Stranger to Love" and "In Memory."
Sadly, it seems that the heavier songs lack some punch in comparison with previous Sabbath efforts, or at least aren't as groundbreaking. And "No Stranger to Love," for which a video was made, is probably why this album sometimes gets lumped in with the "hair metal" genre, although I'd hardly call the album "hair metal." So the strong points of the album are the title track, "Heart Like a Wheel," and album closer "In Memory," featuring a fine vocal performance from Hughes.
I've always liked "Seventh Star;" there are some good songs, and the album featured a competent if unstable band lineup. If we compare this to the heaviness of previous Sabbath albums then we set ourselves up for disappointment. Yet if we can listen to this as the Tony Iommi solo album which it truly is it can be enjoyable. The fact that Iommi and Hughes have recorded two fine albums since this album's release says something about their working chemistry. Ozzy purists will probably forever revile "Seventh Star," but rather than dismissing it because of what you may have been told, give the album a chance. Listen with an open mind and you may be pleasantly surprised by the album's diversity and strong musical performances by the band members.
After Ronnie James Dio left Black Sabbath, the band began wavering through some tumultuous lineup changes and sonic directions that would eventually lead to the magnificent power metal sound of the Tony Martin era. But before they would get there, they (as well as their fans) would have to wade through the mires of Born Again and Seventh Star, the latter of which is of primary concern for this review. In his drive for self-expression outside of the Black Sabbath moniker (and without his esteemed bandmates), legendary guitarist Tony Iommi would end up recording one of the worst albums in his four decade career, a shallow 80’s hard rock record with only a few moments of glory.
As the story goes, Seventh Star was supposed to be Iommi’s first solo album, but the Black Sabbath name was applied to sell more records. This would obviously lead most fans to approach this as a legit Sabbath album and it couldn’t be further from the truth in overall sound or lineup. The only original Sabbath member is Tony himself, with part-time keyboardist Geoff Nicholls being the other familiar face. Glenn Hughes (of Deep Purple notoriety) is a welcome addition as vocalist and complements the rock-oriented material better than if it was a metal album. Eric Singer’s plain-spoken drumming is not so welcome (the “In For The Kill” verses are completely awkward because of his inability to stray from a straight-time beat) but adequate. Least welcome is Dave “The Beast” Spitz, who plays bass on most of the songs and never even approaches anything ‘beastly’ in his performance. But this rag-tag lineup was concocted not to play Black Sabbath, but to play hard rock in an 80’s ‘hair metal’ vein, which I suppose is still less disastrous than if they had attempted to play Sabbath-style heavy metal.
Something like half of the album is a waste, featuring crappy Deep Purple worship (“In for the Kill”), crappy Dokken worship (“Danger Zone,” “Angry Heart”), and a really terrible ballad (“No Stranger to Love”). Highlights consist of Tony’s guitar solos and occasional Hughes melodies. The only redeeming songs are the ones that hearken back to 80’s Sabbath past. “Turn to Stone” has a speed metal vibe that recalls “Neon Knights” or “Turn Up the Night.” Eric Singer’s intro beat is pretty cool (not to mention loud as hell. Punish those drums, fella) and the song just generally rules. “Heart Like a Wheel” is one of those atmospheric, bluesy ones (“Voodoo,” “Lonely is the Word”) that gives Glenn Hughes the opportunity to really excel. Lots of Iommi soloing prowess on this one, even if it’s a bit long. The title track, like most Sabbath title tracks, is another one of the highlights, being another down-tempo atmospheric piece that might have musically fit onto Mob Rules somewhere. The little intro piece builds into it nicely and overall, it’s probably the most satisfying musical offering on all of Seventh Star. “In Memory…” acts as an outro piece and though it’s somewhat plain, it is brief, so for the time that it plays it is effective.
Tony Iommi would get another chance at a solo album a decade later (Glenn Hughes would again be asked upon for vocal duties) and the results would be better, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is one of the worst albums to bear the Sabbath name.
After the exit of Ozzy, many fans dismissed Sabbath. Which is ridiculous to count them out that fast, Dio joined and they churned out two good albums with Heaven & Hell, and The Mob Rules. Then came the great and very underrated Born Again with Ian Gillian of Deep Purple fame. Then Sabbath dropped out of site for awhile, to return with this....
While not the worst album Sabbath ever did (that honor falls on one of the many bad Tony Martin albums), the title given above pretty much says it. Black Sabbath does Whitesnake is basically how this feels. While it isn't completely horrible album, the music is pretty decent, bluesy type 80's power metal, it's still mediocre and alot of the songs on here sound like filler. Glenn Hughes is a nice medium between Dio and Gillian's vocals, although on "In For The Kill" the chorus vocals are pretty funny, and I just can't picture him doing any Ozzy songs live. On the whole, it fits much better as an Iommi solo album, the bare bones are there, but the song writing seems a little rushed, and like not much effort was put into it, but it is a fun listen. It's not the best Sabbath their is, but it's decent, and the last Sabbath album I'd suggest buying, but remember think more along the lines of Whitesnake musically with different vocals. Standout tracks are: In For The Kill, Turn To Stone, Seventh Star, In Memory. The rest are decent though.
This is pretty much a lost chapter in the Black Sabbath back catalog, mostly because it doesn't really qualify as the Black Sabbath that people came to know with Ozzy. After coming off the heavily rainbow inspired music from his collaboration with Ronnie James Dio, and an attempt at returning to the scary sounds of old with Born Again, Tony Iommi was pretty much left on his own, to find his own sound.
This album was meant to be a solo project, and as such any whom buy this album should disassociate the Sabbath sound with this album. Once this is done, we are actually left with a rather amazing quasi-blues, quasi-80s metal glory fest. Many knock Tony Iommi's playing as being too blues driven, and in the case of the post Ozzy material, to anti-melodic. I beg to differ with the view that this is a negative for two reasons. (1) Tony Iommi was shredding the pentatonic scale back when Kirk Hammet was still in kindergarten, hense Tony is doing what he is entitled to do and (2) soloing is not all about being able to sing along with what you hear, that's why it's called a GUITAR SOLO!!!
Production on this album is worlds away from any previous Black Sabbath release. The guitars are crisp and clean, a real departure from the dark and murky sound that Tony is more famous for. There are many prominent keyboard parts, which was an occasional anomally on Technical Ecstacy and Heaven and Hell, but was never a dominant part of an entire album. The drums are very heavily reverbed and thunderous, which is not something that Bill Ward was known for. The vocal harmonies are also noteworthy, as this is the first album where there is really a large amount of vocal overdubbing going on (The single version of "No Stranger to Love" is loaded with voice tracks)
The individual tracks are a bit varied, you have a bunch of really good stand out tracks, and a couple that are mediocre. "In for the Kill" is a nice up tempo rocker with a rather attention getting drum intro, and a powerful chorus. "No Stranger to Love" is probably the only true Power Love Ballad of the 80s variety ever associated with the Sabbath name, and probably enjoyed some regular airplay on some easier listening stations back in 1986. "Turn to Stone" has a very intricant drum intro, and is probably the fastest song ever written by Iommi, very nice solo here as well.
"The Guardian" is a rather haunting brief synth instrumental that functions as a prelude for the next track. "Seventh Star" is a rather impressive mini-epic with a very catchy main riff, a memorable solo, and the most inspired lyrics on the album. "Danger Zone" has some decent guitar work, and a rather weird intro that reminds me of older Sabbath work.
"Heart like a Wheel" is an attempt to recapture the spirit of Lonely is the Word with simplistic blues riffing and highly improvised soloing, only here it doesn't work as well and gets boring after the first 3 minutes. "Angry Heart" sounds a bit too much like earlier tracks at times, particularly Danger Zone, and doesn't quite push beyond the mediocre category. "In Memory" is a slight step up with an acoustic change of pace, and has a rather nuerotic vocal performance on the part of Glenn Hughes, but is way too short.
In conclusion, you may want to skip tracks 7 and 8, but otherwise there is some good stuff on here, especially if your not boxed into the "If it's not with Ozzy, it's not Sabbath" crowd. Even though this album doesn't really blend in with any of the other Sabbath eras, it proves that there was one person that gave Sabbath it's truly unique sound, and it wasn't Ozzy, it was Tony Iommi.
Seventh Star is a real anomaly in the Black Sabbath album catalogue. The first thing that makes this album stand out as odd is the long title. The name "Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi" made more than a few Sabbath fans raise an eyebrow. The cover itself is less than extraordinary with a very blah photo of Tony in a leather jacket. At first glace, this album looks like it's going to be bad...but thankfully it isn't
Apparently after the disappointing release of 1983's Born Again the band went their separate ways and began to work on solo projects. Iommi got a new group together (including ex-Deep Purple vocalist Glen Hughes) and began working on a solo project. Sadly due to studio pressure, Iommi was force to release his solo album under the Black Sabbath name. I guess he got back at the studio by adding the moniker "featuring Tony Iommi" under the Sabbath name. This could also be a way to warn fans that this isn't a true Sabbath album.
Because this technically is Tony Iommi's first solo album it shouldn't come as a surprise that this does not sound like Black Sabbath. So it doesn't sound like Sabbath...but does that make it bad? Oh hell no as this album is actually quit good. The music is far from the doomy style Sabbath material and is more upbeat straight ahead 80's heavy metal.
The album opens with the fast paced rocker In for the Kill. I will admit I am not familiar with Glenn Hughes's vocals when he sang for Deep Purple but he fits the music well. A damn fine voice if you ask me. No Stranger to Love is a power ballad and the albums one single. For a ballad this isn't bad and I actually like it quit a bit. Turn to Stone is another power rocker that has a wonderful 80's style metal ring to it.
Sphinx is one of those passable "atmospheric" intros into a song and the Song Seventh Star is a slower, more melodic song. Danger Zone isn't bad, but don't worry it's not a cover of the popular Kenny Loggin’s song from the movie Top Gun. The last three songs are rather passable but the first half is top rate.
Some people frown on this release because it doesn't sound like Sabbath but it again it was never meant to. If you go into this album knowing it was supposed to be a Tony Iommi solo album I think more people will find it to their liking.
Though I like this album, I am glad Iommi would reform the Sabbath band for the next album The Eternal Idol and return to more of a doomy Sabbath musical mold.
Well, we have kind of a faggy album cover, with Tony Iommi looking very contemplative in front of a landscape. Pretty cheesy if you ask me. Also, the album is credited to “Black Sabbath Featuring Tony Iommi”, and I’m pretty sure this was meant to be an Iommi solo album, but the record company made him put the Sabbath name on it. But whatever, music is music.
Well the first song, “In for the Kill” is done rather nicely. A very catchy hookline for the chorus, and some fast speed metalling. This is an obvious improvement over Born Again, and Glenn Hughes sounds a whole lot like Tony Martin (in a good way). At times, he oversings a little bit, but on the whole, this is a very strong song. The solo is a raging comeback for Iommi, whose guitar playing hasn’t really been all that creative since Heaven and Hell. He obviously is doing a lot better unburdened by the other members of Sabbath, letting his own musical ideas come through. 8/10
“No Stranger to Love”, a ballad song, starts out sounding a little cheesy (this was the intended single for the album). However, the chorus proves to be very powerful, and Hughes’s vocals fit the song very well. The lyrics are a little bit corny, but I’m not too picky in that department usually. The synth-heavy production is a very different approach for Sabbath, but it sounds pretty good. 7/10
“Turn to Stone” – Oh boy, what a great riff! The opening riff rocks insanely hard. And this rockin-ness carries through the whole song, with a nice catchy chorus and a smokin’ guitar solo. Killer song, with a fast excited feeling to it. 9/10
“Sphinx (The Guardian)” is just a synthesizer intro to the next song: “Seventh Star”. This song is barely worthy of its title track position, I must say. Carried by a very interesting riff, the song has a pretty basic melody. The drums have a weird delay effect that is kind of annoying, but whatever. A decent solo from Iommi, but not too different from what we’ve heard before. The one thing I really like about this song is the synths, which are integrated well into the sound of the other instruments. The song has a lot of average moments, but the main riff and synth parts are what make this song good. 7/10
“Danger Zone” opens with kind of a creepy-sounding riff, very typically Iommi. By this point though, the album is beginning to feel a little same-y if you know what I mean. Still, the song has its own merits, with some nice dual guitar shit in there. When the riff changes, the song feels like it just got kicked up a notch, very cool. They don’t stay on that new riff for long enough though! Whatever, I can’t complain. This is one of the better songs of the album, regardless of its placement on the album. 8/10
“Heart Like a Wheel” is the obligatory blues song of the album. The song is pretty boring though, and pales in comparison to, say, “Lonely Is the Word”. I would maybe compare this song to “Over and Over” I guess, because it’s a pretty basic blues-metal song that doesn’t really do much creatively. Iommi cites the guitar solo as one of his personal favorites (it’s actually a few solos), but I must say I disagree with him here. It’s pretty much your basic Iommi wankery, and even some of the other solos on this album are better, like “In for the Kill” or “Danger Zone”. The song has its moments, but overall it is pretty drab. Also it’s too long. 4/10
“Angry Heart” already looks bad just from the title, because the song right before has “heart” in its name. I never like to judge a book by its cover, but this really does feel like a rehash of the rest of the album before it. By this point, I’m a little tired of listening to the CD honestly, and this song doesn’t do much to pick up my spirits. 4/10
“In Memory…” is pretty short, especially for a Black Sabbath song. This is a disappointing ending to the album, being a cheesy ballad and all. Some ridiculously over-the-top singing paired with a boring-ass riff makes for a crappy song. The acoustic guitar is nice, but this isn’t anything we haven’t heard before, in far better form. Bleh. 3/10
So overall, this is a huge comeback from the ridiculously bad Born Again, but the album starts to drag towards the end. Glenn Hughes isn’t the greatest vocalist in the world, and his vocal style is actually closer to Ian Gillan’s than to any previous Sabbath singer’s, but he doesn’t drag the album down the way Gillan did. The first 5 songs are some decent metal if you ask me, and the rest is pretty much filler. It’s not terrible filler, I’ve definitely heard worse, but it’s not as satisfying as the first half of the album. Also, it is notable that this is the first Sabbath album to have only one original member, a trend that would continue into the 80s and 90s.