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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.