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Writing bland 80's hard rock: a how-to guide. - 40%

ConorFynes, June 6th, 2012

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.