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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.