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**Note: This is a review of the 2010 Deluxe Edition**
“The Eternal Idol” is a funny album. Going into the recording for Black Sabbath’s 13th album, the unlucky number foreshadowed what was about to happen to the group’s ranks. It started out with Tony Iommi on guitar as always along with Ray Gillen donning the microphone with Eric Singer and Dave Spitz on the drums and bass respectively. By the time the Idol was finished, Spitz and Gillen were out and the reliable Bob Daisley and little known Tony Martin would wrap up the recording sessions. With the sudden line-up changes, Iommi still managed to make a cohesive record with heavier guitars than “Seventh Star.” There are some elements of glam thrown in as well, letting it be known this is indeed came out in the eighties. The 2010 deluxe edition comes with two b-sides as well as the demos with Gillen before he departed.
The most notable aspect is the new comer behind the microphone with Martin. He is blessed with the powers to resemble Ronnie James Dio at times and nail all the high notes. His ominous tone in the title track can send shutters down your spine and the grandmaster Iommi provides the necessary tools in “Ancient Warrior” to let Martin’s voice shine.
“The Shining” opens with an acoustic part that bursts into electric gravity with a riff easy to headbang along with complimented by solid vocal lines and chorus. The aforementioned “Ancient Warrior” is a standout track because Martin’s voice travels with the rhythm wonderfully and the synth effects provided by Geoff Nicholls are a nice touch.
The idol loses its luster with “Hard Life to Love.” This song would not sound out of place on a Dokken record. Dokken rocks, but a band like Black Sabbath should not be hopping the glam train. The offense would be committed twice more with “Lost Forever” and “Born to Lose.” The latter always makes me think of Motorhead because of the title and this song receives a pass because it is hard not to appreciate the riff and Eric Singer’s drumming stands out.
If the hardened listener is gawking for true Black Sabbath from the Ozzy Osbourne days then “Scarlet Pimpernel” and the title track may provide the answer. The former is a little acoustic number with Iommi putting some light notes together and it serves as a change of pace and a breather for what is ahead. The title track has the gloom and doom that provides a sense of despair that permeates the atmosphere. It’s a startling ending to an album that is pretty upbeat throughout.
There are two extra songs on the first disc in “Black Moon” and “Some Kind of Woman.” “Black Moon” would reappear on “Headless Cross”, but the single version is different as there are no added vocals near the end of the song and not as much put into the lead guitar from Iommi. It still is an enjoyable tune and the verses give Martin room to deliver his message. “Some Kind of Woman” seems like an answer to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” with some blistering guitar effects and theatrics and fast paced singing. It is not that great a song though and ultimately forgettable.
Disc two has the Gillen sessions and the one thought that prevailed was that was his album. “The Eternal Idol” suited Gillen’s strengths and he sings effortlessly and flawlessly. It is a shame that he did not stick around long enough to have his voice on the record. This is by no means an affront to Martin because he does a great job on here and he is to be commended for coming in on short notice, but Gillen has more the glam image to him and lyrics about love and women seem more believable with him singing than an ugly dude like Martin. If there was any doubt that Gillen could not conceive demons in his voice than look no further than to the title track to dispel any doubt. His voice soars in “Glory Ride” and the chorus lines seem so natural to him.
If you are going to purchase this album, then this is the way to go. The deluxe edition is more expensive, but it is hard to deny the extras. On the other hand, if you already own this then its best to decide the worth of wanting the Gillen demos and the two b-sides. As for the album itself, I point to what Alex Milas wrote in the linear notes as he basically states this no classic, but is a mark of a band trying to survive and hang on to its legacy. That sums the album up perfectly.
Back when The Eternal Idol was released, you know somewhere Ozzy was loudly laughing his wasted ass off. What a rough period this was for Black Sabbath and it shows on this album. While not as bad as The Seventh Star and yes, despite that record being originally intended as a solo outing by Tony Iommi, it says Black Sabbath on the cover and hence that's exactly what it is. While the Ozzman's solo career(and to a lesser extent Dio's also) soared as he put out loud, catchy and fun if callow heavy metal albums, the once mighty Black Sabbath languished in the shadows of prosperity. Ozzy had bat's heads while Tony needed a cat's paw. There was none. Yes, it seemed the mid 80's was prosperous for every metal band except Black Sabbath. All our favorite moustachioed metal master was left to record with was his bluesy doom guitar, a nondescript rhythm section and a singer who sounds like David Coverdale trying to do Ronnie Dio vocals. And that brings me to The Eternal Idol.
I always think of The Eternal Idol as that album that no one ever buys. It's ubiquitous for that very reason. Always available on the shelf of every record store I've ever been to in the world and always when I was looking for the Black Sabbath album that I really wanted but was not available for me that day. Hell, last time I checked, iTunes sold very few of the band's albums but lo and behold one of the very few they did offer was..you guessed it: The Eternal Idol (cue the laughter at the end of track six). This album is like that pair of cheap sunglasses that Jeff Foxworthy once described as the thing you could chuck overboard an ocean liner in the middle of the Pacific and a frogman will salvage it up and return it to you on the deck unscathed. And so I finally relented and bought this album and it is with me eternally as I persist in somehow misplacing my Sabbath Bloody Sabbath CD. And by the way, I actually cut myself opening this goddamned album (not that I was in any real hurry to hear it or anything). The jewel case was sealed very tight by a yellow used price tag reinforced not by one but two very transparent pieces of scotch tape on the other sides that I had to resort to using a knife. And when I finally pried the disc out and popped it in the player what did I get in return for my blood in? A power metal album bled out. That's right, I bled for some power metal. You'd think Tyr, the out-of-print, hard to get Black Sabbath album would be the CD wrapped tight like there were Benjamins inside but nooooo.
The first song is The Shining and the opening riff is very unholy melodic doom and I thought "heeeere's Tony!". But then the song kicks upbeat and devolves into Deep Purple by the time the singer belts his voice out and into the chorus. Iommi utilizes that opening doom riff into a rhythm again throughout the song along with another crunch heavy signature. It would have been awesome had he reprised the opening riff as a solo in exactly the same way to the middle of the song but instead the track plays out in a very predictable fashion. I was hoping this record would vary it's speed quite alot throughout the tracklist but even before Ancient Warrior was done playing, I was already resigned to the fact that The Eternal Idol was an album that was going to be very mid-paced most of the way. Sure, some other songs will be noticeably faster or slower than others but they don't get your attention by pummeling you the way other songs from the earlier albums did. One of the things I do like about the album are the way synthesizers are placed in songs like Ancient Warrior. They sound just like they did on Heaven and hell or Mob Rules almost. That crisp sense of desolation and gloom. It's quite a reminder that Tony is pitching this album to fans of that era more than anything else.
The best song probably on the record is the instrumental Scarlett Pimpernel. While it's good and makes excellent use of the synths in the background, the fact that such a track is the best on The Eternal Idol speaks volumes about the lack of traditional doominess throughout the rest of the work. I don't even think Tony should have included the song because it will probably just remind the listener of the earlier more successful albums and they will change to one of those albums before finishing the rest of The Eternal Idol. Lost Forever follows it as the next song like you were daydreaming of the good old days of Sabbath and you just got reminded that those times are over with because this song is just more power metal. It begins with a Judas Priest type riff; fast, heavy but rollicking and the vocals scream with Priest type vigor too but with far less energy and range. Eric Singer is a competent drummer but he has no particular style and seems like nothing more than a session drummer and he was not a very good choice to drum for Black Sabbath. Bob Daisley had worked before with Dio and Ozzy so I guess it is no surprise that Tony Iommi would eventually get around to reaching for his services for Black Sabbath and I stress the word 'reach'. Lost Forever is the only song I noticed where both of those musicians contribute anything as somewhat solid. The bass sounds slightly deeper and reverberates with alot of catchiness. It's the closest thing you will get to being reminded of those types of rhythms from the classic years. The drum hits sound light and perfunctory still but they echo out to something recognizable of Vinnie Appice.
For those who haven't heard this album and are wondering how much of that "doom metal" sound there is to be found, there of course is some scattered about. Not alot but some. The Eternal Idol is an album that you have to really work hard to appreciate it for those moments when they do show up. Mostly the album just teases at it like on The Shining or Scarlet Pimpernel for example. This is a record that might have been good for what it was back in 1987-88 but doesn't quite hold up now. I guess I should point you to the final self-titled track if you are looking for more of that classic doom sound of the band's heyday. It's a fairly decent enough track and the heaviest for certain but I don't know why I am not really all that impressed with it. I think it could be that the album "railroads" me into it. It's like, okay they teased and toyed with classic heavy Sabb riffs while mostly mixing a trad/power sound in the meantime and nooooow they want to finally give me a doom metal song. Better than nothing I guess. It has a somber and forboding riff structure to begin and continues with crushing resonance in that guitar sound. Halfway through the song, there will be no mistaking that riff. If you are a fan of Candlemass, you really will dig this number. Especially how it ends with the deep wailing gloom fade out at the end. Is it any wonder why it's the longest track on the record but seems like the shortest too? It's not the most memorable Sabbath song but it gets the job done.
The thing that bothers me about The Eternal Idol the most however and why it's not a good album is that it all sounds obvious that Tony Iommi is not enjoying playing this material very much. It almost sounds like he is putting out the album because it is a job he has to do and nothing more. I do wonder how long it has been since he actually played any of the songs from The Eternal Idol. Eighteen..twenty years perhaps? This album has not aged very well. If it isn't forgotten, it’s because it went largely ignored too. When the best things that stand out is instrumental song and a riff here and there, it doesn't deserve too much of my time. Maybe the reason why the man on the cover looks so despondent kneeling next to a titty is because said tit (Sabbath) has been milked dry.
For their 13th album Black Sabbath (Tony Iommy) recruit ex- Alliance vocalist Tony Martin, whose sound is more in common with Ronnie James Dio more than anyone else. So in this release we see Sabbath heading more for a power metal direction in the vein of Heaven & Hell, except that this is even more epic with good focus on atmosphere. The songs are short and to the point and the song writing is terrific.
As usual Iommy is the main star of the album. His some of the heaviest riff work in years is displayed here. His leads are also superb and melodic at the same time. Tony Martin is a great vocalist and his vocals are great in the album. He has a great range and has a perfect voice for power metal. He also displays great mid range in many songs especially the title track. His ability to bring emotion into every song is just awesome.Keys which play a small role in the album of adding the epic atmosphere, are played by Geoff Nicholls. The drum work is OK not that great. The production is nice heavy and superb and gives every instrument it's proper, required balance.
The songs themselves are short and catchy. The riff work is great. Highlights include the opener ‘The Shining’ which has a catchy and epic chorus and a tremendous vocal performance by Martin. The next song ‘Ancient Warrior’ is slower, but has even more epic chorus than the opener. The atmosphere in both of these songs is just excellent. They carry a strange aura about them beaten only by Awaken the Guardian. ‘Glory Ride’ is another good song, not as good as the first 2 songs though. Somewhere around 2nd minute, it breaks into an excellent epic acoustic part, which sounds cool. ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ is an acoustic instrumental. Once again great use of the ‘Children of the Sea’ like atmosphere. ‘Lost Forever’ is total speed metal, another essential highlight.The title track is totally amazing and is the best song in the album. It is slow, crushing doom metal, a stark contrast to the light, epic nature of the rest of the album. It destroys everything dark and wicked put out so far, by Sabbath. Martin makes use of his mid range here and man does it send a chill down your spine? Yes it does!The whole song does just that. The riff work by Iommy is nice, heavy and crushing. The ending is just apocalypse crushing, down everything in its path.
Among the weaker songs, ‘Hard Life to Love’ and ‘Born to Lose’ feature more life on the fast lane lyrics, which are at odds with the remaining epic tracks. Yet, they are catchy and enjoyable, having good pace, excellent riffs and again good vocal performance. ‘Nightmare’ is the worst song off the album. The riffs are, a bit less inspired compared to the others. Also it doesn't have a good pace nor good atmosphere, but still is quite a passable track, which just pales compared to the other tracks.
Contrary to popular belief, this actually is one of the better albums put out by Sabbath. They would go on to achieve much better results with the indisputable Tyr with such style. But the songwriting and the ability to create an epic atmosphere is very high and it is that which makes this album so enjoyable. So concluding, this is a fine album and is recommended to all without any hesitation.
Originally intended to be fronted by the late Badlands vocalist Ray Gillen, this 1987 album is typically seen as being Sabbath's lowest point in terms of commercial success and reputation. It was the first album to feature underdog vocalist Tony Martin, the last to feature current KISS drummer Eric Singer, and the only album to feature Ozzy Osbourne bassist Bob Daisley in the group ranks. It also marked a new direction in the reborn band's sound while still retaining a few older elements.
Musically, this album combines a mix of Sabbath's signature doom metal style with a newly discovered power metal influence that makes for an interesting listen. Songs like "The Shining" and "Ancient Warrior" combine upbeat riffs with a dark atmosphere, "Glory Ride" brings to mind Iron Maiden with its more uplifting tempos and dogfighting imagery, and the title track hearkens back to Black Sabbath's self-titled anthem with its intensely sinister guitar lines and foreboding build-up. There is also a great deal of blues influence heard for the first time in the band since the days of "Volume 4" that is used to great effect on tracks such as "Hard Life to Love," "Born to Lose," and "Lost Forever."
Even with the member confusion and slightly faceless rhythm section that surround this album, the band itself still manages to put on a solid performance. Iommi is in his element as always and churns out plenty of great riffs and keyboardist Geoff Nicholls occasionally jumps in with some interesting atmospheric touches. In spite of Martin's obvious emulation of Gillen's Robert Plant-inspired wails, he manages to pull off a great vocal performance though it is fairly obvious that the material isn't always in his natural range...
While this is a very good album overall, it doesn't have too many songs that could be considered classics and often gets overlooked in favor of such albums as the more focused "Headless Cross" and "Tyr." It's certainly worth hunting down for fans of the band and it makes me wonder how the recordings would compare if they had kept GIllen's original vocal tracks...
1) An interesting new direction in terms of style
2) Great riffs, vocals, and keyboards
3) Solid songwriting
1) Faceless rhythm section
2) Not too many "classic" songs
3) It is fairly obvious that Martin is outside of his natural range
My Current Favorites:
"The Shining," "Hard Life to Love," "Glory Ride," "Born to Lose," and "Eternal Idol"
To be honest, I wasn't expecting too much from 1987's The Eternal Idol. I mean, who would? The only founding Sabbath member on here is guitarist Tony Iommi. Seventh Star, the previous release saw Iommi as the only original member but then that was meant to be a solo project anyway. This album however, is not. Despite Iommi being the only surviving member, he can still write a quality heavy metal record, regardless of the line-up. And no, Ozzy isn't everything- Heaven & Hell, Mob Rules and Born Again were all brilliant and The Eternal Idol is no exception.
The Eternal Idol is the first album to feature the second-longest serving Sabbath vocalist, Tony Martin. Apart from Glenn Hughes, the previous Seventh Star line-up remain on this album. I think that Tony Martin is a great vocalist, and this album, Headless Cross, Tyr and Cross Purposes seem to gain a lot of praise from fans (Martin sings on all these albums).
Really, this album does feature some of Iommi's best written songs in ages, with some excellent vocals, riffs, drumming and lyrics. 'The Shining' is a magnificent opener, easily one of the best post-Ozzy songs. It has a very nice opening picked riff plus some classic trademark storming riffs. Martin's voice bears resemblance to Dio's, but in my opinion, he is more melodic than powerful. 'Ancient Warrior' is just as strong as the opener, with it's excellent drum beats and kick ass guitar parts. 'Hard Life To Love' has a bluesy but strong and heavy feel to it, and would make a good single. 'Glory Ride' features some of Martin's best vocals on the album with a very memorable chorus.
'Born To Lose' has a catchy guitar riff and is quite fast compared to much of the album. 'Nightmare' is maybe the weakest track on the album, but is still very catchy. 'Scarlet Pimpernel' is a nice, short acoustic instrumental, one of the things Iommi always does well. 'Lost Forever' is an awesome, and very fast, up-tempo heavy rocker. The closer, which is the title track, is more melodic and features everything you could want in an epic Sabbath closer- tuneful verses and heavy choruses.
One thing that often pops up about this album is it's power metal sounds. I agree, The Eternal Idol does have a distinctive power metal feel to it, though I would still label traditional heavy metal. No doubt, a lot of people will not be too interested in this record, but I can only say that it is one of the main highlights of '80's Sabbath. It is certainly stronger than it's predecessor, Seventh Star, but whether or not it is better than the also excellent follow up, Headless Cross is a hard one to decide. Either way, this album makes great listening and Iommi can still get the job done without the aid of Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward.
I'm something of a latecomer to Black Sabbath. To be sure, I 'grew up' on heavy metal, but Sabbath were never one of the bands that I took a liking to; my tastes inclined more towards Uriah Heep and Blue Öyster Cult. This isn't to say that I rejected them, but rather I felt that perhaps early Sabbath were too much akin to Led Zeppelin - a band for which I have very little love - for my liking.
My thinking in this area has changed in recent years, owing mostly to my exposure to the later entries in the Sabbath category. As a rule I prefer those records which tend towards the more experimental end of the metal spectrum from this band; for example, I prefer Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage to their 'classic quadrilogy' of the eponymous debut, Paranoid, Master of Reality and Volume 4. Again, this isn't to say that I dislike those early entries, but rather that there is little in the music I can readily identify with.
Not so with this album. As I mentioned above, I wasn't reared on Sabbath, and so I don't have a particular dog in the fight between various line-ups and manifestations of this band. For what it's worth, however, I prefer Dio to Ozzy and Gillian, and Tony Martin to all of them, as heretical as that may be. And it is this album with Martin which marks one of the high-water points of Sabbath's career, a plateau mached only by the aforementioned progressive metal epics and the later Dehumanizer.
Things kick off in a big way with the mystic opening riff of "The Shining", and at once it's apparent that Iommi is continuing to refine the melodic techniques he began on Seventh Star. Unlike that album, however, this record refuses to denigrate into pop-metal fare, and instead seems to synthesize the harmonic strains of the preceding record with the more standard doomish Sabbath material of years before. This is most apparent in the incredibly riffy second cut, "Ancient Warrior", which possesses the same tonal qualities as the material from Mob Rules but with a far superior production. The blues influence made famous in the band's early days returns on "Hard Life To Love", and it is with this track that Martin proves himself every bit a match for Dio, transitioning from melodic wails to a soulful croon with ease. "Glory Ride" features a powerful galloping bassline and more and evocative vocals by Martin, as well as a stomping mid-eighties break halfway through the song, but might be too 'happy' for the 'serious' metalhead. The following track, "Born To Lose", is probably the fastest on the record, but nothing ever seems to go beyond a comfortable and fairly atmospheric mid-pace. This track also features one of the best vocal lines ever written by this band, and includes some excellent bluesy riffage that hearkens back to the earlier years of the band.
Lyrically, the band seem a bit more mature here than elsewhere, and this seems to be a trend that would continue throughout the Martin years until Forbidden. While there's still the typical quasi-Satanic lyrical themes, they're handled with a bit more panache here than in several of the previous releases, and Martin helps to carry them to a level which might otherwise not be achieved. The rest of the band is as on top of their game as ever, and Iommi seems to have gotten somewhat more comfortable in his role as de facto leader of the band. One slight issue I had with the record was the drumming; Eric Singer has never been great, and occasionally it seems that he cannot keep the pace with Iommi.
The rest of the album follows suit, and, while there's not a great deal of diversity here, that's not really what one expects from Black Sabbath. While this isn't the best album by this line-up - that would be the following record, Headless Cross, one of the finest examples of melodic doom metal ever recorded - it's nevertheless one of the best ever laid down by this band, and, fanboy purism aside, is almost better than most of the material they recorded with Ozzy. It's unfortunate that this same line-up would go on to record the awful Forbidden, but that, as one says, is the way the Sabbath crumbled. Recommended, especially for fans of early power metal.
Standout tracks: "The Shining", "Ancient Warrior", "Born To Lose", "Lost Forever"
Originally posted on The Metal Crypt.
This album is easily the worst Black Sabbath release of the 80’s and feels like a collection of songs that generally aren’t good enough to have been on the ‘Seventh Star’ album and what’s more it doesn’t have the masterful Glenn Hughes on vocals, instead we have Tony Martin, whose talents are limited by the fact that he has to sing Ray Gillen’s parts. However I would still consider Tony Martin one of this albums saving graces. Yet still this album is being heralded as ‘a hidden masterpiece’ and ‘Sabbath’s best album’, give me a break, it feels like the shaky follow up to ‘Seventh Star’ which is the second worst of Sabbath’s 80’s output.
All things considered this album does has its moments the finest of which probably being ‘The Shining’ which is a complete cheese fest (in the best possible way) and features some great riffs from Iommi, a catchy chorus and some perhaps unintentionally hilarious lyrics such as ‘the house is gonna haunt you!’. ‘Ancient Warrior’ is another of the albums stronger tracks which has a slightly middle eastern feeling and a catchy chorus, but not a Sabbath classic by any means. ‘Born to Lose’ could be the work of pretty much any 80’s metal band and has some very generic riffs but is still a good enough song featuring a very good vocal performance on Tony Martin’s part. My favourite song on this album without doubt is the beautiful instrumental ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ which is something we had not heard from Tony Iommi since ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ (although there is a little instrumental at the end of ‘Heaven and Hell’) and its well worth the wait, it serves as a reminder that Iommi is in my opinion the greatest guitarist ever. I can’t help but feel a little bit let down by the albums title track as the verses are great very sinister and creepy not dissimilar to the bands self titled track then the chorus is a complete cheese fest (this time in a bad way) which completely ruins the atmosphere established by the verse, still it stands out as a song.
But generally this album is a mixed bag with some complete crap the worst of which being ‘Hard Life to Love’ which features some sub-Zeppelin riffs and very clichéd
‘living in the fast lane’ lyrics. ’Nightmare’ starts well with some atmospheric keyboards from Geoff Nicholls suddenly descends into dull riffs that in no way help convey the lyrics of being ’fooled by the devils hand’ (which perhaps hints a the lyrical direction of the Tony Martin era masterpiece ‘Headless Cross’). ‘Glory Ride’ yet again starts promisingly with Iommi deciding he wants to sound like himself again after the Jimmy Page rip-off riffs of the previous song but the song itself soon starts to feel less Sabbath and more generic 80’s rock. Not a bad song by any means but not really Black Sabbath. ‘Lost Forever’ is the albums fastest song, but fast does mean good (as many thrash fans may fail to understand) and this song is painfully average.
Musically this line up is a rather strange one, I like the addition of Bob Daisley on bass he plays well and could well be the best bass player Sabbath had outside of Geezer Butler, but the other half of the rhythm section, Eric Singer as good a drummer as he is, he’s not suited to this band and he lacks any of the style of the great Sabbath drummers such as Bill Ward, Cozy Powell and Vinnie Appice. This is Tony Martins first Sabbath album and he is one of the albums redeeming features, but he isn’t really aloud an influence on the material that would prove itself successful on the following albums;
‘Headless Cross’ and ‘Tyr’.
‘Eternal Idol’ is one of Sabbath’s weaker albums but its not a complete waste of time it does feature some strong songs and will no doubt be of interest to die-hard Sabbath fans. Thankfully after this album things really began to pick up with the arrival of Cozy Powell and Tony Martin being allowed to contribute more to song writing.
"The Eternal Idol" is then first Black Sabbath album to feature vocalist Tony Martin, who would sing on on several more Sabbath releases. Martin's addition bought some much needed stability to the band, but the rest of the lineup seemed to be in flux at the time. This album comes off as more of a Tony Iommi solo album than a true Sabbath album (the liner notes list Iommi as "the player", with other members listed simply as "players") but there are some good songs here.
It's difficult to know who actually played on what track. Both Dave Spitz and Bon Daisley played bass, Eric Singer plays drums while Bev Bevan is listed as having played "percussion." There were even two singers involved: Ray Gillan recorded the vocals but then left before the album's release, Iommi then choosing to bring in Martin to rerecord the vocals. So it's difficult to find any kind of band identity here, a problem which plagued Sabbath through the mid-eighties.
Musically, there are songs that hearkend to Sabbath's previous greatness. "The Shining" is an idea originating from Ian Gillan's days in the band, and is a strong opening track. Another personal favorite is "Ancient Warrior," and closing title track reflects the dark mood found in earlier Sabbath works. "Glory Ride" has a great chorus and some heavy riffing, as does the very heavy "Nightmare." "Lost Forever" is a fast-paced song with a great guitar solo. And instrumental "Scarlet Pimpernel" is a fine piece of guitar work from Iommi.
Other songs on the album fall somewhat short of the heaviness Sabbath is best known for. Perhaps Iommi was attempting to fit in with the mainstream metal of the mid-eighties. "Born to Lose" and "Hard Life to Love" sound like they would've fit better on previous Sabbath album, (originally meant to be released as a Toni Iommi solo album) "Seventh Star." But the songs are decent rockers, and overall "Eternal Idol" is a well-written, heavy and at times moody album. The only problem is the instable lineup, which as I've already said makes it difficult to find any kind of band identity.
"Eternal Idol" is a good start for Tony Martin, who had the unenvious task of stepping into the shoes of some of metal's best-known vocalists. That he had the courage to do it says much for his strength as a performer and person. This album sees Sabbath finding some solid musical ground after several years of "revolving door" lineups, and with Martin as vocalist the band would continue to gather strength through the eighties and into the nineties.
Holy shit, this album took me by complete surprise. I used to believe that all Black Sabbath's post-Dio albums were complete failures, but this album has forever altered that viewpoint. Eternal Idol mixes Sabbath's classic doom metal glory with a distinct 80's power metal sound, a combination that clearly is capable of producing the best in Black Sabbath's creative genius since Heaven and Hell.
First of all, new vocalist Tony Martin is not just a capable singer and worthy addition to the band's lineup, he fucking rules. His voice is somewhat reminiscent of Dio at times, but with his own distinct tone. His performance on "Ancient Warrior" is justification enough to purchase this album. The absolute greatest moments on The Eternal Idol are created in the harmony between Martin's vocal melody and Iommi's signature riffing, which has evolved and perfected further. "The Shining" and "Ancient Warrior" are prime examples of magnificent rhythm work and every song has a killer solo, as would be expected. Whatever hair metal-like influences managed to corrupt the Seventh Star album are long gone; this album is pure Sabbath bliss from start to finish. Not a single weak song. Even the bonus track has its merits. The synthesizer effects are also notable. All the synth work is very tasteful and adds immensely to the atmospheric quality of the album. The songs very in tempo and mood, so the application is quite different for each. It really adds some much appreciated variety.
I'm not going to wax intellectual on the lyrical awesomeness and the instrumental creativity. Rest assured, this album is quality, top shelf metal, even if it's a little different than what Sabbath usually does. Considering the relative shittiness of the albums immediately before this one, that's a damn good sort of different. Naysayers be silenced: Tony Martin is a great singer and The Eternal Idol is a great album. Highly recommended.
As someone who was a bit wary of the constant line-up changes that occured after the exodus of Ronnie Dio, I looked on this album (which was a gift from a former bandmate back in 1996) with a fair amount of skepticism, but ironically this album (along with the Headless Cross) are among my favorite metal albums of all time and never leave the rotation of my listening routine.
Although the rest of the line up would ultimately disintegrate soon after this album was released, the duo of Tony Martin and Tony Iommi would prove to be the second most long-lived next to the original line up. And I must say, although I am a huge fan of Ray Gillen, Tony Martin is at least "As Good" as the man he replaced. His range is quite large and vocal quality quite distinct, sounding at times similar to Ronnie Dio and even Freddy Mercury.
The songs on this album are quite diverse, ranging from an all acoustic instrumental, to an eerie classic sabbath sounding epic horror show, and some rather brilliant traditional metal anthems. Each one deserves it's own review, as they can each stand on their own and bring something unique to the greater whole.
The Shining - The opening track is probably the most recognizable, due to it's catchy chorus and brilliant vocal performance. However, there are some highly progressive elements here that are reminiscent of the Sabbath of the mid-70s. A rather intricant acoustic guitar track, some neat bass noodling, and some interesting changes in feel through out are some of the many treats on display here. There is also a very dramatic guitar solo that phases in and out the barrage of varying riffs and sections.
Ancient Warrior - Some very cool sounding keyboard work here, and some rather exotic sounding guitar riffs. The lyrics are very inspired and thoughtful, giving us such memorable lines as "My blood will spill my blood". Iommi shreds up a storm during the solo.
Hard Life to Love - Nice up tempo rocker, reminiscent of some Deep Purple tunes I heard a while back. The riff work in the guitar is the strong point, playing off the dark and heavy sound that Iommi pioneered more than a decade earlier. The chorus is memorable and loaded with keyboard sound.
Glory Ride - Another sort of epic anthem with a lot of interesting changes. The main riff is very memorable, though a bit more heavy than the one that dominated "The Shining". A stellar vocal peformance on the part of Tony Martin, and an absolutely insane guitar solo.
Born to Lose - Another up tempo rocker with a very distinctive main riff, this one sounding a bit more bluesy. The chorus has a very interesting 2 line voice harmony.
Nightmare - This is the only track that still holds a piece of the original recording effort with Ray Gillen, in the form of some evil laughs during the middle section of the song. The introduction to this song is a fairly spooky synth intro. consisting of a low bass drone and a choir of wind chimes. Tony Martin give us another great vocal performance, although I actually prefer the original version of this song with Ray Gillen doing the vocals.
Scarlet Pimpernel - This track was a bit of a surprise, because I rarely hear Tony Iommi writing all acoustic instrumental tracks post-Ozzy. Although this track uses some beautiful synth choir and string sounds that were not present at the time, it sounds alot like a recaptured early Sabbath quicky like Sleeping Village.
Lost Forever - Another up tempo rocker with a very catchy main riff. This is probably the fastest song on the album, though not nearly up to par with the cookers that were encountered on Seventh Star before or Tyr afterwards. Another brilliant solo by Iommi as well.
The Eternal Idol - Probably one of the most eerie and spooky sounding main riffs I've ever heard, rivaling the old classics of "Black Sabbath" and "Electric Funeral". This is also where Tony Martin truly shines, belting out some insanely high notes and also manipulating his voice dynamics with great skill. Although there is not actual guitar solo to speak of here, there is some interesting lead noodling going on as the song fades out.
In conclusion, if you like Deep Purple and Ronnie Dio era Black Sabbath, this is definately one to add to your collection. It's difficult to get past the fact that Tony Martin was almost a complete unknown before being associated with Sabbath, but trust me, he more than gets the job done.
The Eternal Idol is somewhat of a comeback for Black Sabbath, the first in a string of decent albums that helped people forget about the past few drab years.
The record starts out with a bang, the superb “The Shining”. Instantly you know that this is something different from Born Again, something powerful. After a very epic-sounding intro, the crushing riff comes in, and Tony Martin’s wonderful voice takes the song away into the beyond. This is probably the best song from the Tony Martin era of Black Sabbath, and a great way to start off the album. The first thing you’ll notice about Martin’s voice is that he sounds somewhat like Ronnie James Dio, but I must say his voice fits the music very well. During the solo, Iommi takes his time (like he did in the old days), and produces a solo far more worthy of the Sabbath title than anything on the last few albums, where he tried to blow you away with a slew of notes. Indeed, this is one of my favorite metal tunes of the 80s, and I’ll not hesitate to score it 10/10.
“Ancient Warrior” opens with a synthesizer sound (“After Forever” anyone?) and soon another superb guitar riff enters. The chorus hook is simply great, although there are some slightly more lackluster instrumental sections. However, the overall driving sound of the song showcases how powerful the rhythm section is. A pretty decent solo in the middle there, and then “My blood will spill my blooooooood!!!!” Oh man, this is good stuff. 8/10
It’s about time for a faster rocker, and speak of the devil! Here comes “Hard Life to Love”, which does exactly what it should: rocks like mad! A very strong melody carries the song, and the riff is very catchy. The solo is typical Iommi wankery, but it’s acceptable due to the overall rockin-ness of the song. 8/10
“Glory Ride” is another trademarked plodding mid paced Sabbath song. The verse is a little too much like the other songs before it, but the chorus has some nice high notes there. The acoustic break kicks ass too. 7/10
“Born to Lose” has one of the kick-ass-est riffs on the album. And the “aah-ahh, aah-ahh, it won’t be too long” is a great hook, it really makes the song in my opinion. This is actually one of the album’s stronger songs, with a bunch of different melodic ideas that work together very well. The Iommi solo is a little less wank and a little more creative than usual, probably the best solo on the album. This is “Hard Life to Love” part 2, but it’s still pretty damn sweet. 8/10
“Nightmare” starts with a very creepy synth thingy, which would have been a separate track on Born Again, but here is considered part of the song. The song itself is pretty much the same as you’ve heard already. The laughing is superbly creepy, whereas Ian Gillan’s laughing in the past was just stupid sounding. This is a song that is average, but gets the job done. 6/10
“Scarlet Pimpernel” is the first Iommi quiet song since “Don’t Start (Too Late)”, and it is certainly worth a listen. Very medieval sounding. 8/10
“Lost Forever” is “Hard Life to Love” part 3, and by this time we’ve got the picture already, if you know what I mean. Although the song is fairly mediocre, the solo is freakin’ amazing! The solo definitely bumps this song up to a 7/10.
“Eternal Idol” is very different from anything else on the album, but not an entirely new thing for Sabbath. In fact, this is the obligatory “slow crawl” song of the record, and it’s okay for what it is. In my opinion, Sabbath hasn’t done a really good slow crawl song since their glory days with Ozzy, but this is alright I guess. Parts of this song sound a lot like Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden (yes, I realize this came out first), but not nearly as good of course. It is kind of a boring listen, and barely serves as the end-of-the-album smash it was intended to be. Actually, quite the opposite is true: this is the album’s weakest song, and I’ll score it 4/10.
This is a much better album than anyone probably expected at the time. However, don’t listen to people who tell you it’s better than Ozzy- or Dio-Sabbath, because it obviously isn’t, but it has plenty of its own merits: “The Shining” is truly a standout song for the entire Black Sabbath catalog. Unfortunately, none of the other songs are this damn good, but there isn’t a “bad” song in this album (except maybe the title track). There’s a lot of the same sounding riffs and tunes, but there are plenty of surprising moments, including the tremendous solo on the otherwise unexciting “Lost Forever”. So, if you are a fan of Sabbath after Dio, or even if you’re curious, get this. It’s probably the best place to start if you already have all the Ozzy and Dio fronted albums, and still have a craving for more Sabbath, being both the first, and maybe the best of the Tony Martin albums.
For once I actually agree with UltraBoris, while this is one of Sabbath's most "forgotten" albums, it is certainly one of their best, no matter how odd that may sound. Ok, it doesn't sound a bit like old Sabbath - but honestly, so fucking what? That's REALLY not the issue here.
Judging from the song quality, musicianship, vocals and so on, this is top-notch. Sure, some of the lyrics in the hands of let's say Jon Bon Jovi or Joey Demaio would be a nightmare (ie. Glory ride), but here it doesn't matter thanks to heavy-as-fuck riffs and vocal lines that makes you go "whoah". In fact, I've always been a fan of Tony Martin ever since I got into Sabbath 9 years ago (actually, Cross purposes was one of the first albums purchased, and then it was brand new). The problem with being a fan of his is that the albums he participates in doesn't really make him justice. Except this. He's capable of some really high screaming, without taking it too far so to say. When I think about it, he's the perfect power metal singer.
Anyhow, my point is that there is no such thing as bad tracks on here, no soft glam songs which many times destroy the Sabbath albums he does vocals for. The only soft touch here is "Scarlet pimpernel", it's a nice little acoustic instrumental and serves as intro to the fast rocker "Lost forever", which makes me wanna grab my air-guitar and thrash the fuck around.
This album's eliteness is because of a already named reason. It doesn't suffer from inconsistency like most other late(r) Sabbath albums, take Headless cross for example - it has like one great track, the rest sucks ass.
But all songs here are more or less great. You got heaviness, little doses of speed here and there, awesome vocals.. what else do you need?
Finally I'm gonna admit that I'm ashamed - I had this album for a long time, then I sold it. Recently I bought it again though. Don't repeat my mistake. Buy this and fucking keep it.
This is easily Sabbath's best album. The atmosphere created by all the instruments is just amazing - the tasteful use of keyboards combined with Iommi's masterful guitar tone, and also Tony Martin's ideal power metal vocals... not too shrieky, but very emotional. The most apt comparison this album can get is really Fates Warning "The Spectre Within", and possibly "Awaken the Guardian" to a lesser extent, as well as some Deep Purple and Rainbow works.
First, "The Shining" - a great combination of fast and midpaced parts here. The chorus has a definite epic feel to it - just the vocal delivery, quite impressively done here. Great production on this album. Usually you just want the production to not destroy everything so you can't hear the riffs correctly - but here, it actually ADDS something to the album.
"Ancient Warrior" is a bit slower, and even more epic, especially the chorus again. The songs do tend to sound a bit similar in that manner, but really the differences between them are quite evident, so much so that the album remains very interesting. "Hard Live to Love", lyrically, doesn't go along with the previous two, but still the song maintains the similar qualities. The verses again go by faster than the choruses, both are backed up by very very solid riff work (it's Iommi, what do you expect).
"Glory Ride" is probably the fastest song on here - it really doesn't exceed midpaced by too too much, but the song is far more adventuresome, and Tony M. gives his greatest effort on the vocals on this song, soaring through "lets take a chance!!!" on the chorus and "Hear them call!" right before the guitar solo.
"Born to Lose" reminds me of Malice, simply because "you think you're chasing shadows in the dark" is similar in the vocal melody to "Shifting shadows, in a demon race" from Hellrider. But that's where the similarities end. There is a really cool driving riff in this song, in fact several, but one definitely stands out - the intro riff which is featured prominently after the choruses as well.
"Nightmare" (which, for the longest time I thought was called "Dream Within a Dream" since I listened to a CDR over and over again while my vinyl sat collecting dust... errr, keeping its good state of preservation!) is more of a ballad, with lyrics harking back to "Heaven or Hell" ("fool forever, don't get fooled by the devil") It's the slowest song on the album, but again, the epic qualities make it very, very interesting.
"Scarlet Pimpernel" is the intro to "Lost Forever", which is another fast one. This one starts out at "Efficient speed" and definitely grabs you and forces you to listen, especially in the middle part, that almost has a thrash break to it. "I'm burning!! With fire!"
Then finally, the title track. This is just absolutely fucking eerie. Black Sabbath have always written totally evil songs, this is one as well. The beginning sounds like total death, it's the kind of thing to play on Halloween to scare kids away so you don't have to buy candy. The song slowly builds up to a killing machine, never quite speeding up but forcing you to your knees one last time before the album ends.
Definitely the best Sabbath album. All of their previous "good ideas" have come together to create a masterpiece: great riffs, evil atmosphere, everything - no fucking around, this is pretty much a winner from beginning to end, with not a weak moment.