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Tony Iommi was still the man in the '80s, but fewer people took note. "The Eternal Idol" is loaded with impressive riff work and Black Sabbath have always carried a mighty blues influence and a lot of the material on hand here echoes that. "Born to Lose", "Hard Life to Love" and "Nightmare" are all prime examples of this: simple and old-fashioned, yet effective.
Although blues-influenced hard rock didn´t sound like a hot thing in the mid-'80s, that´s what Black Sabbath was always about. Many fans always cite Ronnie James Dio as the superior vocalist compared to Tony Martin, but I don´t know. Sure, Dio´s range is one of a kind, but Martin´s more down-to-earth approach suits these songs like a glove. Can´t imagine "Hard Life to Love" rocking as good as it does here if it was fronted by Dio. "Lost Forever" is the more '80s spiritual cousin to "Symptom of the Universe", one of the fastest and trashiest songs they´ve ever done to my knowledge.
Another significant thing about this era of Tony Iommi and crew is the use of keyboards. The final releases with Ozzy hinted at this and even "Sabotage" and "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" were heavy on psychedelic organ work. This came back on "Eternal Idol" in a big, very '80s way. The intro to "Nightmare" will give you flashbacks to the scores for "Nightmare on Elm Street" (no surprise since I heard it was actually planned to be included on the soundtrack to one of the sequels) and in general the keys sound rather spooky and epic without being cheesy. Lots of clean guitars, too - check out the intro to "The Shinning" and the beautiful semi-acoustic break in "Glory Ride". "Scarlet Pimpernel" is a purely acoustic interlude, bringing to mind "Orchid" on "Master of Reality" and further deepens the fact that both albums are indeed done by the same band.
If "The Eternal Idol" has a flaw it´s that none of the songs really scream "highlight" or "instant classic". There isn´t a new "N.I.B" or "Solitude" here, but what there is is on a constantly excellent level. Every song is somewhat distinctive and there are no low points either. The production sounds very '80s, but not at all dated, and I think this aspect of the record has aged rather well, although it makes "Eternal Idol" somewhat arena rock-ish, but that can be a good thing and it is here. On a side note, you gotta hand it to Martin-era Sabbath. "Headless Cross", "Tyr", and "Eternal Idol" have totally kick ass album covers. Look at this cover and tell me it´s not a huge improvement over "Paranoid" and "Sabotage".
So yeah, for me the one era of Black Sabbath past "Never Say Die" was from "The Eternal Idol" to "Tyr". Not too many fans see it that way and so this is also likely to remain the most obscure era in Sabbath history. I have no idea why as this rocks harder and better than most.
Few legendary 70’s rock groups were still active and doing something memorable during the following decade. Some managed to reinvent their sound and adapt to the new times like Judas Priest and Scorpions, while others like UFO without Schenker were rather getting uninspired and boring. In the case of Black Sabbath, fans admired and acclaimed the first Dio record but didn’t appreciate what came next, either Born Again and directly hated the extremely (unfairly) infamous Seventh Star. For some critics, the group had become a shadow of the hard rock icon it used to be, specially once Tony took complete control as the only original member left. Maybe it wasn’t right to use the name of one of the greatest bands ever for a distinct project like The Eternal Idol, which didn’t have much to do with the genuine concept of Sabbath.
During the uncertain 80’s for Iommi and co., their sound didn’t improve much nor showed many differences with the refreshing current style determined already on both Dio records. The only alternative characteristic during that period was the bigger percentage of melody on Mob Rules, which soon became tenuous on the heavier Born Again. That element reappears again explicitly here, omnipresent during the whole album, absolutely noticeable, at times taking total control as you can check on “The Shining” or “Hard Life To Love”. Riffs and melody are what these cuts are all about; their configuration isn’t putting emphasis on anything else. Fortunately, some Iommi riffing gets pretty rough and harsh, making a bizarre combination with new singer Tony Martin’s cheesy choruses that surprisingly works out generally. So they alternate fine powerful riffs with several delicate arrangements and mellow bridges on tracks as “Glory Ride”, for instance, on which you can even hear some acoustic guitars and sweet synthesizers supporting Martin’s incredibly tender voice. Melody isn’t denied on the most vigorous compositions either, “Lost Forever” (how could a song with a title like that sound so cheerful?) or “Born To Lose” might be faster and slightly aggressive in comparison with the rest, based as usual on simple hard rockin’ guitar lines (sometimes reduced to palm-mute riffing), including another bunch of classy vocals that keep them from being particularly violent, turning them into accessible stuff. Tony’s trademark low lines can’t reduce either the tiring supremacy of melody on both darker “Nightmare” or “Ancient Warrior”, which slow down their rhythms trying to gain weight and intensity in vain. However, the biggest disappointment of the record is the final title-track that was intended to be the “Black Sabbath” of the 80’s, emulating the obscure atmosphere of the debut LP homonym number with that basic interval of notes and Martin’s dramatic vocals, unsuccessfully.
Results are decent in general, that risky combination of down-tuned riffs and sweetness could’ve failed completely but it didn’t. On other hand, it’s clear Tony Martin’s voice wasn’t exactly compatible with the obscure essence of original Sabbath music, in fact it makes these numbers sound contrary to the Ozzy classics. There’s no use on comparing both different stages, but the name of the group is in the cover so we could’ve expected a bit of the sinister style that made them unique. So the exhausting melody here makes this material improper for the Black Sabbath label, it rather sounds like another Iommi solo release. If we forget about the tags and stuff and focus on the really important aspects, it’s obvious this album is pretty effective, at times admirably amusing and consistent. These riffs ain’t the greatest Tony ever conceived, actually there are some scandalously repetitive and unoriginal, though they mostly construct the musical basis for the compositions efficiently, providing them of sense, limited variety and continuity successfully. Complexity isn’t part of the group’s methodology, which still remains technically discreet and easy but there’s refinement and meticulous arrangements on some tunes, instead. These patterns follow the cleaner execution and immaculate performance of Seventh Star, instead of being unpolished and rough as Born Again. Martin’s voice undoubtedly contributed tremendously to make this polite and commercial, inoffensive and cheesy. The decision of choosing him as a replacement for Ray Gillen proved again the resolution of Iommi for playing something clearly melodic and accessible, not trying to emulate the 70’s sound at all, a choice of inventiveness that sadly didn’t make most of the fans forget about the past. At least this is an honest attempt as always, lacking the splendor and creativity of the early years but listenable, truly competent.
So this isn’t definitely a memorable album, it sounds excessively alternative to the classics and gets too mellow, though among the unpopular 5 Martin releases, this one’s certainly the most remarkable. People usually despise and criticize negatively Seventh Star, the considered weakest work, the one that should’ve never been labeled as Black Sabbath, but this one as well is contrary to the original essence of the band. Maybe this record isn’t victim of so much vituperation just because it has no ballad in the style of “No Stranger To Love” or “In Memory…”? Anyway, you’d better ignore bad reviews and take your own conclusions, I must insist because otherwise you’d miss a bunch of decent records ignored among the big discography of Sabbath, which shouldn’t be reduced to 6 masterpieces only.
When one thinks of the mid to late 1980's, Black Sabbath seems to rarely spring forth as one of the prime examples of heavy metal reigning at the time. The name seemed to harken back to a bygone era of music, a name that seemed like it may keel over at any moment. But Tony Iommi, the face and true driving force of Black Sabbath despite what media twats and depraved Ozzy fanbitches want you to think, was one not to give in. A black cloud of difficulties plagued the man at this time, whether it was a myriad of studio issues or ugly matters in his own life. Yet, even in a haze of drugs and a legion of nonbelievers who had little to no faith in the name Black Sabbath anymore, Tony still managed to give us "The Eternal Idol". In my opinion it's arguably one of the best, if not the best, of the band's 80's efforts. Aside from a few musical shortcomings and a couple more boring tracks, "The Eternal Idol" is a solid accomplishment full of riffs, tight musicianship and rich atmosphere.
Tony Iommi is still at a creative high here, despite his drug and marital problems at the time. The metal god's memorable riffs and rich solos still bleed with creativity and emotion. The bass is an interesting story, as apparently the strings were plinked by several different people on several different tracks during several different takes, another studio issue. The credit ultimately went to noted Ozzy Osbourne (another weird connection) bassist Bob Daisley, who puts on a solid, workmanlike show, as does the stable, powerful drumming of Eric Singer. And speaking of singers, another studio problem was the need to rerecord the vocals of the late Ray Gillen, who was blown out of his mind during much of the recording process. Enter one of Black Sabbath finest singers, Tony Martin. Martin brings back some of that Dio swagger and growl, though lacking that heavier-hitting power in Dio's vocals; Martin's howls feel a tad cleaner, even more angelic in a way. Together, the two Tonys are a force to be reckoned with.
The production is a stupendous high mark, rich in atmosphere and a clean but still heavy aura to it, further enhanced by the subtle but notable airy keyboard work of the great Geoff Nicholls. The music itself continues on the path of the power metal-like territory first awaken by "Heaven And Hell" 7 years back; it feels comparably similar to the Iommi solo project "Seventh Star" as well, but with more of that traditional Sabbath bluesiness back in the mix. And like typical Sabbath, much of the songs don't stray past mid-paced, though we do have a couple more uptempo stompers in the catchy, bluesy "Hard Life To Live" or one of my favorites on here "Born To Lose". We have more atmosphere drenched in the slower stuff, like the solid "Nightmare", which begins with spooky chimes and the like before going into and riding a classic Iommi riff for a bit before getting a bit faster towards the end. The title track brings a sense of evil the Ozzy stuff had into the atmosphere. Then there's the opener "The Shining"; definitely a classic if not for that ear worm main riff alone, even if it's basically the "Heaven And Hell" riff sped up a bit.
Overall, this is and still remains one of the best Sabbath studio albums that many have never heard. There's a few so-so songs and boring moments ("Ancient Warrior" and "Glory Ride", while both good, aren't terribly memorable), but much of it is enlightening by the strong, atmosphere-heavy production. Not to mention it's all backed up by the always strong work of Tony Iommi, as well as the much-welcomed addition of Tony Martin. "The Eternal Idol" was first released in November of 1987. Can you imagine? Cruising down an isolated country road, it's not quite dark, but an eerie mix of black, blue and dark yellow hang in the sky. The wind blows light as yellow and red leaves sway across your windshield, the moody "The Shining" reaching from your speakers, always ready to stay eternal.
**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.
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.