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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.