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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.