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Astonishing. - 95%

hells_unicorn, August 29th, 2006

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.