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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.