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Heeeere's Tony!! - 89%

Sweetie, October 11th, 2021

Want to talk about finding what was obviously being searched for for at least half a decade now? No matter how much I think the previous couple albums fared, there was an obvious lack of clarity for the future of Black Sabbath. While Seventh Star definitely aimed towards the right mark, the potential was realized with The Eternal Idol. By now, most know that this portion of Tony Martin’s saga was what truly follows the Dio era in stylistics, but this is where I think the glammier touches reach peak fruition thanks to being blended enough to not irritate the general metal dork fanbase.

By that, I mean it’s not as blatantly obvious as it was with the prior effort. Because of it taking the back seat, Iommi and Martin now have the opportunity to spread their wings in a more traditional metal backing without ditching the spoopiness of synth and warmer glazings. Moreover, the songwriting takes a (mild) step away from the accessibility that came before and works its way back into something a bit more conceptual in lyrics and sequential in musical passages. Naturally, we have a consistent disc with a pleasant makeup, loaded with hooky chops that vary greatly and clean vocals that couldn’t fit better if they tried.

What’s amazing is that there’s still so much to take away from. Even the doomy history of the band shines so wonderfully. The obvious monster in this case is the closing title track, which almost throws back to the earliest of the band’s days under an ‘80s umbrella. “Ancient Warrior” has the booming rhythm energy and hard drum pounds with the perfect touch of crawling leads, all topped off with some of the neatest melodies this band has had since Heaven And Hell. You can get this with a blusier angle in “Nightmare,” feeling less threatening but equally stompy.

On the flip side, The Eternal Idol has an even balance of faster paced bangers as well as more hook-laced gems. “Hard Life To Love” takes a harder stance with its powerful leads and galloping bridge, while opener “The Shining” brings forth that same accessibility on an easier note. Some get a bit more to-the-point, and shine the vocals in a brighter way meant to capture a chorus driven number like the poppy “Born To Lose.” “Lost Forever” is an anomaly in its ability to come so close to a thrash metal tune while still fitting in so well, and that’s just incredible.

Although I think there’s one record that tops this one in regards to the Martin era, the sweet concoction that came in 1987 is one that deserves the more recent praise it gets. It’s another example of something being unfairly overlooked for so long, only for people my age to dig it up thanks to the internet and worship what rightfully is deserving. Stellar songwriting everywhere, wonderful consistency, and the mechanics of every musician is top notch.

Trademarks by the numbers delivered in boring manners - 55%

kluseba, May 13th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2010, 2CD, Sanctuary Records (Deluxe edition, Digipak, Remastered)

By the mid-eighties, Black Sabbath had become a Tony Iommi solo project with an inconsistent line-up that changed almost yearly. The Eternal Idol was a particularly chaotic affair. The singer, drummer and bassist who started recording the album didn't stay and were replaced by a new singer and bassist as well as a stand-in drummer. Even the band manager was fired during recording. Surprisingly enough, the final result doesn't sound all over the place and sees the band return to its doom and heavy metal roots. The material however is rather uneven and makes for one of Black Sabbath's worst outputs.

The only song that fully convinces is massive doom metal epic ''Eternal Idol'' that oozes with atmosphere, creativity and classic Black Sabbath trademarks such as eerie vocals, menacing guitar tones and slow but thundering rhythm section supported by some fresh cinematic keyboard effects. It's regrettable that one of the band's very best tracks is overlooked because it can be found on an overall forgettable record that was rightfully negatively received back in the days.

The rest of the record attempts to go back to Black Sabbath's trademark sound but fails to develop the unique charm of the early years or even the more experimental albums released in the mid-eighties. The band doesn't have much chemistry which isn't a surprise considering the revolving line-up. The rhythm section sounds bland and uninspired. The guitar riffs are often repetitive and unspectacular. New singer Tony Martin has a decent melodic voice with a slightly rough undertone but he is not as emotional as Ray Gillen, not as catchy as Glenn Hughes, not as dynamic, flexible and skilled as Ian Gillan, not as dramatic and talented as Ronnie James Dio and certainly not as atmospheric, passionate and unique as Ozzy Osbourne. The gloomy keyboard work is the only element that can be described as truly convincing and that's a shame for a heavy metal album.

In the end, Black Sabbath's The Eternal Idol features an excellent title track that might figure among the band's five greatest tunes ever while the rest varies between slightly above average and slightly below average Black Sabbath material by the numbers. Some people tend to rate this record up retrospectively because they didn't like the bluesier commercial predecessor Seventh Star that is certainly an acquired taste. But while the predecessor could be controversially discussed, this record here is bland, boring and unimaginative which is certainly worse in my book. This record is only interesting for die-hard fans and collectors and I would even go as far to say that this release is the worst in Black Sabbath's discography up to the moment when it was released.

The Start of an Eternally Underrated Sabbath Era - 80%

TheHumanChair, March 2nd, 2020

If you look at the history surrounding "The Eternal Idol," you'd notice that the recording process of this album was an absolute mess. The album underwent a staggering amount of personnel changes before release, both within the band and behind the scenes. We end with, of course, Tony Iommi, accompanied by returning Eric Singer on drums from the previous album, Bob Daisley filling in on bass, and Tony Martin on vocals. With all of these changes, it's pretty amazing that the band was able to make "The Eternal Idol" a pretty good album, though. The Tony Martin era of Sabbath is one of the most criminally overlooked eras of any band. Is it the same Sabbath sound as the one that got them their fame? No. Of course not. Is it still really good material? Absolutely.

Now, the first thing to note is that the production on this album is absolute garbage. Probably the worst production values on any Sabbath album, especially considering that their 70's albums were WAY better produced despite this one being nearly 20 years later. As with "Seventh Star," the bass is nearly nonexistent, Iommi sounds very thin, and Eric Singer's drums sound very, very distant. The entire album has this muddy, choppy, far off feeling. Nothing is crisp or clear at all. If you're listening to something else, and then you play a song from this album, it always makes you feel like your speakers/headphones broke in some way. The production is EASILY this album's biggest strike. Even considering all of the problems that occurred when recording this album, it's still unacceptable. Tony Martin still hadn't quite found his voice entirely on this album as well. He's still a very good singer, but on all future albums, his style is definitely more deliberate and noticeable than on "The Eternal Idol." Maybe it was the fact that he was basically re-recording Ray Gillen's original vocals, so he was trying too hard to copy them, but whatever the case, he definitely sounds different and less distinct on this album than he would on all future releases with Sabbath.

But all of that aside. How is the music? "Ancient Warrior" is one of most traditionally Sabbath tracks of the record. After a very short keyboard intro from Geoff Nicholls, Iommi enters with a very crunchy, heavy riff. He would continue to deliver very solid riffs all across this song. Martin sells the mood of this song very well with solid notes, and the right emotions where they're needed, and Nicholls' atmospheric yet light keyboard work adds a lot of depth and mood to the whole thing to help bring it together nicely. The chorus especially is very powerful, and Iommi has a cool solo on the track. "Nightmare" definitely has a similar vibe going on during it. Once again, Geoff Nicholls brings a perfect yet short keyboard intro to give the song the opening mood it needed. Its a dreamy melody that still has an ominous feeling in the lower held notes behind it that allude to the song's titular theme. Iommi's riff on the track is another strong, heavy one with a really great groove flowing it forward. After the second chorus section, the song takes a bit of a tone shift and becomes slightly more aggressive with Iommi's new riff accompanied by a laughing section. Martin is able to adapt to the change well with a matching power to his voice. Still very melodic, but with a bit more fire behind it. The two different feels the song has help make it a very enjoyable listen that doesn't become stale.

I'm honestly pretty surprised the band didn't choose to make "Lost Forever" the album's opener. It has the same kind of feel from Iommi's riff as "Neon Knights" or "Turn Up the Night" did. It's a quick, energetic but simple riff to give the song its energy, but Iommi also gives a much better, more memorable riff on short transition elements all throughout. Tony Martin does a really good job on this song. He's able to mix the strong energy the instrumentals give him to work with, but is also able to keep his singing melodic and pleasant to listen to. On the final section that fades the song out where he repeats the song's title, he delivers a measured amount of desperation in his voice to sell the mood. The album's actual opener "The Shining" (definitely based off the book/film) is still a spectacular one, though. It's definitely one of the most varied, well written songs of the entire album. After a fantastic intro that mixes clean and electric playing from Iommi, the track explodes into maybe Iommi's best riff of the album. A catchy riff with his signature feel all over it. This song was a really a make or break moment for Tony Martin, too. A lot of the verse sections give him a LOT of space with just drums and very light bass and keyboard work behind him. If he wasn't up to the task of holding the song up during these moments, the track would have absolutely fallen apart. And the last thing you want is for your opening track with a new singer to fall flat. The chorus is an absolutely fantastic one. Martin's double tracked shouting chorus is both catchy and strong. Before the solo, the song slows down a bit, giving a good mix of Iommi and Martin together for a more melodic section. Iommi's riff is a fantastic combination of heavy and melodic to give Martin a strong backbone to set the tone for this section. Iommi's post-solo riff is also another FANTASTIC one, and it leaves a good impression despite only used as a short transitional riff. It's very easy to tell that the most work and passion on this record went into "The Shining."

Iommi also delivers a fantastic and catchy main riff on "Hard Life to Love," too. It still has his signature feeling to it, but it's a really addicting riff. Eric Singer probably does his best work on this track, too, throwing in short, but solid fills throughout the verses. Martin gives another strong chorus on top of it, too. He actually dials back on the power of his voice when delivering it, and gives it an almost 'matter of fact' feel that is both unique and very fitting of the mood of the track. Everything about this song is just fun, catchy, powerful Martin-era Sabbath material. Well done throughout. Sadly, all is not amazing, though. Without a doubt, "Born to Lose" is the worst track on the record. It's a really bad one. Iommi opens up with a pretty standard riff. Pretty quickly, Martin comes in, and at first, with the way he sings, it sounds like he's just ad libbing a little bit before the actual verses of the song start, but then when he keeps going, it's jarring to realize these ARE the verse melodies. His "Aaah aaah" calls are cringe worthy. Martin just isn't the right singer for that kind of soulful wordless ad libbing. His notes are bad, and he sounds very hesitant and bored doing them. The chorus of the song also feels no different at all from the verse sections, so it lacks a punchy or passion that a chorus should really have. "Born to Lose" sounds like an insanely thrown together afterthought of a track. As if they finished the record, and then were told they needed one more track to fill more time on the album, and pushed this one out quickly.

"The Eternal Idol" is truly an album where the behind the scenes problems show in the final product of the release. The album behind those problems is actually quite a good one. The production value of this record is almost the death of it, and I definitely think my score for this album would be higher if not for that. Besides "Forbidden," this one is probably the worst of the Tony Martin-era, but it still has a lot working for it, and is worth the listen. You can feel that "The Eternal Idol" was the building blocks of something else, and fortunately for Tony Martin, unlike Ian Gillan and Glenn Hughes, he got a chance to take a second shot at his work with Sabbath. This release did a stellar job at starting a new lineup strong, and planting the seeds for something even greater that was to come.

Power metal meets doom - 85%

Iaranavi, April 30th, 2018

Sabbath with Tony Martin means basically one thing: power metal – modulated, of course, by Iommi’s doomy twist to it. I hold that to be true from this album (the first with the new headman) all the way down to at least Cross Purposes (and perhaps even Forbidden, the most obscure of all?), though this particular aspect of it probably peaks with Tyr (1992). It is remarkable, in passing, that with five albums, this is the bands second-longest enduring singer (nevermind the rest of the lineup). It is indeed astonishing, when you think of it, how such an inexperienced bloke could just be lifted into the heaven (or hell, rather) of heavy metal music, out of nowhere, and, alas, deliver. After all, having had the inimitable Ozzy (marvellous in his sonic weirdness, his Joplin-like looks and hand-clapping joyfulness, belonging firmly in the seventies), the amazing Dio (surely their most consistent frontman, and the one I happen to admire the most for all he has said and sung) and long-standing star, master Gillan - not to mention that unbelievable screamer, Glenn Hughes (sadly troubled and adrift during and after the making of Seventh Star) – after all this, I was saying, one doesn’t really expect Iommi’s riffs to fit in that well with yet another vocal approach, and especially one nobody’s heard of before. And yet…

So that’s the first thing: you’re in for some more epic vocals here. Secondly, there’s the heavy use of keyboards (courtesy of Geoff Nichols), which, together with the vocals, means there’s a lot of atmosphere to these songs. It comes as no surprise then that, thirdly, at least some of the themes are of a more epic kind, of which ‘Ancient Warrior’ – rather a dull title (but heavy metal is too often fond of clichés anyway) – is surely the best example.

In spite of this overall coherence in tone, so to put it, this makes for quite a varied experience. You’ll have outright rockers such as ‘Hard Life to Love’ and ‘Born to Lose’, with its unusually catchy chorus (plus the rather unremarkable ‘Lost Forever’), as well as slower, more epic tunes like ‘Ancient Warrior’. ‘The Shining’ itself,, the opener, is a marvellous example of how a growing power-metal aesthetic here meets doom metal’s minor mode harmonies and dissonant tones. In between rockers and epics, you get good blends, such as ‘Glory Ride’, with its distinctive 80s feel. ‘Nightmare’ is mid-paced march-like piece – the groove feel is irresistible – with a verse somewhat reminiscent of ‘Lonely is the word’ from the Heaven and Hell record (1980) but an overall feeling more akin to Manowar (not far from 1983’s Born Again in this regard, by the way).

Then at some point there’s ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’. It would have been nice to see the interlude turn into a song of its own, especially as it is not organically tied to what follows (‘Lost Forever’), except as a sort mood clearer, cooling down the ambience a bit. Indeed, it is functional as a break so you can go take a leak or what have you (good toilet music, then, if you own a medieval-themed pub: I can almost hear glasses and drunken conversation – also roasted pork comes to mind, for whatever reason – while it’s playing; we don’t happen to have many of those where I live). Finally, the title track (incidentally the longest, by a small margin). Not unlike the eternal classic, ‘Black Sabbath’– if somewhat more homogeneous and less dynamic in its development – it is hard to describe except as that for which Sabbath are probably best known for (name it what you will; think of the rainy tritones of said classic and Ozzy’s nightmarish soliloquy, and you’ll see what I mean). Only Martin is less a weird (and less a devilish) than an epic screamer: much like Johan Landquist, that other bloke-out-of-nowhere-turned-torchbearer-of-doom, in Candlemass’ debut. The sense of despair, however, is nearly as powerfully conveyed by all three.

It is probably fair to say that this isn’t the best from the Tony Martin era, but hell, it’s pretty damn good. And since Sabbath themselves haven’t cared to highlight this phase of their career, it’s definitely worth a pick. This is a great piece of history, if anything. And if there’s one thing admirable in the tradition of heavy metal, it’s the joy with which we’ll eagerly search the litters of history for unrepeatable relics. The Eternal Idol is itself a shining joy.

The Overlooked Idol - 87%

Wacke, September 15th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2010, 2CD, Sanctuary Records (Deluxe edition, Digipak, Remastered)

The mid-1980's was a time filled with turmoil for Black Sabbath and its ever-fighting leader and guitarist Tony Iommi. After losing Ronnie James Dio in 1982, the band would venture on to try out a large bulk of different singers (and backing members) from both sides of the world. By 1987 the band had settled with the late Ray Gillen as its singer and the work for The Eternal Idol started. Sometime during the album's recording process, however, Ray Gillen suddenly left the band and was replaced by the future long-term vocalist Tony Martin.

The Eternal Idol is largely a natural evolution and, to some extent, continuation from the band's previous album Seventh Star, which was initially contemplated to become Tony Iommi's first solo album. Just like with Iommi's intended solo effort, this album sees Sabbath going for a more typical melodic 80's metal approach. Where Black Sabbath once was leading an evolution of heavy music, we now hear them adapt to the younger rockers instead. While the new sound and formula certainly is something different for the band, I don't really feel like it's anything wrong or bad about it. In fact, Iommi's trademark sound and riffs are all still there. The greatest differences lie in a slightly increased use of keyboards as well as Martin's powerful 80's arena-esque vocals.

The album kicks off with "The Shining", a very anthemic tune which also happens to be one of the band's most underrated ones. It's followed by "Ancient Warrior" which is not only one of the album's slowest and heaviest tracks, but also said to be one of Tony Iommi's personal favorites from this album. After this point the album is more or less a collection of mid-tempo anthems to faster and aggressive rockers, all of which work well together and manage to create a good flow throughout the album. Despite its overall typical 80's metal sound, however, there are a few occasions where we get treated with classic trademark-sounding doom riffs such as in "Nightmare" and the title track.

While the song material tends to be really good, the album suffers from one great flaw which is its production. I always found this album to sound pretty bad. I've gotten used to its sound over the years, but I still cannot get over the feeling that it sounds more like a rough mix than a final mix. It's not as bad as the horrible and muddy mix on their 1983 album Born Again, but that one's also quite notorious in the "bad record mixes" department. Still, the mix on The Eternal Idol sadly leaves a lot to be desired, and despite the album receiving remaster treatment at least twice throughout the years, it hasn't really been improved (it sounds exactly like the original release).

The Eternal Idol is possibly the most underrated/overlooked Black Sabbath release of all time. The Tony Martin era in general is widely overlooked, but this one takes the cake for me personally. While some of the other Tony Martin albums have gained more of a fanbase, such as 1989's Headless Cross, this album still stands as something of a pinnacle in the darkest chapter of Sabbath's career. I personally think this is a criminally underrated Black Sabbath release. One that I actually find myself listening to more these days than several of the Ozzy and Dio-era albums.

Dawn of underrated Sabbath - 90%

witchfindershark, September 10th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1987, 12" vinyl, Vertigo Records

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.

Iommi Eternal. - 87%

Metal_Jaw, June 30th, 2013

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.

Eternally Eighties - 74%

MEGANICK89, January 4th, 2013

**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.

The Statue Of Limitation - 38%

marktheviktor, September 4th, 2011

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 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.

Sinners say your prayers tonight - 94%

extremesymphony, April 5th, 2011

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.

Let's Take a Chance - 80%

Twisted_Psychology, October 27th, 2009

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"

Sabbath does power metal - and they do it right. - 90%

Uebermensch, September 1st, 2008

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.

Oh C'mon! - 60%

Acrobat, August 20th, 2007

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.

Decent album from an unstable lineup - 77%

Satanwolf, May 21st, 2007

"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.

Brilliant - 95%

DawnoftheShred, December 16th, 2006

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.

Idolatry begets ignorance. - 95%

hells_unicorn, August 29th, 2006
Written based on this version: 1987, CD, Vertigo Records

There is a fine line that exists between devotion and fetishization, but particularly in the polarizing eras and corresponding personalities that make up one of heavy metal's oldest and longest endured institutions, it is one that all but ceases to exist. The clashing of swords between the Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio parties of the Black Sabbath legacy have become the stuff of legends, and occasionally a regiment from the Deep Sabbath days will come along to challenge the other two in the name of Ian Gillian. Relegated to the sidelines of this long enduring debate of which era is the true representation of Sabbath is the latter 80s and early to mid 90s stretch featuring vocalist Tony Martin, a little known quantity when compared against even the likes of Glenn Hughes, yet one that nevertheless deserves consideration. The chaotic circumstances following the semi-solo project turned accidental Sabbath album Seventh Star (owing completely to label pressure) was fertile grounds for a sharp stylistic left-turn and an unknown voice leading the sonic charge, which is probably the best way to sum up exactly what The Eternal Idol is, a departure in just about every respect, save when compared to its immediate and aforementioned predecessor.

This is not an epic foray into the proto-power metal fringes of the NWOBHM like the Dio albums, nor does it conform to the doom and gloom with an occasional glimmer that was the Ozzy years, though occasional elements of both rear their heads. This is essentially an iconic 80s heavy metal album that somehow manages to sidestep all of the negative stereotypes associated with the concurrent AOR-tinged exploits of Saxon, Twisted Sister and Tygers Of Pan Tang while still exhibiting most of the same production quirks; namely a massive and heavily reverb-laden drum and vocal mix accompanied by a slick guitar tone. Truth be told, apart from Tony Iommi's choppy and meandering guitar solos and an occasional throwback riff here and there, it is a bit difficult to really identify this as the Sabbath sound if going by the precedents set prior to 1983. Though clearly possessed of a Dio-like mixture of soaring majesty and grit, Tony Martin's vocals lean a bit more on that sleazy 80s swagger that was all the rage on MTV in the mid-80s, a direct product of his vocal lines being made to mimic melodic lines and inflections first committed to recording by Ray Gillen. The only thing on here that really deviates from the mainline heavy metal format of the day is Bob Daisley's bass work, which is far fancier and involved than most and reminisces on how Geezer Butler gave the instrument far more time in the sun.

As with any successful stylistic pivot, be it extreme or slight, things are instigated on a pleasantly familiar note with the mid-paced groove and ultra-catchy anthem that is "The Shining". Per Iommi's own testimony, much of this song had been floating around in his unfinished repertoire since the Born Again days, and it definitely functions as a sort of stylistic bridge back to the mid-paced sway of the Dio era with a denser atmospheric backdrop befitting a lost track from the 1983 collaboration with Ian Gillian. The blend of acoustic and distorted guitars over top a thick keyboard line out of longtime unofficial 5th member Geoff Nicholls is a masterful one, setting an atmospheric tone of splendor and mysticism that predicts the ongoing obsession with ghostly tales afflicting Axel Rudi Pell. This blend of atmospheric wonder, iconic riff work and driving melody is displayed in a similar fashion on the ode to war and tragedy "Glory Ride" and the haunting rocker "Nightmare", all of which reminisce greatly upon the 1980-83 era of Sabbath while still sounding mostly removed from the grittier character of the early 80s. On the opposite side of the coin is the pure 80s rocking swagger of up beat numbers like "Lost Forever", "Born To Lose" and "Hard Life To Love", all of which play a bit better to Iommi's blues box soloing style and showcase a more happy-go-lucky side of the band despite the lyrics avoiding the cliches of sappy love and mindless partying.

In a sense, this album has a bizarre side to it that comes into greater focus when dealing with the rest of its material, which reveals an album that has one foot planted in early 80s metal and another in later 80s rock and a mutant third member that reaches into a darker and less expected place. Though not really an all out doom metal affair, "Ancient Warrior" has a sort of slow paced, Middle Eastern mystique to it that is a bit more befitting of the darker character of this album's successor The Headless Cross, not to mention one of the most memorable principle riffs to come out of Iommi's arsenal since he parted ways with Dio. The charming instrumental offering "Scarlet Pimpernel" isn't really a dark affair, but it does take one back to the days of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath where the acoustic guitar work went beyond a stylistic device and became an orchestral force in itself, here adorned with a dense, almost theatrical keyboard backdrop to seal the deal. The coup de grace of musical surprises, however, belongs to the closer number and title song "The Eternal Idol", which can be best described as an accidental throwback to the darkest fringes of Sabbath's early years with Ozzy, but translated into something far closer to the epic doom metal fatalism of Candlemass. The foil of Tony Martin's high soaring vocals with the bleak, oblivion-drenched atmosphere like something out of the second Hellraiser film is beyond brilliant, resulting in a song that is arguably among the most original things to ever emerge from Iommi's mausoleum of horrors.

The charge that this album is simply a jumbled mess held together by Iommi's guitar work and a generally consistent production job out of the studio engineers is a flat out ridiculous one, though maybe understandable if one is religiously locked into the orthodoxy of the Ozzy/Dio paradigm of Black Sabbath. To be fair, this is an album that could be more easily regarded as an Iommi solo album in much the same respect as Seventh Star, though The Eternal Idol is far closer to the dark and forbidding spirit of the Sabbath name and even the earlier eras of this outfit were not a uniform stylistic affair but an ongoing chemistry set of sounds that just so happened to land in consistent territory because of the lineup being such. If nothing else, this album and every other masterpiece bearing the Sabbath name is a testament to Tony Iommi's genius as a songwriter, one that surpasses the commendable yet not terribly prolific efforts of Geezer Butler, and also one that avoided the almost comical campiness that dogged much of Ozzy's solo career following the death of Randy Rhodes. It goes without saying that the formative metallic exploits of Sabbath with Ozzy and Dio at the helm are to be venerated for what they have accomplished, but idolatry and the irrational devotion that it commands tends to rob the individual of experience, and this album, nay the entire Tony Martin era of Sabbath will go down in history as one of the most unjust victims of it.

Rewritten on February 20th, 2018.

Underrated with a big U - 90%

HawkMoon, September 28th, 2003

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.

Great atmosphere! Awesome power metal! - 92%

UltraBoris, August 26th, 2002

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.