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Black Sabbath - The Eternal Idol CD (album) cover


Black Sabbath


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3.17 | 219 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars A hidden gem from one of my eternal idols!

While the 70's was a very stable period for Black Sabbath with Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward making up the band, the 80's, by contrast, was a rather turbulent time for the band with many line up changes. First, Ronnie James Dio took Ozzy's place, then Bill Ward was replaced with Vinnie Appice for one album, then Dio left (or was kicked out depending on who you ask, I believe) to be replaced by ex-Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan for the disastrous Born Again which also saw the return of Bill Ward for that album only. For the follow up, Seventh Star, (which was originally intended to be released as a Tony Iommi solo album) Iommi was the only original member left in the band (if we are not counting keyboard player Geoff Nicholls who was never recognized as a full member despite playing on all of the band's albums throughout the entire 80's and early 90's plus following them on tour). While that last album was very good in my opinion, it was more of a Hard Rock album than a Heavy Metal album and was not the return to form that the fans would have wanted. The Eternal Idol was that return! At least, it ought to be seen as such in my opinion.

The Eternal Idol was the first album out of several to feature Tony Martin on vocals and was the start of the second most stable period in the band's long history. There were still a few line up changes ahead, and it wasn't until the next album that a really stable line up would be cemented. But it was with The Eternal Idol that both the heavy sound and the high quality of the music were truly re-established. Sadly, this album is virtually unknown except among the fans and even some of them trash it because the fan in question's darling in not on it, be it Ozzy or Dio.

The fact that Tony Martin was unknown before this probably contributed to the relative obscurity of the album. The inclusion of Martin was, however, something of a masterstroke since he is an excellent vocalist that really fitted the sound of the band. As far as this particular fan is concerned, The Eternal Idol was (at the time of its release) the best and most consistent Black Sabbath album since Sabotage from 1975, rivalled only by the two Dio-era albums from the early 80's.

The Eternal Idol is filled with great riffs from beginning to end and also features some progressive aspects. Iommi's amazing electric guitar riffs and solos are often backed up by keyboards and acoustic guitars to great effect. The band sounds inspired again and the musicianship is excellent throughout as are Tony Martin's outstanding vocals. Compared with the previous Seventh Star album, The Eternal Idol is much heavier and compared with the follow up, Headless Cross, it is less dark and doom laden and does not feature as many explicit references to Satan that annoyed some people about that album. It might perhaps even be seen as a kind of crossover between Seventh Star and Headless Cross as it still features some Hard Rock (as opposed to Heavy Metal) elements.

The opening track The Shining immediately signals the new found energy, while Ancient Warrior, Nightmare and the title track in particular reveal some slight progressive tendencies. Hard Life To Love, Glory Ride, Born To Lose and Lost Forever are tasteful, heavy Hard Rock songs. Scarlet Pimpernel is a lovely acoustic guitar instrumental similar in style to the ones that were featured on many Black Sabbath albums from the 70's. This really adds diversity to the album and is possibly my favourite Iommi acoustic number ever!

I fully recognize that many progressive rock fans will not find The Eternal Idol progressive enough. But everything about this album is very tasteful, from the cover art to the music to the production. Despite having this album for several years, I noticed now for the first time that it was (co-) produced by Jeff Glixman who is famous for producing many of Kansas' best albums.

To conclude, The Eternal Idol was the start of a new era in the band's history and is one of the most underrated albums I ever have had the pleasure to listen to! It deserves to be heard by Black Sabbath fans and Prog fans alike. It is hard for me to decide between this one and the two subsequent albums, but these three are my favourite post-Ozzy Black Sabbath album's.

This is a hidden gem from one of my eternal idols!

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


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