Review Summary: It's hardly a real comeback, it's not very original, the lyrics are cheesy. Sabbath is still suffering from 80's-disease. But then, there's Tony Iommi finding the best possible cure: good old-fashioned heavy riffing.
Since Mob Rules
, heavy metal veterans Black Sabbath had been hitting a few major bumps in the road, being the abomination called Born Again
featuring Deep Purple's Ian Gillan on vocals, and the poor should-have-been-Iommi-solo-album Seventh Star
featuring an entirely different 'Sabbath' line-up besides the guitarist himself. In 1986, it would have been perfectly safe to say that Black Sabbath was over, nothing more than a shade of what they once were.
Still, Black Sabbath did not come to a stop. Luckily the silly 'Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi'-name was dropped entirely, and some new hustle and bustle regarding the formation was going on. Though keyboardist Geoff Nichols (who was a guest on Sabbath's earlier work and stayed on board for a long time during the post-Ozzy records) and drummer Eric Singer continued their contributions to a new album, bassist Dave Spitz was replaced by Bob Daisley (Rainbow
). Glenn Hughes was replaced by ex-Badlands
vocalist Ray Gillen, who left just before completion of Sabbath's next album, The Eternal Idol
. Finally, the choice of a new vocalist became ex-Alliance
singer Tony Martin, joining to redo Gillen's vocal parts. In the end, Martin became Sabbath's longest-standing vocalist after Ozzy Osbourne, appearing on 5 of the group's albums.
This thirteenth studio album hasn't got anything on most of the group's first ten records, and isn't innovative in any sense (something which can be hardly expected of a band at this point in their career), but at least it's a definite improvement from the past two albums. First off, Martin does a better job at vocals than his predecessors. While he hasn't got the most distinctive or unique voice (something both Osbourne and Dio shared), it is powerful and determinded enough to carry a sound, and equally importantly: it fits Sabbath far more than Gillan's bluesy style or Hughes' overdramatic performance. The strength of The Eternal Idol
is that it sounds like an actual Black Sabbath album again, even though the lyrics are very, very typical of 80's metal (in other words: cheesy). Nicholls shouldn't go by unmentioned either, as he does a great job on keyboards.
Iommi is back, too. As can be heard almost straight from the start with The Shining
, these are some of his best riffs since Mob Rules
, and we're glad to hear them. From the slower, sludgy work in Ancient Warrior
to the in-your-face punches of Hard Life to Live
and the dowright heavy ones on Lost Forever
, he once again delivers. Truth be told, the guitar doesn't sound as distinctively Iommi as it did before, but the closer title track offers a most pleasant surprise, offering Paranoid
-era doom that we have so missed. YES, Iommi still knows his stuff. Once again, he proves that he is the Robert Fripp of King Crimson
, the Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin
, the Steve Harris of Iron Maiden
: the one piece that holds everything together and continues to define the sound of the group.
While it can hardly be called a comeback, The Eternal Idol
is a pleasant, if not particularly unique heavy metal record. Everything about it is still distinctly 80's, but Tony Iommi reminds us why he and he alone is Black Sabbath, tilting this to a very acceptable level. It still doesn't change anything for the average Black Sabbath fan, of course. The Ozzy- and Dio-led eras are still untouchable, and only those verging on diehard fan status will really
want to have this. Just drop the belief that Sabbath didn't do anything
worthwile without Ozzy or Dio.
The Eternal Idol's Black Sabbath was:
- Frank Anthony 'Tony' Iommi ~ Lead Guitar
- Anthony Martin Harford ~ Vocals
- Robert John Daisley ~ Bass Guitar
- Geoff Nichols ~ Keyboards
- Eric Doyle Mesinger ~ Drums
Born to Lose
The Eternal Idol
TO BE CONTINUED…