Black Sabbath – The Eternal Idol (1987)

Black Sabbath - The Eternal Idol

Black Sabbath – The Eternal Idol (1987, Warner Bros.)

  1. The Shining
  2. Ancient Warrior
  3. Hard Life To Love
  4. Glory Ride
  5. Born To Lose
  6. Nightmare
  7. Scarlet Pimpernel
  8. Lost Forever
  9. Eternal Idol

Band Lineup/Featured Musicians:
Tony Iommi – Guitars
Tony Martin – Vocals
Dave Spitz – Bass
Bob Daisley – Bass
Eric Singer – Drums
Bev Bevan – Percussion
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Total Time – 43:04

THE ETERNAL IDOL marks the beginning of the Tony Martin-era of Black Sabbath. The album’s true origins begin after the tour for SEVENTH STAR with then touring vocalist Ray Gillen (Badlands) initially recording the songs. Later, after Gillen’s departure, Martin is brought in and the vocals are re-recorded. There are bootlegs of the Ray Gillen sessions floating around, more info can be found at The Black Sabbath Live Project. Nonetheless, Tony Martin becomes the sixth singer in Sabbath history, but only the fifth to be properly recorded on album.

My favorite track from this album is the opener, ‘The Shining’. Immeadiately, Tony Iommi takes control with one big monster riff, constantly pounding you, trademark Sabbath. Martin shows his abilities right away: his range from low to high is dead on and the guy can sing, not scream. A very Dio-esque delivery (a comparison that will follow Martin over the years).

‘Ancient Warrior’ slows down to a mid-tempo pace,  while ‘Hard Life To Love’ speeds up the proceedings…..both tracks enjoying the Iommi mastery. Has he ever come up with a bad riff or solo? What throws me off is the keyboards that open ‘Ancient Warrior’, they just seem out of place but they do add to the pace and texture of the song, whereas ‘Hard Life To Love’ grabs hold with the guitar. It’s a fast song but retains a bluesy feel with each verse. Martin changes his technique to more of Ray Gillen’s, Gillen possessing the bluesy David Coverdale style, one can see that the song was written specifically for his style.

‘Glory Ride’ begins with yet another thunder riff and continuing into a mid-tempo gallop peppered with a bit of keyboard over the top. What I find myself focusing on is Eric Singer’s double bass drumming especially during Iommi’s solo. ‘Born To Lose’ is faster, retaining the feel of ‘Hard Life To Love’. Again, strong riff and a blues-tinged style, Martin again probably following the initial Gillen vocal closely. Best part of the song for me is the harmony during the chorus, not sure why but I really enjoy that part.

I get bored with ‘Nightmare’ and ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’. ‘Nightmare’ is the “ballad” of the album, it’s slow and plodding, halfway through it speeds up and slows back down again. It’s not a bad song per se but it just bores me. Tony Martin does a decent job but he screams a bit too much for my taste. It’s not a Bruce Dickinson-type scream, maybe more of a wail, either way it seems out of place. ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ is Bev Bevan’s sole recording on the album as he does the percussion on this instrumental. All Black Sabbath albums have an instrumental, THE ETERNAL IDOL, being no different. I enjoy hearing Iommi break from the signature guitar and do something softer with Nicholls’ keyboard inter-laced. I guess my problem is that the first five songs really jump at you with a certain power and tempo and then you slow down for two songs. Those first five songs are so good I guess I feel let down.

That feeling goes away with speed rocker ‘Lost Forever’ which immeadiately picks up the pace and has my favorite Iommi solo on the album. ‘Eternal Idol’ is the longest song on the record and reminds me of ‘Black Sabbath’ from the first album. It’s a haunting song, has that eerie feel. Martin really hits the highs on this song, while it’s a slow dirge, he seems to soar over it. Nicholls adds that subtle keyboard again giving the song another layer. ‘Eternal Idol’ is another album favorite and I think it would have fit better after ‘Born To Lose’ and let ‘Nightmare’ and ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ close it out.

Bottom Line: Better than the previous album, SEVENTH STAR. Superb guitar, excellent drumming, and very powerful songs. The only complaint I have is that Tony Martin seems to follow the approach Ray Gillen probably used on half the songs, changing his personal style for that of Ray’s. The songs were written in accordance with Gillen’s abilities so the listener can tell when Martin is changing. All in all, a good album and fine comeback.

7 comments on “Black Sabbath – The Eternal Idol (1987)

  1. This was a pretty good album. Maybe my favorite of the Tony Martin albums. I remember trying to talk it up to other metal fans back in 1987, but no one was interested at the time.

  2. I really enjoy this album too. This and HEADLESS CROSS (1989) are a great one-two punch, really reviving Sabbath. If the songs were created with Martin in mind rather than Ray Gillen, I think that it would be an even stroger record.

    After the SEVENTH STAR disappointment and Warner Bros. not suoorting this album, I think that Iommi and co. really had a hard time getting anyone but diehards to follow along. I remember being excited for a new Black Sabbath album but my friends basically dismissed it.

  3. I actually really love “Scarlet Pimpernel.” I understand why people think it’s boring, but I loved the neoclassical feel of it, plus it’s quite dreamy and hazy. A drug without needing drugs.

  4. And Metal Mark forgot that I got this album shortly after he did upon hearing his copy, so that’s not quite an accurate statement there, brother…

  5. For me Tony Martin era is the best period of Black Sabbath! I love almost all Sabbath albums (I’m not a big fan of classic Ozzy era), but ones with Martin on vocals are pure masterpieces (except maybe “Forbidden”)! “Eternal Idol” was and still is one awesome and like all Martin’s Sabbath releases – very underrated!

  6. I love this album (my favorite Martin era Sabbath album) as well as the Seventh Star album. I saw Black Sabbath on the Seventh Star tour and Ray Gillen was the singer. I bought this the day it was released in 1987 and to my surprise they had changed vocalist once again! I wish I could find a completed Ray Gillen version with the guitar solos to compare.

  7. Pingback: The Best Miscellaneous Releases of 2010 « Heavy Metal Addiction

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