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Articles Home » 1987 Articles » Black Sabbath - 1987 The Eternal Idol
Black Sabbath - 1987 The Eternal Idol

ARTIST: Black Sabbath
ALBUM: The Eternal Idol
LABEL: Vertigo (UK), Warner Bros (USA)
SERIAL: VERH 51, 9 25548-2
YEAR: 1987
CD REISSUE: 1996, Essential (UK), ESM CD 336 * 2010, Sanctuary/Universal, 2752460


LINEUP: Tony Martin - vocals * Tony Iommi - guitar * Bob Daisley - bass * Eric Singer, Bev Bevan - drums * Geoff Nicholls - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Shining * 02 Ancient Warrior * 03 Hard Life To Love * 04 Glory Ride * 05 Born To Lose * 06 Nightmare * 07 Scarlet Pimpernel * 08 Lost Forever * 09 Eternal Idol


Anyone familiar with the Black Sabbath story knows the late 80's were fraught with all manner of disarray for the ailing legends, with Tony Iommi of course the only link to the grandeur of the glory years. The previous years 'Seventh Star' debacle was an embarrassment for Iommi in particular, with a fine album tainted by having it credited as 'Tony Iommi with Black Sabbath.' Then the resulting tour bombed with a drug addled Glenn Hughes flopping on stage, replaced by Ray Gillen. The circumstances surrounding 'The Eternal Idol' are equally as outrageous, with the production resulting in mass lineup changes, with Iommi himself commenting how 'ridiculous' it was getting. To start with Gillen, Dave Spitz and Eric Singer were on board from the previous lineup, only for all three to depart during the recording process. Apparently the dire financial situation the band was in caused Gillen and Singer's departure, with both having already recorded their parts for the album. Tony Martin was enlisted and sang over Gillen's parts, although Singer's drum parts remained. Even the producer's seat was a merry-go-round, with Jeff Glixman replaced by Chris Tsangarides. It all seems fairly confusing and laughable, but the resulting album was excellent all the same, even if is one of the lesser known Sabbath albums.

The Songs
For years I always thought this to be a fairly mundane power metal album based on the song titles alone and barely gave it a listen. I think that was mainly because of Martin's vocals, which didn't do too much for me compared to the might of Ozzy, Dio, Ian Gillan and even Glenn Hughes himself. But revaluating this many years later reveals it be an album of considerable heaviness, taking the melodic direction of 'Seventh Star' a notch further, with Iommi really churning out some titanic riffs. There's a Dio era feel to 'The Shining' giving a taste of what the band would have sounded like if he had remained in the band. The keyboards are always present, but never dominating, adding that power metal element. The album has nothing in common with vintage 70's Sabbath, but Iommi's riffs keep it familiar, his solo in 'Ancient Warrior' one of his best of the period, showing the variation in his playing. The faster tempo of 'Hard Life To Live' is more agreeable, the highlight being some chugging riffs of the traditional metal variety. 'Glory Ride' has a huge and bombastic sound, suiting the epic nature of this album, with the drums positively booming. 'Nightmare' was supposed to be for one of the 'Nightmare On Elm Street' films but ultimately wasn't, a slower, grinding track which is more like the Sabbath of old, with the keyboards not as obvious. Acoustic instrumental 'Scarlet Pimpernel' leads into the numbing heaviness of 'Lost Forever' which is completely owned by Iommi, his riffs once again the saving grace. The title track is an attempt at classic Sabbath doom, very slow and deliberate, Iommi pulling out some early 70's riffs to keep the purists happy.

In Summary
To Iommi's disappointment the album failed to sell and even he admits the fans were probably confused and disillusioned with all the changes in the band. It didn't stop this from being a solid release in an uncertain time and I prefer it to 'The Headless Cross' and 'Tyr' from the initial Martin era. It's undeniably heavy as Sabbath were expected to be, but with some of Iommi's best work, which is saying something. At that point he was the only one holding it all together, so his efforts needed to be special, which they were here.

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