Black Sabbath: The Eternal Idol-80’s-1987.

Tony Martin
Tony Iommi
Bob Daisley
Eric Singer
Geoff Nicholls (R.I.P. 2017)

The Eternal Idol is the thirteenth studio album by English rock band Black Sabbath, released on November 1, 1987 (UK) and December 8, 1987 (USA). It is the first Black Sabbath album to feature vocalist Tony Martin. It spent six weeks on the Billboard 200 chart, peaking at 168.[6] It was also the last full album of new material by Black Sabbath to be released by Warner Bros. Records (in North America), and the final album through their original label Vertigo Records until the release of 13 in 2013.

The album cover features two models in bronze paint re-enacting Auguste Rodin‘s 1889 sculpture “The Eternal Idol”. Due to the paint’s toxicity, the models were hospitalized after the shoot. A photograph of the original sculpture was intended as the cover art, but permission could not be secured.[7]

The sleeve credits Dave Spitz as bass player, but all bass parts were by Bob DaisleyEric Singer played the drums; the percussion credit for Bev Bevan relates to a few cymbal overdubs on “Scarlet Pimpernel”.[8]

The album was originally to be recorded with Spitz and vocalist Ray Gillen. The former was replaced by bassist/lyricist Bob Daisley during initial sessions on Montserrat with producer Jeff Glixman. Gillen had struggled with recording the vocal parts according to Bob, Dave, and Geoff and management wasn’t paying him.[9] Gillen quit shortly after their return to England.[10] He later joined the band Badlands.[10] Nightmare was initially written for the third Nightmare on Elm Street movie.[11]

Tony Martin was hired and reconstructed the vocals under the guidance of Chris Tsangarides at Battery Studios shortly before production ended.[10] Most tracks were written by Tony Iommi and Bob Daisley (the vinyl version states that all songs were written by Iommi) although some lyrics were modified by Geoff Nicholls. Martin said he “only sang on, and had no part in writing” The Eternal Idol, but nonetheless “thought [it] was one of the better albums of the band.”[12]

Drummer Bevan and original Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler were hired for a 1987 tour in support of the album, which would have reunited three-quarters of the Born Again tour line-up (with Martin singing rather than Ian Gillan). However, Butler backed out on learning that Sabbath had booked dates in apartheid era South Africa. Nicholls played bass for a few shows before Jo Burt was hired. Bevan was subsequently replaced by former Clash drummer Terry Chimes, who appears in the music video for “The Shining”. (“The bass player in the ‘Shining’ video,” recalled Martin, was some guy that we dragged off the street. I can’t remember his name but he looked the part. He said that he was a guitarist. I remember he was always talking about how he was a Red Indian, thus all the turquoise he wore! We never saw him again.”[13])

“I’d like to have seen some of the stuff off The Eternal Idol be a bit more credited,” Iommi reflected to Sabbath fanzine Southern Cross, “because I think there’s some good tracks on that album – ‘Ancient Warrior’…”[14]

A three-minute and fifteen second studio outtake titled “Some Kind of Woman”, written by Tony Martin shortly after joining the band, appeared as a b-side of “The Shining” single. An early version of “Black Moon” – a song destined for Headless Cross – was released as a b-side of the “Eternal Idol” single.

The album was rereleased on 1 November 2010 in Europe as a two-disc expanded set. Bonus content includes the aforementioned b-sides “Some Kind of Woman” and “Black Moon” on disc 1. Disc 2 contains the session for the album recorded with Ray Gillen on vocals.[15][16]

Side A
1.The Shining05:58  Show lyrics
2.Ancient Warrior05:34  Show lyrics
3.Hard Life to Love05:00  Show lyrics
4.Glory Ride04:48  Show lyrics
Side B
5.Born to Lose03:43  Show lyrics
6.Nightmare05:17  Show lyrics
7.Scarlet Pimpernel02:07  instrumental
8.Lost Forever04:00  Show lyrics
9.Eternal Idol06:35  Show lyrics

One thought on “Black Sabbath: The Eternal Idol-80’s-1987.

  1. Wacke, September 15th, 2017

    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.

    Liked by 1 person

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