BLACK SABBATH – The Eternal Idol [2CD Deluxe Edition remastered + Ray Gillen sessions] HQ
1987’s ‘The Eternal Idol’, BLACK SABBATH‘s 13th studio album, was an altogether harder sounding record and brought back the band’s ‘edge’ with Tony Martin as frontman. This two-CD remastered Deluxe Edition unveils the multi-track recording rich layers plus two single B-side bonus tracks, and includes the original sessions for the album done by late shouter Ray Gillen.
The bonus disc is the entire album’s original recording with Gillen (their seventh singer) before he was replaced by Martin (their eigth). While some of these tracks surfaced in bootlegs, now the entire songs as recorded by Gillen can be heard, and in much better sound quality. Gillen was a very different type of singer, bluesier, very Coverdale-esque.
While Sabbath previous album ‘Seventh Star’ was very commercial – in fact, it’s a Tony Iommi solo album, on the ‘The Eternal Idol’ the band spread their wings in a more traditional metal backing, but still accessible and commercial – it was 1987.
The songwriting takes a (mild) step away from the easy listening that came before and works its way back into something a bit more conceptual in lyrics and sequential in musical passages. Naturally, we have a consistent disc with a pleasant makeup, loaded with hooky chops that vary greatly and clean vocals that couldn’t fit better if they tried.
What’s amazing is that there’s still so much to take away from. Even the doomy history of the band shines so wonderfully. The obvious monster in this case is the closing title track, which almost throws back to the earliest of the band’s days under an ‘80s umbrella.
“Ancient Warrior” has the booming rhythm energy and hard drum pounds with the perfect touch of crawling leads, all topped off with some of the neatest melodies this band has had since Heaven And Hell. You can get this with a blusier angle in “Nightmare,” feeling less threatening but equally stompy.
On the flip side, ‘The Eternal Idol’ has an even balance of faster paced bangers as well as more hook-laced gems. “Hard Life To Love” takes a harder stance with its powerful leads and galloping bridge, while opener “The Shining” brings forth that same accessibility on an easier note.
Some get a bit more to-the-point, and shine the vocals in a brighter way meant to capture a chorus driven number like the melodic hard rocking “Born To Lose.” “Lost Forever” is an anomaly in its ability to come so close to a speed metal tune while still fitting in so well, and that’s just incredible.
There are two extra songs on the first disc, two B-sides here that were ridiculously expensive to acquire on 12″ vinyl. Those songs, “Some Kind of Woman” and the original version of “Black Moon” (which would later be re-recorded on Headless Cross) finally complete ‘The Eternal Idol’ picture.
This “Black Moon” version is different than the recorded later, as there are no added vocals near the end of the song and not as much put into the lead guitar from Iommi. It still is an enjoyable tune and the verses give Martin room to deliver his message.
“Some Kind of Woman” seems like an answer to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” with some blistering guitar effects and theatrics and fast paced singing.
Disc two has the Gillen sessions and the one thought that prevailed was that was his album. ‘The Eternal Idol’ suited Ray’s strengths and he sings effortlessly and flawlessly. It is a shame that he did not stick around long enough to have his voice on the record.
This is by no means an affront to Martin because he does a great job on here and he is to be commended for coming in on short notice, but Gillen has more the glam image to him and lyrics about love and women seem more believable.
If there was any doubt that Ray could not conceive demons in his voice than look no further than to the title track to dispel any doubt. His voice soars in “Glory Ride” and the chorus lines seem so natural to him.
Although I think there’s one record that tops this one in regards to the Martin era, the sweet concoction that came in 1987 with ‘The Eternal Idol’ is one that deserves the more recent praise it gets. It’s another example of something being unfairly overlooked for so long. Stellar songwriting everywhere, wonderful consistency, and the mechanics of every musician is top notch.
Disc One – Original Album remastered:
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
10 – Black Moon [B-Side Of The Shining]
11 – Some Kind Of Woman [B-Side Of The Shining]
Disc Two – Ray Gillen session
01 – Glory Ride
02 – Born To Lose
03 – Lost Forever
04 – Eternal Idol
05 – The Shining
06 – Hard Life To Love
07 – Nightmare
08 – Ancient Warrior
Tony Martin – Vocals
Ray Gillen – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitars
Bob Daisley, Dave Spitz – Bass
Eric Singer – Drums
Bev Bevan – Percussion
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards