Black Sabbath - Seventh Star / Eternal Idol 2010 Re-issues - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Black Sabbath - Seventh Star / Eternal Idol 2010 Re-issues

by Miz DeShannon Rating:2 Release Date:2010-11-01

Trying to review an album by one of the most iconic rock bands of all time is pretty hard to say the least, never mind when half of the songs have been re-sung by replacement singers and there have been countless other Dynasty style line-up changes. We all know that bands develop, move on from their original sound, learn new things, take on new people. You might think though, that a band that has such a great history would undoubtedly be amazing despite these changes happening to them. Quite the opposite with Sabbath's 1986 Seventh Star; the songs reek of a band, or the one remaining original member rather, clinging onto the remnants of a reputation which was an integral piece of music history, after years of turmoil between members coming and going before they had chance to tour what they had recorded, and battles with labels spoiling what the band's intentions originally were.

The Dio years were hard enough for fans, listening to a total change in the vocal dynamic after Ozzy's departure, but still remaining members of the band kept the fire and spirit alive into the 80s through albums like Heaven & Hell and Mob Rules. Seventh Star landed in 1986, at a time when everyone had jumped ship and Tony Iommi was effectively going it alone with nothing but the reputation of Black Sabbath. After seemingly more disruption in the Sabbath camp than ever, the album was eventually released under the name 'Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi', after Warner Brothers refused to release the music as an Iommi solo project. With Glenn Hughes (former Deep Purple vocalist) fronting the band, again Sabbath had reached another turning point in their sound.

Enough of the rock family tree, and down to the album itself then. Mid-80s hair rock, dad rock, cock rock or whatever people call it has never been the best type of rock for some. But there is good and bad; you can see the irony in some bands like Warrant and Poison, or maybe the shallowness of songs from Whitesnake and Cinderella. This album is just all wrong for being taken seriously as any kind of rock sound though. Songs like 'In for the Kill' and 'Turn to Stone' are simply drab, an awfully generic 80s rock, while 'No Stranger to Love' has a massive Floyd intro and lacks any other kind of attraction to it.

After plodding along through 'Sphinx (The Guardian)' and the album's title track, which has more generic and uninventive melodies and riffs, 'Danger Zone' sounds just like a Judas Priest take-off, and Hughes' weak vocal makes matters worse on 'Heart Like a Wheel'. 'Angry Heart' would be, comparatively speaking, probably the best song on the album if one has to be chosen, but it still sounds half-hearted, with some good riffs but some awful ones too. And to finish the album off nicely, a droning ballad in the form of 'In Memory'.

Seventh Star has a 2010 re-release 'bonus disc' - a collection of new and old Sabbath songs, recorded at Hammersmith Odeon in London, on June 2 1986, with Ray Gillen performing vocals, including on songs from the Dio years. It's nice to hear tracks like 'Mob Rules' and 'War Pigs' again. It does feel a shame that they're not up to scratch though, with Iommi struggling through some of the solos and Gillen's voice making songs sound somewhat like a karaoke version of the original. Judging the crowd noise on a live album is usually a telling sign of whether it was a good gig or not. Crowd noise on either end of 'Danger Zone' and 'Seventh Star' is pretty non-existent in comparison to when 'Black Sabbath' is introduced. You can tell which end of the band's career the fans even then were appreciating more.

There are mismatched guitar harmonies, screeching vocals and tacky shredding moments - not what you'd think of, really, from such an iconic band. But then again, it's not the iconic band, it's what was left of them, and a messy album is unsurprising after such organisational trauma. The bonus disc also has interviews with Tommy Vance from The Friday Rock Show, which are basic but an insightful chat about the origins of the band, their history in blues-orientated music, and other random facts. The only truly attractive part of this album, and only on the re-release, is an original recording of 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' with all its original sounds, rough recording noise and un-produced edginess.

The rather boastfully titled1987 album The Eternal Idol, with Tony Martin vocals (the longest serving vocalist apart from Ozzy Osbourne), is marginally better than Seventh Star. Despite being from the band's hometown of Birmingham, Martin has a distinctly American sound to his voice though, making quite sure that Sabbath have moved away from their original sound. There are some better parts to this album, nice guitar intros ('The Shining') and some dirty, fuzzy riffs ('Glory Ride') but there are also real downsides in the cheesy vocals and generic, lacklustre hair rock sounds of songs like 'Ancient Warrior', 'Hard Life to Love' and 'Born to Lose'.

Strangely, 'Nightmare' has a distinct touch of Whitesnake about it (David Coverdale had a short stint in the band too), but some overdubbed laughter in the middle puts you off any chances of liking the song. There's a good acoustic sound to the guitar harmonies on 'Scarlet Pimpernel', the album's instrumental track; maybe the key here is to lose the screechy vocalist, but its back again on 'Lost Forever'. The final and title track, 'Eternal Idol', is probably the best of the album; it's got that thudding grimy sound from the early years of Sabbath. As with the rest of the songs though, it's lacking in that 'something' a band should have which makes for great listening material.

Maybe that 'something' is learning to quit whilst you're ahead? The part of these re-releases that was really to be looked forward to - previously unheard Ray Gillen sessions of The Eternal Idol album - didn't arrive in the post.

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