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The True follow up to Mob Rules
on 18 December 2010
Fans of Dio-era Black Sabbath should have been excited to hear The Eternal Idol upon it's initial release. Instead, there was a general feeling of, "So what?" The rotating line-up certainly didn't help the impression that Sabbath was a sinking ship at that point. The fact that Tony Iommi was the only remaining original member also didn't help credibility much. And the Deep Sabbath sound of Seventh Star (in reality an Iommi solo album, but forced to put the Sabbath name on the cover by the record company) had turned some core Sabbath fans off.
But for those who actually bought The Eternal Idol and listened to it something surprising came out of the speakers - a great album.
Going back to the style that had resurrected Sabbath's career in 1980/81 Tony Iommi came up with some phenomenal riffs, and (then) singer Ray Gillen and legendary bass player/songwriter Bob Daisley came up with some strong vocal melodies and hooks to complete the package. While Gillen left the band prior to the album's completion, Iommi recruited yet another top notch singer in the form of Tony Martin, whose Dio meets Coverdale voice was a perfect fit for the album. Martin further polished up the vocal melodies and helped create an album that is, in fact, one of the highlights of the Sabbath catalog.
From the powerful opening cut of, "The Shining," to the dark, moody closer, "Eternal Idol," this album is a classic bit of Dio-esque Sabbath. "Hard Life to Love," has a somewhat similar riff to, "Mob Rules," while, "Born to Lose," features an aggressive bit of riffing from Iommi that wouldn't have been at all out of place on the Mob Rules album. "Lost Forever," is another standout track with it's great vocal melodies and, "Turn Up the Night," or, "Neon Knights," type riff. There isn't a weak track on the album, despite the turmoil and near chaos surrounding the band during the album's production.
This Deluxe Edition is something of a holy grail for fans of the album, though, not just because of the quality of the album, but because it also features the entire album with Ray Gillen's vocals on the 2nd disc. It's fascinating to contrast and compare the two versions and hear the differences in the vocal performances. Gillen's note choices are often interesting and even puzzling on occasion. Some of the notes he goes for sound like they should be a harmony note rather than the root note. Tony Martin would streamline these vocal parts and hit the root notes for vocals that blend with the songs a little better. Both singers, however, give great performances, and I would imagine that had Gillen stuck around that his vocals would have been cleaned up and ended up a little closer to what Martin did.
It's also interesting to hear some of drummer Eric Singer's playing restored on these rough mixes. Several fills were deleted altogether from the final mix, and one song, "Lost Forever," even features double-bass drumming that was buried so much in the final mix that it's hard to hear the kick drums (and they may have even removed a beat or two from each bar in the final mix so that it was no longer a double-bass drum part - it's damned hard to hear with the kick drums so low in that final mix). This stuff is just fascinating to listen to as it gives great insight into the progress of the album and how it developed.
Bottom line? The Eternal Idol is easily the most underrated album in the Sabbath catalog, and many fans feel it's one of their best. And with good reason.