Sound: After Tony Iommi's brief stab at a solo career with the album "Seventh Star" (which was released under the name Black Sabbath due to pressure from the record company), which mainly drew its influences from generic 80's metal, he decided to move his band towards a more epic metal sound. Gone were the sappy ballads and the bluesy vocal howls. "The Eternal Idol" thrives on solid riffing and almost power metal-like vocals, courtesy of newcomer Tony Martin (who would record another four albums with the band before his final departure).
The album is not very diverse, and about half of the album could be considered filler. Notably, the grander songs all sound more well-crafted and focused, while some of the more straightforward songs are quite dull and uninspired. Not really bad, just lackluster. The distortion is a bit too muddy for my taste, but I have to give a bit of praise to Iommi's soloing: He is on fire! Just listen to songs like Lost Forever and Glory Ride, then try to keep up with that speed using only two fretting fingers... // 6
Lyrics: The lyrics are not very good, to be honest. They're your typical, brooding metal lyrics, no more no less, and they seem to be sprung mostly out of necessity. Tony Martin did not have the time to write any lyrics, so bassist Bob Daisley had to contribute his trademark boring lyrics. He recieves an approving nod from me, though, for reaccounting Kubrick's masterpiece of the same name in "The Shining".
Tony Martin is a very able vocalist, I don't think anyone will disagree with me on that. However, it's easy to tell that this album was written with Ray Gillen in mind rather than the former. On songs such as the title track, which almost sounds like Candlemass or even old Sabbath with its dark riffs, he sounds misplaced and really quite annoying at times. But on certain tracks, such as The Shining and Glory Ride, his high and bright multi-octave voice sounds excellent. Considering the chaotic circumstances under which this album, his performance is quite admirable, though Martin would do a lot better on his subsequent Sabbath albums. // 5
Overall Impression: Some Black Sabbath fans consider "The Eternal Idol" the band's weakest moment. I do not agree with them, although it's certainly not in the same league as their true masterpieces. If I were to pick out the best songs of the bunch, I would pick The Shining and Glory Ride. The rest all range from "okay" to "good", except a few tracks which are missing the point. The arrangements could have been more interesting, with only the aforementioned best tracks spicing things up with some cool acoustics.
As a whole, the album doesn't have a lot of replay value, and I highly doubt you will be listening to it all the way through more than a couple of times. Still, it's Sabbath, and there is a wide array of individual quality riffs to be found for Iommi's disciples.
I'm giving this a weak 6, since it's slightly more than a mediocre album. Completists and metal historians need this, of course. // 6