Black Sabbath – 13 Album Review
Black Sabbath haven’t made original music with the original line up in quite some time, but, in all honesty, they never went away; given that their pioneering metal sludge influence can be heard from bands as diverse as Slayer to Queens of the Stone Age to Black Flag.
43 years after their first record together, 1970’s Black Sabbath, the lineup, sans drummer Bill Ward, sounds as fresh as the first devilish chord from Tony Iommi’s guitar. 13 is a triumphant return for Sabbath. Mega-producer Rick Rubin has a knack for taking hugely popular artists back to their roots, see Metallica’s Death Magnetic, or the slew of later Johnny Cash records, and this record follows that formula.
13 sounds like it’s 1971…before all the drugs, band member arguments, and eventual firing of Ozzy. These are three guys from Birmingham, trying to make music that sounded like the factories they all worked in. The sound of metal…..heavy metal… The record begins with the obvious tongue in cheek title of “End of the Beginning” where Ozzy asks the question; “Is this the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end?” The song is one of the best on the record and offers the listener the signature Sabbath bluesy, thud omelette with time change half way through.
“God is Dead,” the first single from the album, offers more of the thunder cloud heaviness. The mellow, congo-infused, “Zeitgeist” is reminiscent of the classic “Planet Caravan.” Ozzy’s voice, for all the abuse it has taken over the years, adds dimension to the song, even if he struggles to reach the higher ranges, we all know what he is capable of. The song also casts light on Tony Iommi and his guitar playing. Iommi is often left off of the list of greatest axe men, but here his solos flow effortlessly over Geezer Butler’s melodic bass. Arguably the best track on 13 is “Age of Reason”, a 7 minute ditty that combines all the things we love about Sabbath including the aforementioned guitar work -listen to the last two minutes- as well as blistering drums courtesy of Rage Against the Machine’s, Brad Wilk.
With that being said, the trite “Live Forever” is a low point on a record that offers the listener a batch of Sabbath songs that hold their own against their classics. Die-hards will complain about over-production and a newer sound, but for guys that are all in their mid-60’s, and trying to live up to their moniker, 13 is a strong effort.