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Black Sabbath - 2013 13

ARTIST: Black Sabbath
LABEL: Vertigo
YEAR: 2013


LINEUP: Ozzy Osbourne - vocals * Tony Iommi - guitar * Geezer Butler - bass * Brad Wilk - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 End Of The Beginning * 02 God Is Dead * 03 Loner * 04 Zeitgeist * 05 Age Of Reason * 06 Live Forever * 07 Damaged Soul * 08 Dear Father



It would be fair to say that Bill Ward's decision not to participate in the latest reunion of Black Sabbath's original lineup sucked a large amount of interest out of the first Sabbath album since 1995 and the first with Ozzy since 1978. Surely I can't be the only one who remembers the two new tracks the band recorded in 1998; 'Psycho Man' and 'Selling My Soul' both comedy metal of the highest order. The memory of those lessened Ward's absence on this album, with Brad Wilk from Rage Against The Machine the hired gun in his place. Recruiting Rick Rubin to produce the album was clearly an attempt to try and recreate the vibe of the bands 70's material and after several listens to '13' I think he captured that distinct sound mostly successfully. There was always going to be questions about Osbourne's vocals, obviously the weakest link of the lineup, but somehow he seems to have rediscovered his touch. If this is due to studio trickery it's uncertain. The lead single 'God Is Dead' has been out for a while, giving fans a good idea of what this album sounds like as a whole- some hit, some miss.

The Songs
The normal version of '13' features only eight tracks, but with a running time over 50 minutes it's more than long enough. Opening with the eight minute 'End Of The Beginning' Sabbath try to recall the title track of their 1970 debut, building ominously with Iommi's riffs and Ozzy's drawl in a manner only Sabbath seem capable. What's better is they pull it off with ease, with a timeless sound that could be 1972. Butler's bass is at the forefront and Iommi pulls off the first of many trademark guitar solos, proof the man hasn't lost a thing. 'God Is Dead' also runs eight minutes but doesn't fare nearly as well and could've been trimmed by three minutes. The build up is interminable, with an endless succession of verse and chorus, with only some calculated doom riffs from Iommi saving it. It surges towards the climax e.g. 'Sweet Leaf' but takes far too long getting there. The opening riff of 'Loner' could almost be Dio era Sabbath, but also recalls 'War Pigs' or N.I.B'. which should automatically gain approval from those traditionalists analyzing this note for note. It's never as brutal as those tracks though, one of the biggest differences between the 70's and now. 'Zeitgeist' is a virtual rewrite of 'Planet Caravan', almost forced in my opinion, as if they had to have a mellow, acoustic track to balance the album out. 'Age Of Reason' resumes the relentless grind, not differing in tone or melody much to the earlier tracks. It's high on Iommi's tortured wailing riffs, but there doesn't seem to be a purpose, as if they're jamming for the sake of it. Thankfully 'Live Forever' moves with purpose, adding some variety to the mix and the chorus has instant accessibility, resulting in one of the best tracks. This one definitely succeeds in reliving the bands heyday, especially Iommi with his best solo of the album. The harmonica is broken out for 'Damaged Soul', another token inclusion one would think, as is the mention of 'Satan'. This is another almost eight minute dirge, which when listened to closely sounds like a studio jam, very ragged and unfocused. The drumming might as well not be there, lacking clout, with Iommi soloing endlessly, as if they ran out of ideas and told him to freestyle. Following this mishap is 'Dear Father', another overlong song at seven minutes, but at least features Iommi's heaviest riffs, with shades of 'Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath'. Again it's redeemed by a faster section and more distorted riffs, making up for the previous indiscretion. The end of the song features thunder and rain, with a church bell tolling, a bit too close to Slayer's 'Raining Blood' finale.

In Summary
Despite its various flaws, '13' gives people what they want, a dose of vintage Black Sabbath, that while falling short of the initial Ozzy era and even Dio's 80's stint, still delivers enough heaviness to earn it a pass mark. At times it sounds like the band runs out of ideas and comes dangerously close to recycling their classic songs, but that's a minor gripe as that's what most will be hoping for. The other three recorded tracks are part of a deluxe CD package and I'm willing to bet they don't differ much from the regular tracks. What is very clear is how superior this is to the Heaven And Hell lineup and album with Dio back in 2009. Even without Ward in the lineup Sabbath still have the magic which propelled them some 43 years ago. How much longer it lasts is anyone's guess, but if this is how they go out then it's a fine parting shot.

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#1 | gdazegod on June 06 2013 04:51:04
Haven't got this one yet, but eager to give it a try.
#2 | RobLynott on June 13 2013 14:00:51
Why are the bonus tracks better than some of the actual album tracks?? helpless
#3 | dangerzone on June 14 2013 20:22:13
This keeps getting better with every listen. I almost wished I'd waited a week or so more to review it because my opinion has already changed on a couple of these songs, especially 'God is Dead.' Classic heavy metal.
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