July 8, 2013

Music Review: Black Sabbath - 13

I don't remember just how old I was, but I know I was young. I was not much of a music fan yet, but I had inherited an old receiver and turntable from my father and was listening to some of his old records. Among the stacks I uncovered Black Sabbath's Paranoid. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before and I listened to it over and over again. I remember listening to "Electric Funeral" incessantly. I would later learn the importance of this band and these early recordings. Now, we have new music from these legendary creators of doom.

There is no arguing Black Sabbath's place on the history of metal music, hell, music in general. Those early releases set the blue print for so much of what was to come. To think that we would ever get an album of new material from the original lineup, well, most of it anyway, seemed unfathomable. I figured the only thing we would ever get would be the sporadic reunion concerts. But now we have it, almost. Unfortunately some contract wrangling/timing issues/interpersonal tension would ultimately prevent Bill Ward's participation, in his place Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave would step in.

Now, 36 years after their last collaboration, we have a record that features not only Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler but Ozzy Osbourne. This is Black Sabbath, I do not want to discount the amazing work they did with the late Ronnie James Dio, which is considerable, but for me Sabbath will always be identified with Ozzy.

The first thing you do not want to do with 13 is to try and compare it to Paranoid or Black Sabbath or Master of Reality. There is no way this aged band would be as fresh and revolutionary as they were in those early, hungry days. This is not a band climbing the ladder, this is a band with nothing more to prove, this is a band that is doing what it lows to do. The end result of this renewed relationship is an album that makes it sound like they never missed a beat, as if the split after Never Say Die never happened.

Is 13 a perfect album? No, but I cannot be expected to be. At worst it could be accused of starting off in perhaps too familiar a fashion with "End of the Beginning" which opens very reminiscently of "NIB." This is a minor complaint for an album that sucked me right in and held my attention for its duration, a few times over.

Thundering doomy riffs, crashing drums, the deep rumble of the bass, all with Ozzy's signature vocal style combine to create a sonic wall that is just looking to crush some heads. There is a very classic feel to the record. As once you get past the two singles, "God s Dead?" and "The Beginning of the End," and into the meat of the record, there is even more to like.

For example, try not to be mesmerized by the slow burn of "Zeitgeist" or the great riff of "Age of Reason" or the heaviness of "Live Forever." it is very easy to get caught up in this. Add in the strong soloing work from Tony Iommi and you are in for a worthy sonic ride.

I am not going to say this is a perfect album or an all time great, but there is something to be said for what is accomplished here. It sounds like old school doom and blues infected Sabbath, like something out of a time capsule, but not quite. Ozzy sounds particularly strong here, and definitely a step up from his last solo effort, Scream, but he doesn't sound like he did on Paranoid, nor should he be expected to be. He sounds better than one would expect from someone living the hard life he has. It is like putting him, Tony, and Geezer back together rejuvenated them. Although, I will say that Bill Ward's presence is missed, while Wilk holds his own, there is something about his sound that feels more modern than the rest, like somebody trying to ape Ward's sound. It is a minor not pick, but it stood out to me.

13 is a really good record that recalls the glory days while not sounding like a rehash of the classics. It is still relevant and a joy to listen to. They have proven once again just what they mean to metal and are just further solidifying their place. As of they needed to do that. Let's be thankful their love of music brought them back together for this and should this be the end of their new collaboration, be thankful it is as good as it is.

Highly Recommended.

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