Black Sabbath – 13

September 12, 2013 in Artist Rewind, Reviews by Dagg

Black Sabbath 13

Black Sabbath- 13 (2013)

Written by Mark Nagy

Anyone familiar with my writing and my love for Black Sabbath knows that I could write a dissertation on their newest album, 13. In light of that, I’ll try to keep this as concise as I can. Black Sabbath’s last studio album, Forbidden, was an abomination, and their last album with Ozzy, Never Say Die, wasn’t much better. Perhaps in light of those two embarrassments, Iommi and company sought to close the book on a better note, and perhaps in light of previous failures, the rest of the metal community scoffed and braced themselves for another terrible idea. Strangely, when it comes to these reunion albums, I tend towards optimism, and I think that opinion vindicated itself on 13. Really though, the capability of Tony Iommi to write one last amazing record should not have been in doubt. The man deserves a fitting last chapter, especially with a recent cancer scare reminding us that the end for him might be rather soon.

For fans of the classic era, the album draws most heavily on the début, as well as Sabotage, Paranoid, and Vol. 4. The most noticeable absence of influence is Master Of Reality, and the most welcome absence is of anything that happened after 1978. Rick Rubin, as questionable as he is behind the EQ table, really strove to get Black Sabbath nostalgic, and to get them to really try to recapture past glory. The first song, “End Of The Beginning”, is so evocative of the band’s first song that one expects Ozzy to launch into “What is this, that stands before me?”. Instead, we’re treated to the stunning depth and resonance of “Is this the end of the beginning, or just the beginning of the end?”. Bravo Ozzy, you’ve struck poetic gold once again .

There’s more strong references throughout. “Loner” does indeed sound a bit like “N.I.B.” off the debut, except without the ripping bass solo. The single, “God is Dead?” however, is kind enough to give Geezer a platform to rock out a solo. “Zeitgeist” is a very blatant call back to “Planet Caravan”, and the last song, “Dear Father”, ends with the same thunderstorm and church bells that opened the band’s career. That moment is actually quite satisfying. Mixed within these more obvious nostalgia bombs are songs that, while fitting neatly into the classic Sabbath catalog, are quite fresh, including the blues-rich “Damaged Soul” and the more rocking tracks like “Age of Reason” and “Live Forever”.

The highlight track for me however, is “Damaged Soul”. The song builds on a swing riff from Geezer Butler, and the song feels very loose. This is Ozzy’s second best vocal performance on the record, (behind the heavily distorted “Zeitgeist”),  and when Iommi jumps in on the main riff, it becomes incredibly heavy. It’s also where Brad Wilk proves he’s got more credibility than what he earned in Rage Against The Machine. In fact, his style is a near-perfect imitation of what I could imagine Bill Ward playing on this track. The song even has a large harmonica presence, in form with the band’s classic from the debut, “The Wizard”.

Even if Ozzy’s voice needs a lot of studio help, I’m very pleased this album exists. For whatever reason, Tony Iommi has always had his best material reserved for Ozzy, and even though I’d rather have Bill Ward on board, Brad Wilk does an admirable job in imitation. The album’s imaginary Side B has my personal favorites, with the Sabotage-inspired “Live Forever”, the thickly bluesy “Damaged Soul”, and the very skilful closing piece, “Dear Father”.

4.0 // 5