It is indeed a joyful turn of events to look at the release calendar in 2013 to see that a new album from Black Sabbath is scheduled to be released. Of course, those true believers amongst us know that Black Sabbath continued to release quite a rich and diverse range of albums post Ozzy Osbourne with their most recent album Forbidden being released in 1995 and featured Tony Iommi on Guitar, Tony Martin on Vocals, Neil Murray on Bass, Cozy Powell on Drums and Geoff Nicholls on keyboards and was produced by Body Count guitarist Ernie C. This was indeed a very different Black Sabbath to the one that people knew and love but the fact that this was the bands 18th album overall goes to show the dedication to the evolution of the band by Tony Iommi.
In 1997 the Ozzy Osbourne line-up re-united for the first time proper since Ozzy was fired in 1979 (this line-up had two one off reunions in 1985 and 1992 but 1997 saw them re-unite proper for a string of live shows). This reunion spawned a new live album released in October 1998 featuring a concert recorded at the Birmingham NEC and it also featured two brand new studio tracks called “Psycho Man” and “Selling My Soul” which lead everyone to wonder if a new album was in the works.
For the years since this initial reunion the band has played under this line-up numerous times and there were always rumours of a brand new album being recorded. In 2001 the album sessions with Rick Rubin were brought to a halt by Ozzy Osbourne who had to return to his solo career. Since that point it has been reported and rumoured that this album would one day see the light of day. In April 2007 the band released a special compilation focussing on the Dio years of the band and Iommi re-united the Dio led line-up of Black Sabbath but due to legal issues had to tour the world and release a new album under the name Heaven and Hell. Although released under Heaven and Hell all the true believers will tell you that this is a legitimate Black Sabbath release and when you hear the album it is hard not to hear just how vital a record it is, absolutely brilliant stuff.
The idea of a new Ozzy Osbourne era Black Sabbath studio album still haunted the landscape and after being both the best and worst kept secret of the 00’s it was announced in November 2011 that Black Sabbath would be re-uniting its classic line-up to record a new album and tour the world. Some hurdles presented themselves along the way (Bill Ward not wanting to continue due to not seeing a signable contract and of course Iommi’s battle with cancer). Fast forward to the 13th January 2013 and the band announces that it will release its brand new Rick Rubin produced studio album “13” in June 2013 and that Brad Wilk (RATM and Audioslave) had handled the drum duties for the recording. It would be the bands 19th studio album under the Black Sabbath name and the band’s first with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals since 1978’s Never Say Die chalking up a gap of 35 years between releases.
The first single from the forthcoming album is titled “God Is Dead?” and was released on 18th April 2013 and is a wonderful taste of what is to come.
So how does “God Is Dead?” sound?
Exactly how Black Sabbath circa 2013 should sound, full of modern doom rock dynamics and a dedication to still being progressive. On the surface the song does indeed follow a certain template that we’ve come to know and love from Black Sabbath but this is not a feature that disappoints or causes the song to suffer. It still is full of life and jumps out at you with Ozzy’s progression as a singer on full display. His years of solo work clearly have influenced the melodic direction of the vocals and on occasion you can hear a nice blend of the Sabbath template with his solo work. All in all the star of this song is Iommi who piles on some truly brutal riffs and shows us he’s still able to present fresh slabs of doom through his guitar playing. A big tick of approval to Brad Wilk who pays tribute to the Bill Ward sound quite respectfully to the point where you’d think that Ward himself was playing that kit. Wilk’s playing locks in beautifully with Geezer’s bottom end which as always adds an extra degree of depth to Iommi’s riffs.
All in all this is a song for the fans and the true believers and is not about winning over new fans. It certainly has the potential to grab a new generation of fans but I suspect will only act as a bridge to the wonderful established discography on display by the band. I love it quite a bit and can’t wait to hear this song in the context of a full album. I believe that it will be one of my favourite albums of 2013 and that fucking thrills me to no end.
10 Cassette Tapes Out Of 10
Listen to “God Is Dead?” here
“13” by Black Sabbath is available from June 7th 2013
By: Dan Newton