New releases have been disappointing of late. I can’t remember the last new album I heard that not only excited me, but also inspired me. Established bands seem to have been the most disappointing of all, (David Bowie’s recent album being a prime example). I was harbouring a secret dread that the hugely anticipated new album from heavy music originators Black Sabbath would be just another let down. This was abated somewhat after seeing Black Sabbath perform live earlier this year, where two new songs were unleashed upon the rabid fans. Any further fears dissolved once I played “13” in its entirety for the first time. This album is extremely good.
The first thing I noticed while listening to “13” is that the songs are cohesive. A lot of albums these days, particularly hard rock or heavy metal albums, seem more like a collection of random songs that have no flow, but here we have Black Sabbath delivering music that seems more like an hour long suite instead of 11 separate tracks. End Of The Beginning and God Is Dead? kick the album off, setting the tone perfectly. This is Black Sabbath sounding like Black Sabbath. Tony Iommi’s riffs coupled with Geezer Butler’s lyrics, with complimentary, orchestrated drumming and wailed mournfully by The Prince Of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne. Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine proves that founding member Bill Ward’s decision to abstain from taking part in the album was not detrimental, but in fact added to the sonic template. Ward’s jazzier influence is slightly missed, but everything else about the album more than makes up for his absence.
The songs themselves sound like they are the unholy spawn of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and “Sabotage”, with Ozzy’s voice and melodies akin to “Technical Ecstasy” and his solo album “Ozzmosis”. The result is songs like Loner, which bounds along with little regard for anything in its way, and the angry sounding Live Forever, who’s riff would sit happily next to Symptom Of The Universe. One of the biggest surprises here is the amazing Damaged Soul, which features Ozzy laying down some tasty harmonica toots, and has some of Iommi’s best blues phrasing since the second side of their eponymous debut.
Other songs of note are the three songs included on the “deluxe edition”, Methademic (brilliant riff, and what a title!), Peace Of Mind and Pariah. Why these songs are not on the standard release of the album is beyond my understanding, but sadly it seems like a cheap marketing ploy. But hey, a couple of extra dollars for three songs that are better than any you’re likely to hear in a long time is nothing to complain about. Zeitgeist could be thought of as Planet Caravan Part II, and Age Of Reason features some of Ozzy’s best vocals in a long time. The standout track for me is Dear Father. Listen to this song once and then put it on again, only with the volume turned up even louder. It is everything a Black Sabbath song should be and more, looking to the future, while cheekily looking to the past (the song brings Black Sabbath right back to the very beginning in fact).
I won’t assign a rating to this album, as frankly there isn’t a single contemporary release that it can sit next to without making them look bad.
Black Sabbath’s “13” gives me a flicker of hope for sinister, blues based, riff oriented rock, something which the genre desperately needs.
Buy it now.
By Tyrone Blackman