ALBUM REVIEW: “13” by Black Sabbath (Dan Newton’s Review)

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I’m a massive fan of Black Sabbath and although I am the first person to applaud and recommended material released after Ozzy Osbourne was fired in 1978, this was the album I’ve longed to hear since I became a fan back in 2000. Although this is a reunion the band did continue to release amazing material from 1978 to 1995 (a total of ten records since Ozzy was fired) with an array of different singers (including Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes and Tony Martin), drummers and bass players with Iommi being the one constant. There is of course the amazing album “The Devil You Know” which was released in 2009 that was the Dio era line-up playing under the name “Heaven and Hell” (due to legal reasons) that once again stands as a wonderful tribute to the Sabbath legacy. All of this however was overshadowed by the main question of whether the band would ever re-unite with Ozzy Osbourne and release a new album. In 1997 this finally occurred and after only releasing two new studio tracks via a live reunion album it became a sixteen year on / off relationship with the rumours of a new album always surfacing every other month. This all changed in November 2011 when it was announced that the band would be mounting a massive reunion tour and also be releasing a new Rick Rubin produced album. It was the kind of news that Black Sabbath fans had been waiting for and finally, here it is.

There is so much joy exploding from the new Black Sabbath album “13” and that is all I wanted from this record. I wanted to hear those Iommi riffs trickle all kinds of sludgy doom with the magic bottom end of Geezer Butler shaping the groove and giving the proceedings some jazzy swing and finally I wanted to hear that pain back in Ozzy Osbourne’s voice, I wanted to hear him sing about despair once again. The best evolution for Black Sabbath at this point was to stick to the template that made us all fall in love with them but to do it in a modern context. Through doing exactly just that Black Sabbath have taken more leaps into the future than before. By staying exactly the same they have sounded the freshest and after repeated daily listens I have nothing but praise for the masterpiece that is “13” and that Black Sabbath have succeeded where a lot of other nostalgia reunions would have failed, thank fuck we have new Black Sabbath music in 2013.

From start to finish this album is pieced together with the template that made the first eight Sabbath albums so special. It all plays out with such beauty and engages you the listener with a fierce dedication to the band’s sound and legacy that it’s hard not to have a smile on your face the whole time. It is just so incredibly vital sounding yet there is also a hint of sadness once this record ends. Is this the last time we’ll hear the magic of Black Sabbath on record?

The final track “Dear Father” ends the way the band’s first self-titled album begins with the thunderstorm and the church bells chiming. This provides a weird eeriness that has hints of a funeral march swoon. It deeply moves me every time I hear this and when you delve deep into the lyrics of this album you can see that Ozzy is writing about the fact that he is aware that time is running out, there is a lot of musings on Death and “The End” on this record. From a theatrical standpoint it plays into the whole doomy theme of a lot of Black Sabbath’s music but this time round there is a real degree of paranoia and sadness that death is indeed a closer reality for the members of this band. It is both a scary thought and really enhances the intensity of the music.  That is where the album succeeds as a new piece of communication; you get that dread and despair circa 2013 with the band almost at times mourning the sadness that death brings and also carving out a new wonder for what does indeed “come next” both from a career stand point and a philosophical one. It is very powerful stuff and I love the doom of it all because that is what made me fall in love with Black Sabbath, the doom.

You can be a standard fuckwit about things and review this album based on its merits and relevance in the “marketplace” of new music. I haven’t got time for that kind of review because a band like Black Sabbath are so important to me and I don’t want to get scientific about this track or that track and whether this is a relevant piece of communication. For me this album is incredibly vital and whether it sounds as amazing as it does because it’s been so long in the making or because it genuinely is a beautiful piece of art depends on what kind of resonance you seek from music. I think this album is flawless and with the joy of it all comes the sorrow that the band may have just made their final collection of songs as a band and to be honest if this is the last entry into the Black Sabbath catalogue it is a damn fine one and demands all of your attention.

Black Sabbath’s “13” is a modern classic that should be worshipped by anyone who values great rock n roll. I love you Tony, Geezer and Ozzy for making such a wonderful piece of art. The powers of your riff compel me and in 2013 I’m mighty grateful to hear the pioneers still bringing all kinds of doom with their music and art.

10 Cassette Tapes Out of 10

By: Dan Newton

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