I’m a “first four albums” kind of guy when it comes to Sabbath. Though I can appreciate and rock the fuck out to Dio era Sabbath and even sport a copy of the Tyr album on vinyl that gets the occasional spin, my bread is buttered by those first four immortal documents of Brummie doom and gloom. This is as close as it looks that we will ever get to that era Sabbath doing anything together again, and by god it’s a blood pumping, affirmation of all that is good in the world.
Instantly familiar, the band ooze into the album after a triumphant “WE ARE BACK” riff on The Beginning Of The End, with two menacing numbers cut from the cloth of the original Black Sabbath song. With commanding, menacing portent they open into head banging affairs that instantly set the head nodding. Both are probably a little overlong, and the outstanding Brad Wilk is solid and hard hitting, but a lot “straighter” here than Bill Ward, Ward’s jazz influence a vacant presence. Loner is a vintage Iommi riff, and I’m still in constant awe of this man, able to come up with singular, idiosyncratic guitar passages for 40-plus years. Iommi’s riffs and those familiar nasal vocals of Ozzy Osbourne are a match made in heaven, the unpredictable Osbourne slipping comfortably across the slabs of solid guitar Tony throws around effortlessly. If this is the last Osbourne Sabbath album it’s a glorious end to it all. Zeitgeist has already been compared by all and sundry to Planet Caravan, and I can’t really add much to the critical appreciation of this glorious, tranquil sojourn through the cosmos. Age of Reason is built again on a bed of Iommi’s powerful, bluesy riffing and Live Forever is a slamming number with a stuttering, juttering central riff and a great vocal from Ozzy. Damaged Soul lays down soulful grooves and soloing, a towering highlight of the album where Wilk finally stretches out a little. Dear Father brings the cycle full circle, with thunder and the tolling bells taken from that distant, brilliant debut albums opening closing out this highly enjoyable record.
There’s a rush to place this album among the prime Osbourne catalogue, but I’m happier to keep it as a stunning, majestic statement of these men now, today as dominant musical forces. Geezer Butler as always is busy all up and down the fretboard, a true virtuoso playing in and around the heavy riffing, his lyrics still focused on good and evil on both human and cosmic scales. As mentioned, Tony Iommi is still God of Riff Town, not even cancer can shake the man from chasing the ultimate guitar hook (despite already having written a good number of ultimate guitar hooks). Ozzy handles his duties with aplomb, his notoriously patchy live performances belied by a commanding display, and Brad Wilk fills the biggest shoes in heavy drumming and acquits himself beautifully holding a rocksteady groove with Butler(check The Loner for a powerful statement), leaving Iommi’s guitar room to breath, rattle and shake. From 1970 to 2013 it’s been a glorious journey and this album begs the question is this the beginning of the end?
By: Roger Killjoy