Monday, June 24, 2013

Black Sabbath - 13

For those of you hidden under a rock Black Sabbath just released a new album the first with Ozzy Osbourne  in 35 years and potentially their best album since 1975. A lot has surrounded this release whether it be Osbourne's relapse, tumult between the 3 returning members and their now estranged former drummer Bill Ward as well as the question "Is it any good?" The fact of the matter here is that Sabbath was placed into the capable hands of Rick Rubin (himself a huge fan of the band) and brought back to the glory days of the band. 13 is for the fans and is more than happy to disappoint casual Sabbath fans, while rewarding those in search of deeper cuts. Let's over analyze it a bit.

The ominous beginning of "End Of The Beginning" brings you back to 1970 and the band's first album as it draws heavy comparisons to the band's self titled song. The production quality here is modern but the musicians make it work as the guitars and drums explode as new drummer, Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine) helps you to forget that somebody else is helming the battery. Tony Iommi is a man that I have never lost faith in as he gives the band their true sound coupled of course with Geezer Butler's hypnotic bass playing; seeing as a non-Black Sabbath release a few years ago; The Devil You Know (technically as Heaven & Hell) still had all the hallmarks from the band that one would expect. The riffs hit hard and slowly with the bluesy-aplomb of the classics; showing audiences both new and old how exceptionally well this style of music has aged since its inception.

By now people have already heard "God Is Dead?" but if you haven't it is a song that is a very very slow builder and ends with triumphant riff sections chock full of the doom we can now faithfully expect. I will turn now to one of the album's shorter tracks in the form of "Loner". The lyrical content talks of a misanthropic person who is removed from society. All of this is conveyed with more of Iommi's riffing as well as Ozzy's great vocal delivery of the material and eventually a great guitar solo and one that was seemingly emulated by Cathedral's Mark Griffiths back in The Ethereal Mirror days. Another excellent track that would have fit in quite well near the band's beginning.

"Zeitgeist" is the band's way of saying we haven't forgotten our more experimental days and it is almost like a sequel to Paranoid's "Planet Caravan" a mellow track that bands like Kyuss have latched onto in the past and can be used as a psychedelic trip through space and time, well played. My favorite song may well be "Age Of Reason"; its doomy crawl and Iommi's harmonics make for an excellent trip through more history of the Sabbathian kind; it really feels like a continuation of Master Of Reality's slow doom and overall feeling. The middle section but the spotlight right in Iommi's face and the rhythm section provided by Wilk and Butler adds plenty more to the song.

"Live Forever" is a more fast paced song and features some of the best riffs on the entire album as they are stacked upon each other and become the foundation for the album to stand on. The lyric "I don't want to live forever but I don't want to die." might be one of the more personal lyrics on the entire album as it seems to sound a lot like Ozzy's life. "Damaged Soul" is more on par with the excellent doom releases this year such as Orchid's The Mouths Of Madness and Church Of Misery's Thy Kingdom Scum with doom and blues becoming one and the same, not mention Ozzy's harmonica makes its much awaited return from all the way back from 1970's "The Wizard." What is contained within this song may be one of the best guitar solos I have heard Iommi play on a Black Sabbath album; even in his 60s the man can still jam with the very best of them.


"Dear Father" brings the album to a dark and evil close and one that can be closely connected to songs "Electric Funeral," "Into The Void" and "Hand Of Doom" as there are very obviously no roses to smell after hearing this song. The main riff has the timbre of the main riff of the 3rd of the above songs and same relative pace, Geezer's bass flops around in the background and is a sound often emulated by doom bands but rarely if ever matched. The main riff returns and helps close the out the song as well as the ominous and eldritch bells that brought the band to us on "Black Sabbath" now help close out an album nearly 4 decades in the making. Unlike many big bands such as Iron Maiden and Metallica, black Sabbath has truly added something to their discography that is truly special and adds to their legacy. This is not just a new album but it is a new beginning for a band that doesn't appear to be close to stopping any time soon; for that we are eternally grateful a new classic has been unleashed upon us from one of the best sources possible.

- Tom

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