Saturday, June 15, 2013

Black Sabbath - 13 (2013)

So, it is finally here. After 35 very long years, the original Black Sabbath (minus Bill Ward) is together again with a new album. And to be honest, even though I was thrilled that the original band that more or less founded heavy metal was back, I still was unsure on how the music would sound like. I mean, after all the turbulence that has happened before this release (the contract issues with Bill Ward, Tony Iommi's cancer and Ozzy's alcohol relapse), I was wondering how that would affect the music. Then I was also wondering how Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine) would take on the near to impossible mission of replacing Bill Ward. So it was with fear, curiosity and anxiety that I took on Black Sabbath's  19th release entitled "13".

So let us start with how the band itself sound. I can agree with a lot of fans that Rick Rubin's production is not only good, but too good. Black Sabbath sounds best when the production is a little dark and rough, so the production on "13" takes away some of the magic. But I will give Rick Rubin this, he did not change the typical Black Sabbath sound that we all know and love. The guitar is dark and heavy, the bass is loud and Ozzy's voice may be weak, but it sets the mood perfectly. And the drums? Well, Brad Wilk is doing a swell job behind the kit, but it is still not the same without Bill Ward. Brad tries to play like Bill would probably have done, and he is close, but it is like listening to a tribute band. He can try all he want and put his whole heart out, but he will never reach the same heights as Bill did. Still, I give Brad Wilk a thumps up, because it still sounds good and it is obvious that he had a good connection with the rest of the band.

The album starts with the two longest songs, "End of The Beginning" and "God Is Dead?". They may be slow and some what uneventful, but they make it up with the heavy atmosphere and the classic Sabbath sound is definitely there. "God Is Dead?" also has the best guitar riff in the entire album. The real album starts instead with the third track "Loner". It is a song that mixes the heaviness of Sabbath and the spiritual sound from Ozzy's early solo efforts. Think of "Loner" as a mix between "N.I.B" and "Diary of A Madman". In other words, a fusion of two classic that creates a great track.

Next, "13" takes a slower route with "Zeitgeist" (German for time spirit). I am usually no big fan of these kinds of songs since I am expecting heavy metal, not easy listening, but "Zeitgeist" surprised me. It is calm and it is a good listen at a day on the beach, so it was not that horrible. But I am glad that "Zeitgeist" was the only one of its kind in "13". "Age of Reason" is pure classic Sabbath with a sluggish starter that later develops into a groovy onslaught that makes your head rock back and forth. And let us not forget that typical "aw, yeah" from Ozzy that appears from time to time in this track. "Live Forever" is one of the faster songs on "13" and it is a listenable piece with its rolling guitar riff and interesting song structure, but they could have done more work on the boring chorus. That chorus gives the song a "go-stop-go" sensation, which is not pleasant. The remaining two songs on this album, "Damaged Soul" and "Dear Father", are sure too be appreciated by the Black Sabbath community, but for me, they were blended in to the rest of the songs too much to make them stand out. They are fine songs that closes this album in a good way, but there are finer moments on "13".

There is also three additional songs on the deluxe version of "13" and out off the three, it is without a doubt "Methademic" that is the best. It is the fastest song on "13" and together with some heavy riffs, a Ozzy on the edge, the groovy bass doing its job in the background and Brad Wilk doing his best drum beats in the entire album, we got ourselves a killer song. Add also the interesting lyrics that is sure to be inspired by Ozzy's relapse onto alcohol and the band's previous use of drugs. Together with "Loner", "Methademic" is my clear favourite from "13". The other two songs, "Peace of Mind" and "Pariah", also helps making "13" better than what I could have ever hoped for. The evenness in "13" is impressive and the fact that the music is the classic Black Sabbath sound with a little modern touch is just magical. It goes to show that these oldies are not done in at least 5 or more years.

Finally, for those of you who expected a new "Paranoid", "Master of Reality" or "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", just get the fuck out of here. We cannot have expectations that is higher then the sky itself on "13". It has been 35 years since these guys made a album together, so it is a no brainer that it may take some time to get all the pieces on the right place, and do not forget the distractions that happened before this album probably contributed to make it a shakier comeback. With that said, I enjoyed "13", and I believe that with all that have happened with the band and its members, I am going to suck everything in as much as possible. Who knows, this may, or may not, be the last album by the grandfathers of heavy metal. And if that horrible thought would come true, then "13" is a worthy closing album of the career of Black Sabbath.

Songs worthy of recognition: Loner, God Is Dead?, Methademic, End of The Beginning

Rating: 8,5/10 Zeitgeists

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