We all know the deal, Black Sabbath, the pioneers of heavy metal have returned with their first album featuring the inimitable Ozzy Osbourne since 1978’s Never Say Die! We know that Bill Ward has sadly dropped out of the reunion and that Rage Against The Machine’s Brad Wilk has taken his place, a suggestion from the album’s producer Rick Rubin. The question is, is 13 any good?
The answer, quite simply, is yes, pant-wettlingly so. From the gigantean pomp of The End Of The Beginning to the dark, moving final flourish of Dear Father, Black Sabbath deliver a record that so many thought they never could.
Recorded in both California and Warwickshire, there was a lot of doubt surrounding this album before it’s release. Bill Ward’s exit from the reunion only heightened those doubts. The Rubin/Sabbath relationship is one that has been tried and failed before in the form of two lacklustre tracks on the 1998 album Reunion. Above all, the band aren’t getting any younger and many felt that whatever it was they were brewing could never live up to the material from the bands 70’s heyday.
Rick Rubin was keen to get the band back into the mindset of their first album, he even had them listen to their self-titled record over and over. As such, Ozzy was encouraged to drop into the lower octaves that made songs like Black Sabbath and NIB so heavy and so demonic. The result is an overwhelmingly brilliant one, he sounds the best he ever has. On Live Forever he is at his most contagious, it sounds like classic Sabbath, as if its 1973 all over again.
Iommi meanwhile, reclaims his crown and throne as the undisputed king of riffs. Age Of Reason proves just why, chock full of incredible riffs, piercing lead work and enough melody to make a grown man cry, any doubts about the album are hereby quashed, crushed and laughed at.
Every single track just keeps on getting better, leaving you in complete awe. Loner sees them getting into their signature, unmistakable groove and leaves you nodding your head and tapping your feet. Zeitgeist is a lucid, acoustic led track, complete with a heartfelt clean guitar solo that is oozing in beauty.
What has always made Black Sabbath so special is that they are so much more than just a heavy band. Yes, they are heavier than a bus of rugby players, but they never stray from melody. These are catchy, infectious songs. It is this band’s attention to detail, their determination to combine the two that has made them one of the most revered and influential bands in the history of heavy music. Dear Father is damning evidence of that. Driven by a typically doomy, jittering riff, it’s chorus tones things down. It is truly mesmerising.
Unfortunately, Methademic, a punky monster of a song, played with a feral energy is only available on the deluxe edition, which, of course, will cost you more. However, with Piece Of Mind and the grooving, hip-shaking Paraih also included, it is well worth the extra few quid.
It is a stellar album, up there with their finest work. Many predicted the record to be a failure but the critics have been proven wrong in tremendous fashion. This is Black Sabbath, Paranoid and Master Of Reality all rolled into one, modern, package. To sum up in one word, the record is flawless.
Black Sabbath are:
Ozzy Osbourne – vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitars
Geezer Butler – Bass
Brad Wilk – Drums