Who could have imagined that Black Sabbath would ever reform after over three decades to record another album? When hell freezes over right? Well it must be real chilly down there right now because it has happened and 13 has arrived. 3 of the original members, Ozzy Osbourne (vocals, harmonica), Geezer Butler (bass) and Tony Iommi (guitar) are present. Brad Wilk (Rage Against the Machine and Audio Slave on drums) came in for the sessions to replace the original drummer Bill Ward. There were issues prior to the recording of the album with Ward so unfortunately it did not work. I am glad to say Wilk stepped in and did an admirable job.
I saw a video where Geezer Butler said that they wanted to make another album before they were all dead. I suppose the reality of that grim fact becomes more apparent when you are in your mid-sixties. The end result of this recording is a masterstroke of metal. As the producer Rick Rubin indicates in the DVD studio sessions, this form of music is a lost art. The same can be said of their counterparts Judas Priest. There are very few bands left that have that classic metal sound and there is only one Black Sabbath.
I pre ordered the box set month before the release of 13 and am glad I did. The set includes the two CD set with bonus tracks, a DVD of studio sessions and interviews, a gatefold two LP 180 gram vinyl set, a package of black and white stills of the band, and perhaps the most interesting and collectable item, a reproduction of the art work for the first single “God Is Dead?.” So there you have it, all the classic metal booty one could wish for. So what about the music? Let me start by saying I expected something great, and they delivered from start to finish. Rick Rubin suggested they forget everything they know and turn back the clock to when they recorded their first album. They listened. “End Of The Beginning” reminds one of the sound and style of their self-titled debut. For this listener it was instant gratification, my first thought was “They did it, they are back.” But are they? Is this a one off salute and goodbye or is the start of another run of recordings? We will find out. I tend to think things will go back to what they were once their tour is over however I remain optimistic that this adventure could branch off into some different areas of interest for all metal fans.
The subject matter of 13 is much of the same as they had always managed to discuss through their music including politics, religion, the human condition and the never ending battle of good against evil, in the case of the Sabs, the devil himself. The heavy riffs are a true deliverance of the heavy metal sound that this great band created and still can. Tony Iommi was hit with cancer in the middle of the sessions and battled his way through, god bless him. He is the master of the “riff” and as Ozzy said in an interview, there is nobody that does it like Tony. Well, there is not a band on the face of this planet that can make music like Black Sabbath.
The tracks range in time to just under 5 minutes to over 8 minutes. Yes this is feast for the ears for metal fans. Ozzy is in good form and to this day there is not a vocalist that sounds anything like him. He has his place in the hall of icons for eternity now. One of the more eye opening tracks is “Dear Father” and I am not speaking about the music, it’s the lyrics that are the wakeup call. It is obviously directed at all the child molesting men in the church and does it ever make a statement. I congratulate the band for calling out those sick individuals on the carpet. Is it time for divine retribution or will the devil claim their souls, or has it already happened? Listen to the track and you decide. Oh, and by the way, enjoy the dirge, gloom and doom of the once and returning kings of Metal.
I thought the way the album ended was in a most appropriate manner with “Dear Father,” again giving credence to one of the hardest hitting prolific songs Black Sabbath has ever written. It all fades away as the first album began with sound of falling rain and a lone church bell ringing. What a way to end perhaps this legendary band’s last curtain call. Is it the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end? I know one thing for certain, this is an amazing comeback album after over three decades of silence, proving once again that old rock stars never die and sometimes it’s more than the music that keeps them alive and playing like they were 25. At times it’s just pure chemistry and an undefinable magic that makes it all happen again. A stellar metal album and a must have for any fan of rock or metal.
Key Tracks: Dear Father, God Is Dead?, End Of The Beginning
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-Founder MuzikReviews.com
July 2, 2013