Uncle Meat is back to tell us about the new Sabbath — the standard 8 track retail version. When I get the deluxe and Best Buy editions, I’ll do my own. Until then, please welcome Uncle Meat for his insightful take on one of the most anticipated albums of the last 33 years.
BLACK SABBATH – 13 (2013 Universal)
What is your favorite Black Sabbath album? How many times do you think that question has been asked over the last 30 years or so? Before today, I would have said my personal favorite would be a tie between Volume 4 and Heaven and Hell (cop-out answer I know). Expectedly, that has not changed after listening to the long-anticipated “reunion” album simply titled 13. There is a case to be made that this is one of the most anticipated albums of all time. So does this album live up to that hype?
The true answer to that question lies within you as the listener of course. Personally, I always find that something truly great will build momentum with every listen. With that in mind, my first listen to 13 was one of pleasant surprise. It has been a long time since Black Sabbath (or Heaven & Hell for that matter) has released something that I have connected with. Even Dehumanizer, which I believe to be the last relevant Sabbath album, went in a direction that was not really what I wanted to hear from Black Sabbath. My theory is that with Dehumanizer, they were trying to “reclaim the throne” so to speak. Being overly heavy just for the sake of being heavy, and losing the diversity and groove that made them true rock royalty. It appears Rick Rubin has brought back at least some of that old Black Sabbath magic.
Rick Rubin’s legacy is almost as iconic as Black Sabbath themselves. He has been responsible for the re-birth of several artists such as Slayer, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash et al. The first thing that struck me about 13 was the bass sound. Geezer has never sounded better and is hot in the mix, complimenting and adding to every track. I also really like Tony Iommi’s guitar sound on this album. More than a few times I found myself reminded of that classic Iommi riff sound. Brad Wilk’s drums are great, and this could be nit-picking, but there is no doubt that Ward’s drum style is missed here on a few tracks. Even Ozzy gets a passing grade here but I suspect that has a lot more to do with Rubin rather than a resurgence of Ozzy’s voice. I was pleasantly surprised as well by the vocal melody lines on the album as a whole.
TRACK 1 – “END OF THE BEGINNING”
The guitar parts in the verses paint an almost too-reminiscent picture of Black Sabbath‘s “Black Sabbath”. But overall this track is strong throughout its 8:07 running time. Definitely a great start to the album. Ozzy hits some notes at the end of this song that I find hard to believe even came out of the man. Steroids?
TRACK 2 – “GOD IS DEAD?”
I was not thrilled about this song when it was released prior. Not that I dislike this song, just nothing special here to me. Next.
TRACK 3 – “LONER”
Good track. They are somewhat ripping themselves off here to be honest, and that’s OK ’cause every band with longevity does it to an extent. Main riff is VERY reminiscent of “N.I.B.”, and also Ozzy’s “Alright now” and “Come on, Yeah!” made me genuinely smile. Anyone remember Barry Horowitz? Patting himself on the back?
TRACK 4 – “ZEITGEIST”
More self-pilfering, this is the the “Planet Caravan” of the album. Don’t particularly like that song to begin with. There are more strong vocals from The Madman here though. But, still glad it’s the shortest song on the album (4:37).
TRACK 5 –”AGE OF REASON”
This track is in a tie right now with upcoming Track 7 (oh the drama!) as my favorite tune on the album. Not only are the best riffs of the album on this song, I found myself loving the progressions here. They remind me of the diverse song-writing on Sabotage, for example. “Age of Reason” also contains a CLASSIC Tony Iommi solo. This cannot be under-stated. One kick-ass monster Tony Iommi solo!
TRACK 6 – “LIVE FOREVER”
The second shortest track on the album at 4:49, this is a good little song; and a great main riff on this track. Very reminiscent of one of my favorite Sabbath songs, “Cornucopia” and even Brad Wilk seems to channel some Bill Ward in the open crash cymbal playing on this song.
TRACK 7 – “DAMAGED SOUL”
This is what we have been waiting for. This is Sabbath being Sabbath better than all the bands that try, intentionally or un-intentionally, to be Sabbath. [Wait until you see tomorrow’s story — LeBrain] This is what I want from my Black Sabbath. Doom meets gloom meets the blues. There is something wonderfully sloppy about the guitar on this song. Like a cross between Iommi and Keith Richards. We even get some Ozzy harmonica in there. Love the bridge in this song and the harmony vocals that come with it. The last third of this song is just lovely. Yes… I said lovely. Check it out. I must take back a proclamation made earlier in this review. This is my favorite track on the album. It’s that simple.
TRACK 8 – “DEAR FATHER”
The last track on the album is solid. Once again there are some great drums on this song. It builds momentum as well, getting more majestic as it goes along. The last track on the album has a very fitting ending. The track ends with the thunder, rain and tolling of the bell that started off their very first album 43 years ago.
The bottom line is this: Black Sabbath have released a very relevant album in 2013. I had my doubts if that was possible, and I am sure the presence of Rick Rubin was a big part of this being a very good if not great album. Even without Bill Ward, there is life and inspiration within 13. I find the ending of this album (hopefully) very fitting. They have made an album which will be rightly recognized as something special, and this should be the end for Black Sabbath. A glorious end indeed.
A solid 3 ¼ / 5 stars
Look for Mike Ladano’s upcoming review of the super duper extra-special royale deluxe version … containing several more tracks … coming soon.