GUEST REVIEW: Black Sabbath – 13 (by Uncle Meat)

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?

Sabbath LogoThe 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.

SABBATH CALM

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?

BARRY PAT 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.

Uncle Meat

BLACK SABBATH-13 SUPER DELUXE BOX

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114 comments

  1. It’s an odd sensation, commenting on a review on my blog that I didn’t write!

    I’m glad you mentioned Geezer’s bass. This is an intrisic quality to Sabbath’s music that I sorely missed on albums like The Eternal Idol. And Bill’s drums…nobody sounds like Bill. I doubt Bill even sounds like Bill anymore.

    Can’t wait to get this. I ordered it twice, once for the Best Buy bonus track and once for the official deluxe whatever-the-fuck that will probably not be appreciated enough by me. I believe it has a DVD and the vinyl.

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  2. Really interesting detailed review. Kudos! I think it’s the dull “God Is Dead” that’s dampened my enthusiasm for this one but it seems that’s one of the worst songs on the album so maybe I should just buy this and be done with it!

    And that photo… was Brad Wilk photo-shopped into that or what? Doesn’t look right.

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    1. You know I just did a google search for “Black Sabbath 13” and that picture came up. I figured I’d use it. Can’t be too many “photos” of this lineup since Clufetos is on tour…

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  3. Pretty amazing that 35 yrs and the word on the street is this selling like crazy….and is gonna debut 1 in many places …unlike the Halen comeback ADKOT which I know we love but for some goofy reason never really took off other than its debut chart appearance….

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    1. Yeah their first Billboard #1 ever. I’m proud of them for that. I’ve been a Sabbath fan my whole life so it’s like vindication.

      Halen are still out there touring at least. They got a lot of mileage out of that great album. Hopefully DLR is not being overly optimistic when he says he sees another album in the future.

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    1. Me too. I tweeted Tony Iommi yesterday to tell him mt favourite thing about the album is the guitar work (solo and rhythm).

      I’ve played all the tracks, including the bonus tracks, through just ones. Other than that I’ve only had time to play the odd track here and there. Still too early for me to write my review of it.

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    2. Thanks … i havent really played it much since .. i still recall only really loving Age of Reason and Damaged Soul .. some other good tracks, but those were the only ones i found “great” .. that could change with multiple listens though

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      1. For me right now it’s Loser and Naivite in Black.

        I find some moments/riffs on this album to be very much in the mold of Dio era. Dehumanizer and The Devil You Know era. Not that this is a bad thing, because I like Dehumanizer.

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        1. Hope you like it. I was very, VERY much into that one when it came out in 1992. I recall telling a friend that I liked it better than Paranoid. I’ve since come to my senses. I do still like it a lot.

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        2. I didnt think either Age of Reason or most especially Damaged Soul to be reminiscent of Dehumanizer … Damaged Soul sounds like nothing they have ever done before and thats why i really love the song more than any other song. Alot of re-hash kinda riffs on this album … and that is a good thing (to a point) .. but listen again to Damaged Soul’s opening guitar riffs .. and it doesnt sound like Iommi .. AT ALL!!

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        3. I’m just trying to collect up the stuff I don’t have, and they had that one for $5.99 so I tipped it in for the free shipping. It’s Dio – I’ll bet it kills. ;)

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        4. I cannot say Dehumanizer is not a good album …. But i can say it was (to me) them trying to hard to be “Heavy Metal”. They werent trying to be “Heavy Metal” at any time with Ozzy..and even with Mob Rules and Heaven and Hell.. I say . let Slayer and Metallica and Anthrax and Megadeth have their day . Black Sabbath can be Black Sabbath without trying to “Sow their Heavy Metal Oats” .. so to speak. Listen to Damaged Soul right now .. there is really nothing Heavy Metal about it. That is what i was hoping the direction of the whole album would be (In an ideal world)

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        5. I think you’re right that they were trying. Dio kind of admitted as such in interviews. “We’re back to show the grunge kids who’s the boss.” That kind of thing. It was 1992. Kiss purposely tried to be heavy too, in their own way, on Revenge.

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        6. I paid $12 for the cassette in 1992 :)

          Then $5.99 for a used CD.

          Then a stupid amount of money for The Rules of Hell box set which is now redundant.

          And finally about $30 for the 2 CD remaster.

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        7. There are two: The Rules of Hell is 4 albums, all Dio. The Black Box is 8 (plus DVD), all Ozzy. If you have that, you will have basically everything you need, because you already have Born Again.

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        8. OK. Well I really do need to make sure you realize, Born Again is the kind of “black sheep” album that has its lovers and detractors. If the price is right, see what you think. But if you don’t really like it, I won’t take it personally!

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        9. Oh man, I want that record specifically BECAUSE of that! It’s probably gonna be the one I like best. I should order it and Metal Machine Music at the same time…

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        10. No! A solid rocker! With vocals! Perhaps the most Dio-like actually.

          Tony tends to bank his riffs, I don’t know if he even has to write fresh ones. But this riff was solid! Whether it was from his bank, or new, I dunno!

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  4. Aaron . you are a Stones fan right? In Damaged Soul in the riff where the vocals start .. dont you hear a bit of Keith Richards in that? atleast in spirit? its got that dirty blues feel to me … almost like that one chord shouldnt be a chord.

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    1. Yeah, I do like me some Stones. Yep, there’s a bit there, but I think it’s in the spaces. The hesitation. Keef does that all the time, which is why he works so well with Charlie the metronome. It’s actually a nice mix of the two styles. Kinda freaky, now you mention it. I don’t think Keef would ever play anything so heavy, but I hear what you mean.

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        1. Oh not a coincidence that the harmonica comes out in that song. It is easily the song that embodies the first album on 13. And does so without being `samey`of other riffs or songs.That is a VERY good thing.

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        2. I think the first album is the one that is most definitive of their sound. Obviously they added to it later…keyboards and piano and congas…but that first album to me is the Black Sabbath sound, the one that only the original 4 could make. It’s just really perfect, unique, scary, and warm sounding.

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        3. I haven’t heard this enough to feel fully sure yet, but to me I think the biggest challenge with this record for them would have been the staggering expectations of it. Every note and move is sure to be analyzed and noted and debated. So maybe they played to everyone with it, you know? Classic-style song, a song for Meat, other stuff… I need to hear it ten more times to be sure, but it makes me wonder…

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      1. The second i heard the riff i thought .. Is that even a chord? Which is what i think alot when i hear Keith Richards play. It is what makes him a great player. Cause overall? When it comes right down to it? He is not your typical “great” player. It’s his originality that makes him great. And that riff is so un-Iommi and is unconventional especially for him. All i wanted was for Sabbath to go back to the Blues on this album .. which they do brilliantly with Damaged Soul.

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        1. Yep I just played it all the way through and it’s a great track. Another part about Keef is how much he’s steeped in the originals, all those hours spent going back and lifting all the old riffs and licks off the first generation. It informs everything he does.

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        2. Heard a 45 minute interview with Geezer and Ozzy on Howard Stern a couple weeks ago… Stern is the best interviewer of all time i believe. What a great interview. Find it on YouTube indeed. Geezer still writes the lyrics

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        3. I read somewhere that Jesse Ventura was gonna make a run in politics in the States again, and he asked Stern to be his running mate and there was interest! Imagine THAT!

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        4. To the outside world. Howard Stern seems like this crazy vulgar ass type .. and he plays that role at times. But the truth is .. you will be amazed just typing in Stern interview in YouTube as to why he is called “The King of All Media”. There is an hour Roger Waters on there you should check out. Amazing interview. Needs to be seen

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      2. I think the two players have that looseness in common. Black Sabbath, original style anyway, was very loose.

        Bill Ward used to complain that when he came back to the band in 1998, Iommi was playing the songs differently. He said this was because Iommi had been working with “precision” drummers where Ward is not that at all.

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        1. I made a comment to Tom when Ward left the project … something like this `Now they are gonna get some young guy who can do everything on the kit. When they would be better off with Bill Ward probably in alot of pain and not being able to move all that well. Would have made for more of a shuffle and a groove than a pounding`… Totally paraphrasing some of that .. but its all relevant

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        2. Martin Popoff was more concerned about the lack of Ward’s songwriting. Popoff argues that Ward is responsible for the “fucked up” aspect of early Sabbath, and yes the stuff that isn’t quite “playing time”. But if you hear some of Ward’s solo work you know he definitely used to get 1/4 songwriting credits for a reason. I don’t think anyone in Sabbath would discredit that.

          A lot of people don’t realize, Ozzy didn’t write the lyrics. He probably does now, but back then Geezer wrote them. Up until Dio joined, Geezer was the lyricist.

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        3. Interesting point … It would almost be impossible to play as sparse as Iommi did on the first album … Most especially write it … When not long after every band member was coked up 24 hours a day. Coke doesnt allow for much “space” …. lol It may have been awhile .. but i do remember that much.. lol

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  5. Yeah i hear you with Revenge. But that actually helped them focus i think. Took away the gloss. I also think the emotion of Eric Carr dying pointed them in the proper direction too. I think part of it was they were writing material that would make Eric Carr proud … and make themselves proud. Its one of their better albums of all time in my opinion

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    1. Not to get too much off topic, but you have some good points. They definitely wanted to honour Eric Carr. And funny enough yesterday I was watching an interview with Aynsley Dunbar. He was asked to audition for Kiss. He came in and played with them.

      Gene said, “Sorry Aynsley, you are great, but I don’t think our styles really mesh.” Aynsley responded, “I agree, but surely you knew that before you called me!”

      Kiss with Aynsley Dunbar would be a very interesting thing. Although I think Eric Singer is the best drummer they ever had.

      And Eric Singer of course has played with…BLACK SABBATH! Two albums: Seventh Star and Eternal Idol. Not to mention all his work with Alice Cooper, sometimes simultaneous with his Kiss membership.

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    1. It takes no effort. It’s like Spinal Tap.

      “Do you how many people have been in this band? 43 people have been in this band!”

      I can’t imagine I’d miss him any more than Ronnie Pudding.

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        1. Funny thing is .. and Mike knows this and the following points too .. That is what i do as well. And no one knows This is Spinal Tap like i do .. I saw that movie in the theater in 1982. Viewings are uncountable and it will always be my favorite movie.

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  6. “Little girl it’s a great big world and there’s only one of ….. meat” ha .. i cant hear that song without adding it … the lyrics on that album are a screenplay to itself. Think about the minds .. Rob Reiner Christopher Guest Michael McKeon. Considering All in the Family, Laverne and Shirley and The Princess Bride.. just them … what collaboration. And Harry Shearer wrote for SNL too. Ridiculous

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    1. Don’t you just love how a talk about Sabbath can lead to Spinal Tap? I mean, one of the biggest records of the year, for sure, and here we’re reminiscing about a crazy old loveable movie. Just great.

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  7. You know what would be really funny? Just thought of this now .. Since The Folksmen (Guest Shearer and McKeon acoustic) have toured .. Imagine if the Folksmen made a mockumentary ,.. and Steve Martin was a banjo player with them? How funny would that be? :)

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    1. Correct me if I am wrong, but did the Folksmen not open for Spinal Tap in the early days? I know for sure they did on the 1992 Reunion TV special. I’ll never forget that.

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        1. I have some DVD footage of them as a comedy act in the late 70’s. Different dummer and keyboardist but still Guest and McKean. Can’t remember if Shearer was on bass. They played Rock N’ Roll Nightmare on SNL I believe. Even though that is a new song on their newest CD, it’s one of their oldest songs.

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        1. I would look at them as true “Renaissance Men” .. They are multi-talented. I bet they are all good at cards .. they can probably all knit. You know …. do everything

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        2. Plus McKean is married to Annette O’Toole. That basically makes him Clark Kent’s stepdad. How cool is that?

          And yes I just tied this into Superman.

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  8. I think they draw the line to begin with. We want to be funny and musically good. They achieve that on both counts. Especially on The Folksmen stuff. Even Break Like the Wind is really a very inventive and great rock album.

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    1. What I really like is how they manage to write musical jokes. Like Break Like the Wind for example. You know how they recorded the guitar solos for that song?

      Guest went first with his solo, then in came Slash, Satriani, and Lukather. And they wouldn’t let the players hear the solo of the guy who came before them! As such the musical joke, as the song keeps getting faster and faster too, is that these solos sound like they have nothing to do with each other. It’s subtle but it’s so Spinal Tap for it to sound that way.

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  9. Paul MacLeod’s cover band Romeo Sex Fighter plays Rosanna and Africa every Saturday afternoon at The Boathouse. Incredible to watch amazing vocals like that. No one plays fucking Toto in a bar .. Cause they can’t

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  10. I am literally on the phone with Paul right now as i am typing. He just said he has put aside another Quiverleg album right now. I saw him last night at darts but wont see him before i see Mike on Saturday. Will get it to him asap.

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  11. He wants nothing for it. It is free. And one of the best albums to ever come out of this city …. let alone any other city. Its atleast 20 years old …. Paul is not on it. Its all musicians from Hibakusha except Paul . A guy named Tyler Shaw wrote the whole album .. every part .. on paper. It’s brilliant.

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