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REVIEW: Black Sabbath – The End (2016)

NEW RELEASE

Scan_20160330BLACK SABBATH – The End (2016 BS Productions)

As a Black Sabbath fan since I was old enough to be a Black Sabbath fan, I have amassed a huge collection of official and unofficial Sabbath recordings.  With the exception of one Japanese bonus track (“What’s the Use” from Cross Purposes), I can happily say I have everything the band has ever officially put their name on.  The End has proven to be one of their most difficult albums to acquire, because Sabbath insisted on selling it at their concerts exclusively.  (At least until the inevitable reissue with bonus tracks.)  With only one CD, eight songs, and no booklet, it’s hard to justify a $30 selling price.  Additionally, many concerts were sold out of the CD, because of people buying multiple copies for re-sale.  The proof is on eBay and Discogs.

Thankfully, a fine gentleman known to his friends as James went to see Black Sabbath on a whim on their Calgary date.  He exited the arena with three copies of The End, but none were for re-sale: One for him, one for our buddy Aaron, and one for me!

Ever since the release of the terrific album 13, the band teased that they had plenty of extra material to perhaps do another LP.  It turns out, they had recorded at least 16 songs that we know of for 13.  There were eight songs on the album proper, and an additional four on various special editions.  The End contains four more from the sessions!  Four songs isn’t enough for a whole new album, so for added value, rare live songs are included.  None of these have ever been on a live Sabbath album before.

Sounding something like an outtake from the not-Sabbath album The Devil You Know, “Season of the Dead” has the slow crawl that has become a Sabbath trademark.  A chugging, biting riff and a slightly psychedelic melody are the pillars, but like Sabbath of old, it twists and turns into different parts.  “Season of the Dead” is a grower, but it certainly does sound like Black Sabbath and nobody but.  Doom, gloom and slinky bass.  “Cry All Night” starts as a slow Sabbath crawl but then immediately transforms into a mid-tempo stomp.  These Iommi riffs are by no means leftovers.  Can you imagine what he still has in the vault?  (Note:  Tony Iommi really does have a vault where he keeps all his riff tapes.)

Studio drummer Brad Wilk really stands out on “Take Me Home”, as a precise and hard-hitting player.  The monolithic riff he compliments is simple but effective.  Meanwhile, parts of Ozzy’s vocal melody are reminiscent of his song “Fire in the Sky” from 1988’s No Rest for the Wicked.  Tony’s Spanish guitar solo is a delicate icing on a very heavy cake.  The final studio track is “Isolated Man”, a different and interesting experiment.  At its core it is still a heavy-riffed Black Sabbath refrain, but Ozzy’s vocals are purposely mixed back and heavily layered for effect.  The result is something very much like the oddball shit that they used to do in the 70’s.

Each one of these “new” songs is going to take time to fully absorb.  They are not immediate, but neither was all of 13.  Even without Bill Ward, they managed to rebuild the sound they had 40 years ago, and that’s just grand.  13 easily could have been a full double album, consistent and heavier than fuck, had all 16 songs been included.  It also would have been an overly long ride of doom!

The live stuff is well recorded.  Ozzy doesn’t sound too lively on “God Is Dead?”, but that tends to happen when you read the words off a teleprompter.  He was in good voice that night in Sydney, maybe even great!  It’s great to have “God Is Dead?” in live form, but it only really cooks from time to time.  Oldie “Under the Sun” (from Vol. 4) has long been one of my favourite Iommi riffs.  It’s great to finally have this in live form; it’s just too bad it lacks the swing of Bill Ward.  That is not a swipe at Tommy Clufetos, a great drummer who has done very well under difficult circumstances.  Of the many drummers that Sabbath have employed over the years in the absence of Ward, Tommy has been one of the best fits for an “original” sounding Black Sabbath.

Jetting off to Hamilton Ontario Canada, “End of the Beginning” serves as a main course of doomy metal.  The crowd is clearly into it, as Ozzy gets them riled up.  This track works better live than “God Is Dead?”, being much more peppy and headbang-worthy.  Here is my only beef:  I noticed during one of Tony’s solos that there was rhythm guitar.  Looking at the back cover, keyboardist Adam Wakeman is also credited with additional guitar.  Black Sabbath has always been a single-guitar band, and I definitely noticed this unfamiliar sound.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Sure, it sounds more like the album, but it sounds less like the live Black Sabbath that I loved.

Of course Ozzy has to remind the audience that he loves them all!  “God bless you all, thank you!” he says, showing gratitude for a #1 album in Canada.  “Age of Reason” sounds like a crusher live, and certainly epic enough to act as a closing track on the final Black Sabbath album.  Even if it wasn’t epic, it was a new Black Sabbath song recorded for posterity and now in the collection forever.  That’s enough for this guy.

I am not sure how a $30 price tag is justified, but I have paid more for less.  The score for this review is completely independent of the price.  You’ll have to judge for yourself how much you’re willing to pay.  $30 is high for four new songs and four live songs.  Be that as it may, eBay prices are stupid.  My advice:  Grab it for $40 or less, or sit tight and wait and see if it’s ever reissued.  Final Black Sabbath album?  Perhaps, but expect plenty of Sabbath material to buy in the future.  Up next: deluxe editions of Headless Cross and Tyr!

4/5 stars

Scan_20160330 (2)

 

 

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – 13 (deluxe, Best Buy, all 5 bonus tracks)

BLACK SABBATH – 13 (2013 Universal deluxe, Best Buy, and Spotify editions)

Last year, Uncle Meat gave us his detailed review of Black Sabbath’s 13.  (His rating:  3.25/5 stars.  Check out his full review for the scoop on the first CD of this metal monolith.)  Having had almost a year to live with it myself, I think it’s time I got around to reviewing the songs he didn’t:  the bonus tracks!

The deluxe and Best Buy editions have “Methademic,” “Peace of Mind,” and “Pariah.”  “Methademic” is cool for being a fast-paced heavy rocker, something I associate more with a Dio kind of sound.  It’s a good track, good enough that Sabbath play it live.  Geezer’s got a serious groove going on with the bass part, and Brad Wilk is playing with furious drive.  You wouldn’t consider this song to be as good as any on the first CD of 13, but it’s a great bonus track.

“Peace of Mind” is of equal quality to “Methademic.”  This time Sabbath have gone back to doomy, but Ozzy’s vocal melody takes it to a special place.   All it’s missing is that looseness that only Bill Ward could provide.  It sounds so authentically Black Sabbath, but if you concentrate on the beat, you can hear that the loose swing of old is not there.  Having said that I enjoy “Peace of Mind” very much, especially when it picks up after the 2:15 mark.

My favourite of this trio of songs is “Pariah.”  It occupies a mid-paced groove which chugs along nicely.  Tony has a couple cool riffs in it, but once again Ozzy’s vocal seals the deal.  Tony’s guitar solo is icing on the cake.  I love when he has a chance to slow down and play bluesy, as he does here.

Japanese fans, and Best Buy shoppers have their own exclusive bonus track, and it’s the one with the best title:  “Naïveté in Black.”  You have to love that.  This smoker is similar to “Time Machine,” from Dehumanizer.  I don’t know why a song this good was left to Best Buy, because it’s better than the other three.  It’s definitely unique among the 13 songs for sounding more like Dio-Sabbath than Ozzy-Sabbath; perhaps that’s the primary reason.  Count me as a big fan of “Naïveté in Black.”

Finally even Spotify have a bonus track, which is “Dirty Women,” live.  This is with Tommy Clueftos on drums, from the same show as the recent Gathered In Their Masses live DVD (but not the CD).  I am fortunate enough to have an excellent quality copy of the song burned to a CD, the perfect final bonus track to 13.

But that’s not all folks.  With the deluxe box set edition, there’s a DVD as well.  There is a brief documentary about the reunion and recording of the new album.  There are quite a few humorous moments, but I do not consider this to be much of a bonus.  All this stuff is available for free on youtube.  I don’t value a physical copy of something like this as much as I value a physical copy of a song.

Best moment:

Fan – “I came all the way from Croatia!”

Ozzy – “Where the fuck is that?”

The deluxe set is large and very nice to look at, but I considered it sparse in terms of worthwhile goodies.  There are lots of large glossy photos, but they’re not up to handling repeatedly.  There’s a print of the “God Is Dead?” single art, a 2 CD set (minus “Naïveté in Black”), and 13 on double 180 gram vinyl LPs.  Everything is lovely and fragile.  There’s also far too much room in the box itself for everything, so things move around inside.  That’s a bit of a design flaw just to save on some extra cardboard packaging.

The Best Buy set came with a T-shirt, which I have kept in-package.  You can find pictures of both versions below.

4.5/5 stars (for 13 as a whole)

Best Buy:

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Deluxe:

 

 

 

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Live…Gathered In Their Masses (CD/DVD/Blu-ray box set)

NEW RELEASE

BLACK SABBATH – Live…Gathered In Their Masses (2013 CD/DVD/Blu-ray box set)

Any time a classic rock band releases new music and goes back on tour, there has to be a live album to go with it these days.  Actually, to be more accurate in the current age it’s more likely to be some kind of CD/DVD combo pack.  This deluxe of Live…Gathered In Their Masses contains 1 CD, 1 Blu-ray, and 2 DVDs.

The visual program opens with a collage of pre-gig ritiual.  The band arrive, and get ready in their own dressing rooms, the cameras offering a brief intimate glimpse.  Before too long, the air raid sirens of “War Pigs” brings us to the stage.  The Blu-ray looks absolutely gorgeous.  Every line on every face is visible, every grain on Tony’s Gibson SG, and the stage is gorgeously lit.  It’s a beautiful disc to watch in 1080p.  I couldn’t help myself; I sat there playing air drums, and putting my hands in the air when Ozzy commanded.  It was fun!

Ozzy hops about, but most exciting visually is unofficial member Tommy Clufetos.  I wonder if it’s intentional, but he definitely resembles a young Bill Ward circa 1976 (as long as he keeps his shirt on).  And Tony?  He smiles, a lot.  You would too if you’ve been through what he has I imagine!  Ozzy’s already dumped a bucket of water over his head before they get to the second song, a sludgy “Into the Void”.  I think the temptation is often to play this song a little faster live, but this version is very much in pace with the deliberately slow original.

My cell phone ring tone these days is that riff from “Loner”, one of the best songs from 13.  Unfortunately, the fact that this is a new song means Ozzy’s rivited to one place on stage, concentrating on the words, glancing at the floor.  Even so, Ozzy remains a mesmerizing presence.  Another bucket of water, and Ozzy’s the cheeleading frontman again.  The bonus interview on the disc, by the way, reveals why Ozzy really douses himself in water!  (You probably don’t want to know.)  “Snowblind” then erupts, Ozzy hitting the high notes with cracking but real voice!  (That’s the part that counts.)  Tony’s extended guitar solo is a stunner in itself.

The rain and tolling bells of “Black Sabbath” sound great on blu-ray, though I was hoping to hear more stuff going on behind me in the 5.1 mix.  “Black Sabbath” is the standard workout, no surprises here.  Likewise, “N.I.B.” is very much the traditional Sabbath version, even down to each note of Tony’s solo.  Ozzy somehow manages to still be menacing behind the mic.  “Methademic” is one of the new songs again, but oddly it’s a only bonus track on the deluxe versions of 13.  This is a song that resembles Dio-era Sabbath and would have sounded at home on Dehumanizer or The Devil You Know.  With Ozzy behind the mic, it’s still classic Sabbath.  I think it’s a great number, only weakened live by Ozzy struggling through the wordy lyrics.

Oz doesn’t seem to have trouble with the old favourite “Fairies Wear Boots”.  His wail of “Allllllright now!” looms, and out comes the water again!  “Symptom Of the Universe” then stomps on the stage.  This is the song that Clufetos can really sink his chops in.  He’s obviously not Bill Ward, but I like his interpretation of Bill’s parts.  They’re as close to the mark as any other Sabbath drummer’s parts, if not more.  Tommy gets an extended drum solo too, during “Symptom”, not bad for an unofficial member!  Mrs. LeBrain called the solo “Sweet!”

GATHERED IN THEIR MASSES_0004A drum solo naturally suits “Iron Man” to segue into.  “Iron Man” is wooden, Clufetos unable to cop Bill Ward’s loose feel.  It’s still “Iron Man”, a song Black Sabbath have probably played live at every show since ’72, but it’s not definitive.  Only when the song gets up to speed does it become the beast it should be.  Another new song, the deliberately vintage sounding “End of the Beginning” takes over, but it’s not the song I would have chosen to play at this point of the set.  Not only is it too similar to “Black Sabbath” but it slows the set down too much so close to the end.  It does pick up, but I feel it would have worked better closer to the start of the show.

Ozzy then teases out that they will only play one more song, unless the crowd goes “extra crazy”.  This “final” song is the storming “Children of the Grave.”  The audience bounces like a wave in sync with the classic tune, led by an energized Ozzy.  I detected some clever editing here to make it appear that Ozzy is jumping around more than he actually is, but that’s video.  One pretty thing about this song is the appearance of Tony’s old cream Gibson SG, paint cracked and chipping.  Blu-ray allows you to see every scratch in the paint.

The crowd goes “extra crazy” and then Ozzy says they’ll play one more song.  It’s “God Is Dead?”, the excellent first single from 13.  Clufetos nails the stuttering drum roll, but Ozzy’s back to reading lyrics off the floor, which is distracting.  But does anyone actually believe it is the last song; that they won’t play “Paranoid”?  Of course they play it, and the riff from “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” too.  It’s the quintessential closer, ending the concert as a party, not a session of pure doom!  Clufetos and Ozzy are quite animated on “Paranoid”, and of course Ozzy reminds the crowd that they are “number one”!  I just wish Tommy would pull up his pants.  Fuck, I wish I could fit into that size!

The DVD and Blu-ray versions contain three bonus tracks.  “Under the Sun” is a nice one to pull out of the hat.  Ozzy handles the difficult vocals without issue.  How does he do it?  You can hear his voice cracking from time to time; it sounds live.  “Dirty Women” is a personal favourite of mine.  This is an interesting version.  It’s the one that Spotify have as their own exclusive bonus track to 13.  I already had an audio copy of this bonus track, but Blu-ray is cool, too.  It’s a damn great rendition of a lost classic from Technical Ecstasy.  “Electric Funeral” is the big surprise, a song I don’t think I’ve ever heard played live.  Ozzy really struggles with the words on “Electric Funeral” but it’s a treat.

Elsewhere on the disc, there are more bonus features.  I have to say the Blu-ray menu is an annoying, repeating tolling bell.  Leaving the menu running unattended for more than 60 seconds is an excersize in testing your patience.  In the bonus features, the Sabbath interview is typically low key.  You know what to expect:  a difficult to understand Ozzy, and a soft spoken Tony, with occasional comments from Geezer.  There’s not too much here in the way of revelations.  Vegetable juice and food have replaced vodka and a line before the show, although Geezer still drinks wine.  How scandalous!  I don’t know who the interviewer is, but he’s very good at getting the band involved and in good humour.

Lastly there’s a feature called “Show Day”.  This is a behind the scenes look at the goings-on in the 24 hours before the show in Melbourne.  I love it!

Ozzy:  “You know what I was looking at, the old re-runs of the Twilight Zone.”

Geezer:  “You told me that about 40 times.”

Ozzy:  “Sorry.  Trying to make conversation.”

Tony:  (Laughs.)

Even Joe Perry and Steven Tyler show up backstage.  I enjoy watching Joe and Tony chatting…what a meeting of guitar greats in one room.

The packaging for this box set is loaded with goodies.  I always enjoy some complimentary guitar picks.  There’s one here from Tony, and one from Geezer.  There’s also a replica concert ticket, setlist, and a small poster.  Nothing to get too excited about, but when you buy an expensive box set it’s nice to get these added touches as a bonus.  There’s also two DVDs included with the same content as Blu-ray.  That’s extraneous to me, I may never play them, so they’re sealed.  I don’t have a problem with that, but I do wish they didn’t edit the CD version of the concert down to fit on one CD.  I’m pleased that the CD version contains all the new songs, but for the price of this set relative to the cheap cost of a CD, I don’t know why they couldn’t just make it a 2 CD set.  That part is disappointing.  When I buy a deluxe edition, I want the whole thing on CD.

That niggle aside, Black Sabbath Live…Gathered In Their Masses is worth:

4.5/5 stars

Top Five(s) of 2013 – Part 1

No bullshit, let’s just get to the lists!  Yes, lists!  This year I asked some past contributors & readers to give me their Top Five Albums of 2013.  Some have left comments with their lists.  So let’s get to the lists — I also threw my hat into the ring!

Lemon Kurri Klopek

5. OST- Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.
Mostly for the Alan Partridge banter between tracks. Insanely funny stuff from Steve Coogan. Some decent music too. Featuring an eclectic playlist featuring the likes of; The Human League, Glen Campbell, Carly Simon, Sting and OMD.
STEVE4. TravisWhere You Stand
Quietly released in August. Solid record from the Glasgow quartet.
3. David BowieThe Next Day
I’m one of the people who like all eras of Bowie. That’s it.
2. Sigur RósKveikur
Love this band. Everything they’ve done.
1. Steve Earle and The DukesThe Low Highway
Some of the best songs Steve has written. This record is up there for me with I Feel Alright and El Corazon.

Seb

Black_Sabbath_13Sebastien, whom I first met at Sausagefest is a talented guy and you will be hearing from him in the future!  He’s a musician/ producer/ filmmaker/ Star Trek fan and we’ll be collaborating on something in 2014 for sure.   Consider this Seb’s first guest shot.

5. Killswitch Engage –  Disarm the Descent
4. Black Sabbath13
3. Philip H. Anselmo & The IllegalsWalk Through Exits Only
2. Avenged SevenfoldHail to the King
1. Protest the HeroVolition

Tom

Tom is our host at Sausagefest, and one of the Jedi Masters who helped instruct me in the ways of Rock.  Top Five was simply not possible for this rock warrior.

GHOST11. Vista Chino Peace
10. MotorheadAftershock
9. Deep PurpleNOW What?!
8. Charles BradleyVictim of Love
7. AnthraxAnthems
6. VoivodTarget Earth
5. Steve EarleThe Low Highway
4. Black Sabbath13
3. Orange GoblinA Eulogy For The Fans
2. Clutch Earth Rocker
1. Ghost Infestissumam

Meat


You guys already know Uncle Meat from his numerous lists in the past.  Please welcome back the one, the only, the man the myth the legend, Uncle Meat.  He’s submitted a Top 8 this year.  That’s cool with me.

8. MotorheadAftershock
7. EminemThe Marshall Mathers LP 2MEAT
6. Vista ChinoPeace
5. GhostInfestissumam
4. The SadiesInternal Sounds
3. Black Sabbath13
2. Sound City PlayersReal to Reel
1. Steve EarleThe Low Highway

LeBrain

NOW WHAT_0003I thought I had my Top Five nailed down weeks ago.  Then, Aaron threw a spanner in the works by giving me the new Pearl Jam for Christmas.  Instantly enamored with this sure-to-be classic, I had to re-think my Top Five.

Then, just two days ago I realized that one of my albums is a 2012 release.  But I felt so strongly about it, that I can’t take it out.  So here’s a Top Six.


6. Queens of the Stone Age…Like Clockwork
5. Pearl JamLightning Bolt
4. Alice In ChainsThe Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
3. Flying ColorsFlying Colors 2012 release
2. Black Sabbath13
1. Deep PurpleNOW What?!

I would also like to give credit to the new self-titled Dream Theater for putting out an album that caused me to rethink this list over and over and over again!

2013 was an interesting and exciting enough year that I’ve decided to do another buncha lists tomorrow!  We’ll be looking at movies, television and more.  Come back then for some bonus Top 5’s of 2013.

Oh…and HAPPY NEW YEAR!  See you in 2014!

FURTHER READING:  Check out Aaron’s 2013 lists at the KeepsMeAlive.

 

REVIEW: Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (2013)

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – …Like Clockwork (2013 Matador)

Yeah, I’m one of those jaded pricks who “only liked Queens when Nick was in the band.”  I bought the other albums too, but of those only the live CD really did anything for me.  Until now.  I really …Like Clockwork!  It succeeds completely at taking the Queens down a somewhat quieter and more mature road, while maintaining every ounce of their integrity.  They are still sometimes heavy, experimental and haunting.  But now they are almost always melodic, too.

Opener “Keep Your Eyes Closed” starts off somewhat slowly, but morphs into a bizarre Queens-meet-Alice in Chains concoction.  It’s actually the one song on the album that I didn’t like on first listen.  Imagine my delight in finding that I liked the rest of the album much more!

The most immediate song is second:  “I Sat by the Ocean”.  I put it in a category with songs like “If Only Everything”; it’s memorable on first listen.  “The Vampire of Time and Memory” is a space-age blues, but with some Queen-like moments (Queen, not Queens).  Josh’s understated vocals are classy and the keyboards create atmosphere rather than distract.

Next, the strangely-titled “If I Had a Tail” could have been released in 1981, or 1983, some time during the New Wave movement.  If I heard this on the radio, I’d think it was an 80’s band.  Only the occasional blasts of electric guitar remind me that this is 2013.  Here’s the cool thing — this track reunites the Songs For the Deaf lineup in a way.  Homme is joined by Dave Grohl on drums (who appears on several tracks), as well as Mark Lanegan and Nick Oliveri on backing vocals.

“My God is the Sun” is one of the tunes that sound the most like vintage QOTSA, and it is also one of the songs featuring Dave Grohl on drums.  It has some serious heaviness to it, as well as that stuttering, stammering Queens vibe.  All topped by the smoove as glass Joshe Homme vocals.

“Kalopsia” is a weird underwater easy jazz slow dance.  Trent Reznor duets, and suddenly its an explosive Bowie number.  Great tune.  “Fairweather Friends” has piano.  O, it has piano alright — by Elton freakin’ John!  There’s also lots of rich guitar.  It even feels Zeppelin-y at times.  Maybe JPJ rubbed off on Josh a bit?  Then things get funky on “Smooth Sailing”, but it’s a heavy funk with Homme in vocal falsetto.  Fucked-up Disco?  Sure, why not.  The guitar solo is pure noisy heaven, but Grohl’s heavy hitting keeps it in the world of rock.

Soft guitars and a whispery Homme introduce a song called “I Appear Missing”.  It’s hauntingly powerful, and dramatic. The guitar work here is incredible and intense.  It’s also perfect as the penultimate track on a strong album such as this. And when your second last song is as intense as “I Appear Missing”, then it’s often wise to end the album with something quiet.  “Like Clockwork” exists as simply piano and Homme for a couple minutes, Josh using his voice is ways I’ve never heard before.  Instruments build, and it’s a beautiful sunset-stained closer.

I don’t know what Josh was thinking in terms of the packaging.  I know he likes the colour red.  I got that part.  But all you get is a slipcase, a jewel case and a little card cover inside with minimal credits.  It says to go to quotsa.com for “extended credits”.  I paid for a physical copy, you’d think they could at least print the credits.

Musically?  5/5 stars.  With this and Sabbath already upon us, I have two contenders for album of the year so far.

IMG_00000324

REVIEW: sHEAVY – The Electric Sleep (1998)

sHEAVY – The Electric Sleep (1998 Rise Against Records)

Last time, we talked about the “moment of epiphany” when I first heard this band.  This is my favourite album by Sheavy, choice band from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.  The Electric Sleep is an intense listen, throbbing and bottom-heavy, but it’s especially striking for its similarity to early Black Sabbath.  My buddy Tom often said that this seemed like it should have been the next Sabbath album, as if Ozzy never left in 1979.  I disagreed, as I found it to be more the mold of earlier period Sabbath.  It doesn’t matter; if hearing a band that sounds pretty much exactly like the original Black Sabbath offends you in any way, then don’t listen to Sheavy.

The album opens with “Virtual Machine”, and Steve Hennessey’s distorted computerized yowl is mesmerizing.  The riff detonates, it’s a keeper, and Sheavy have kicked me in the buttocks with the first track.  “Velvet” abruptly changes the landscape to something more acoustic, atmospheric.  A Sabbath analog would be a song like “Solitude”, for example.  But then “Destiny’s Rainbow” arrives to kick your posterior again once you’re getting too comfortable.

“Electric Sleep”, the title track, recalls “Hand of Doom” from Paranoid.  “Born In A Daze” has a groovier feel.  You know how Sabbath kind of got a bit groovier on Never Say Die?  Songs like “Junior’s Eyes”?  Maybe Tom’s right, and maybe this album does sound like a followup to Never Say Die at times.

My favourite song is the stormy “Automaton”.  This one actually reminds me of early Queensryche lyrically, when they were still singing about computers and robots and other cool stuff:

If all the secrets they’ve been hoping to find,
Unlock the programs buried deep in my mind,
And am I human or just a robot slave?
They sent me here so their world I could save, yeah-ahh!

Musically, “Automaton” is also the least Sabbath-like.   The riff is swift, stout and precise, but not very Iommi, which is fine.  And there’s a cool slide guitar hook that recurs in the song which helps give it a unique sound.  This one’s a winner:  my favourite Sheavy song, period.

That’s a hard act to follow, but Sheavy do so with the mournful “Savannah…Flights of Ecstasy”.  In his best vintage Ozzy delivery, Hennessey laments the loss of someone close:

She forgot to breathe,
She forgot it was make believe,
Can’t avoid her eyes,
Never cared for long goodbyes.

If I had to compare this to a Black Sabbath song, it would actually be “Lonely Is the Word”, from Heaven and Hell.  Hennessey’s Ozzy stylings aside, musically this has the same kind of vibe…until it gets heavy and riffy close to the end.  Then suddenly it’s Vol. 4.  

“Saving Me” gets the heads banging, but “Oracle” is something else.  Beginning with a didgeridoo (an instrument that Black Sabbath definitely never used), it’s obvious that this song is a carbon copy of “Black Sabbath” itself.  The riff is the same “devil’s triad”.  Throw in some cool Jimmy Page “Dazed and Confused” wah-wah guitar licks on top and you have an idea of what this mash-up sounds like.

The album closes with “Stardust” and “Last Parade”, a duo of heaviness 15 minutes in length total.  “Stardust” itself is loaded with guitars, no less than eight players are credited on it!

I think if this album wasn’t so derivative of the original Black Sabbath, it would be worth 4.5 stars due to the sheer quality.  However, I think I have to knock off half a point simply because you can play “name that Sabbath song” for several tracks.  Although Uncle Meat says the same is true for moments of Black Sabbath’s new album 13, I’m going to give Sheavy…

4/5 stars

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