Saturday, 10 August 2013

Black Sabbath "13"

Did anybody have their doubts when Black Sabbath announced a new album that it would be a display of the same excellence that the band made a reputation of recording in the early 70s? I think a lot of people did. Even I, among the more optimistic of music fans, was on the edge of my seat waiting to hear what 34 years of separation would have done to the chemistry that Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi once had. I think when it was announced that Bill Ward would not be participating in this reunion for the ages, even more doubt was put in the minds of fans. Hell, it created quite some backlash with fans, some even boycotting listening the project altogether. It reminds me exactly of Van Halen carrying on without bassist Michael Anthony. What these estranged fans (of both bands, frankly) have to consider to themselves is this: is the absence of one member so much worse than the band as a whole never touring again?

I personally see it as no question that I’d take Black Sabbath touring arenas with a relatively unknown drummer (Tommy Clufetos) over wondering if I’d ever see Geezer or Tony perform again (We all know Ozzy will never stop touring though). And I can’t forget to mention the cancer scare that left Tony Iommi unaware if he’d live to see next year. It goes without saying, though, that it is a disappointment that only three of the four members of the classic line-up of a band that in most people’s opinion undoubtedly began heavy metal as we know it today.

The band would eventually dump Ozzy and kickstart the career of one Ronnie James Dio, and thereafter be the home of many, and I do mean MANY, line-up changes which included two different Deep Purple singers, as well as countless amounts of bass players, a good few drummers, which included the legendary Cozy Powell, and a number of other singers. In defence to the name of Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi (the only constant member throughout) never wanted the Black Sabbath name on any of the albums. After the 1983 Born Again album, which featured the classic line-up with then former Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan, Tony wanted to go solo. He gathered members which included the legendary Glenn Hughes on vocals, and recorded what he thought was going to be a solo album, only for the record company to stick the Black Sabbath name on it without Tony’s consent. Tony just basically gave in and thought something along the lines of “whatever, as long as I can make music”.

But this is an article on Black Sabbath now, not in the 80s, so let’s skip ahead. Having been officially reunited since the late 90s, the original line-up of Sabbath remained less than active after their reunion tour with their own, particularly Ozzy’s side projects getting n the way. It took some pushing, but in November of 2011 the band decided they were going to do a new album and tour. Of course after the cancer scare and departure of Bill Ward things were pushed back even more. Luckily the band, thanks to the pushing of producer Rick Rubin, eventually carried on. Bill was replaced in the studio by Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk to the reluctance of the rest of the band (especially Ozzy), but it didn’t take long for him to prove himself to Tony and Geezer that he was properly fit for the job.

Before recording the album, which would receive the title 13, Rick Rubin made the band listen to their 1970 debut album, reportedly he made them listen to it again and again and again, to remind them of their mindset from all of those years ago. This is heard indefinitely throughout the album as for the most part, the “doom” metal sound dominates the album. The opening track End of the Beginning has a similar structure, right down to the guitar riff, of the opening self titled track from the bands self titled first album. The original Black Sabbath song’s riff was loosely based on the classical composition of Mars. The riff to End of the Beginning also sounds suspiciously like Mars. The song is just over eight minutes, which is something that listeners should get used to because that’s a trend on most songs from the album (in just 8 songs, the album almost hits an hour in length). Songs such as Age of Reason and Damaged Soul carry on the doomed metal sound of the opening track.

The first single from the album, God is Dead? was played on the radio almost every minute, if you knew enough rock radio stations. Chances are you know the song well; it is VERY slow for the most part but eventually starts to speed up. It is also the longest song on the album.

I’m not sure if the band officially released a second single from the album, but I have heard the track Loner on the radio a couple of times now in the past two weeks. This is more of an understandable single. It is only five minutes in length and is not as slow as the tracks that precede it. It is the first song on the album to feature a riff that is up to Tony’s usual catchy standard. This somewhat faster pace of a song is heard on the similarly timed Live Forever.

Any long time fan of the band should be with the early experimentations of the band. I am referring to tracks like Solitude from their Master of Reality album or Planet Caravan from their Paranoid album. If you know these songs, you know that they are not your standard rock songs. They are slow, very slow, but soft. Despite being soft, they are still dark, almost evil. 13’s answer to this side of classic Sabbath is the song Zeitgeist. Almost 100% identical in structure to the previously mentioned songs, right down to the sound of sound of congas in the place of drums and the placement of the songs guitar solo. If there is any moment on the album that shows how the band has NOT lost their chemistry, it is thanks to this track.

The album ends with Dear Father, a song that follows the trend of the album. It doesn’t surpass the fastest paced moments from the album, it carries the same “doom” metal sound that is heard throughout the album, and just like classic Black Sabbath, it features Ozzy singing along with the songs main riff. I would say this was a great song to end the album with, of course on an album such as this I can’t think of any songs that would have done a bad job ending the album. One thing that absolutely must be addressed is the very end, right after the last note. What do you hear for the final forty seconds? Does that sound familiar? Listen to that, and then listen to the first thirty-seven seconds of the song Black Sabbath from their debut. Do you hear what I’m referring to?

Generally I never write about bonus tracks. The reason being that for the most part, deluxe editions of albums are different everywhere you buy them, and not everyone gets the same bonus tracks. But I am making a rare exception here because the three bonus tracks on my version of the album, Methademic, Peace of Mind and Pariah (there is a fourth bonus track that I don’t have, hence why I don’t usually talk about bonus tracks). The reason I’m making the exception is because these three tracks are practically better than the eight songs selected for the initial album release.

Methademic alone is what I would regard as the best song on the entire album, mostly because of its fast Paranoid-like pace and its pure ear drum domination. Peace of Mind is at a pace more similar to Loner, not the slowest song heard on the album, but just as catchy. Pariah, while not at the pace of Methademic, is still faster than any of the initial eight tracks on 13. I strongly getting any deluxe version of this album that you can find.

The end result of the album is terrific. Ozzy Osbourne was never the best singer. He never necessarily had talent, but he had a voice that fit the kind of music he always sang, so the fact that his voice has over four-decades of decay from singing professionally, it doesn’t seem to matter throughout. The three main men of the band sound just as comfortable together as they ever did, and Brad Wilk changes his drumming style to perfectly match the Black Sabbath sound. While it is obvious that it is not Bill Ward playing, it does sound like a Black Sabbath drummer is playing. The album doesn’t try to be current. When about 90% of bands attempt at sounding like they used to and not sounding “new” they typically fail, but not this band. It may not have featured a song with such classic dominance as Iron Man or War Pigs, but should this in fact be the last album the band records together, it is a swell goodbye to fans.


Loner” –­ As mentioned previously, of the initial eight tracks from the album, this is the first truly catchy song on the album. It has a guitar riff that any Black Sabbath fan would love. There is no point of the song that any fan should find boring as the song changes throughout. It goes from the riff heavy verses to the slow and melodic chorus to a heavy bashing bridge. This song is the perfect example of how the band is really trying to sound like their roots as the hard blues rock band that got coined as “heavy metal” and started a revolution thereafter.



9 (Out of 10)


Track List:

"End of the Beginning"  
"God Is Dead?"  
"Age of Reason"  
"Live Forever"  
"Damaged Soul"  
"Dear Father"  


No comments:

Post a Comment