01. End Of The Beginning
02. God Is Dead?
05. Age Of Reason
06. Live Forever
07. Damaged Soul
08. Dear Father
DISCLAIMER: This track by track review was written as a one time run through listen of the new album at the exclusive listening event in L.A.. This is not definitive nor refined. A more cohesive review of the album will be released when it is available.
Now that we have that out of the way, let us explore this sensational piece of heavy metal history. 13 is the first new Black Sabbath album since 1995’s Forbidden, the first with Ozzy Osbourne since 1978’s Never Say Die!, and the first with Geezer Butler since 1994’s Cross Purposes. In the current age where comebacks have been a growing trend, few others have me more excited than the return of Black Sabbath with Ozzy on vocals (though it’s sad that Bill Ward will not be on the album, who was replaced by Rage Against The Machine/ex-Audioslave drummer Brad Wilk). With so much controversy and disagreements conflicting their highly publicized reunion that was shown last year, things were put off to a point where it seemed like things might never work out. Thankfully, they did.
Coming in strong with a lead heavy doom riff, ‘End Of The Beginning’ crawls along like a glacier of heavy sound. With similarities to tracks like ‘Snowblind‘ or a downtempo version of ‘Sabbra Cadabra,’ it instantly grabs you and dashes away all doubts anyone could have of the new album. Cutting off into a freeform jazz ensemble, it picks up the groove that invokes the listener into classic headbanging. The song, well, the whole album for that matter, has a real vintage undertone that lays the foundation for everything to be heard. The guitar solo walks a fine line between flashy and progressive. It then ends with a Katatonia-ish closer.
Haunting and somber is the best way to describe the opener for ‘God Is Dead?’ It breaks out into an adrenaline inducing buildup, but then it falters away for a slower riff. It felt very lacking, but that was one of the only issues I have with this record. Vocally, it’s one of the best songs that Ozzy has ever done. His tone and range are employed to their fullest here, even though most believe he is losing it. Ever since I saw him live in 2007 with Rob Zombie, I always knew that he will never lose it until he is dead, which won’t happen because he’s invincible. The track is one that I can see as a live staple for them, but only third to two of the other tracks (which will be listed later). Since I was focusing more on the music than the lyrics, I did catch multiple references of a battle between god and the devil and the streets red with his blood. I would love to see a music video made to this that has a rich storytelling element.
In case if you’re feeling like they have gotten into a full doom direction, don’t worry. ‘Loner‘ is pure, classic Black Sabbath. The groove on this song is more of an attention getter than other songs, and this is where Brad starts showing off a bit. For the album, he is contained as a standard rhythm maker for the band to follow, but he employs some progression here and there during this song. ‘Zeitgeist‘ is their oddball song that functions much like ‘Am I Going Insane?’ It has acoustic guitars with a crossroads-area type of playing, which are helped by the hand drums and Ozzy’s filtered voice. It’s the kind of track that makes you want to hop in your car and take a long drive in the dark. Near the end, an excellent bluesy guitar lead permeates sporadically throughout the ending, much like how Steven Wilson does in ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing.’
Things kick back into gear with a wholesome, memorable track. By far the standout and hopefully the first single from 13, ‘Age Of Reason’ is that kind of track that has truly retained the timelessness of the band and their sound. It almost bridges the Heaven and Hell era musically. Geezer comes in with a heart-stopping doom bass groove that changes the overall motion of the track before descending into a chaotic, Dillinger Escape Plan-esque moment where Tony comes in and works side by side with Geezer, but with a vengeance. Comes around full circle to the beginning with an added guitar solo. From a song writing perspective, this is probably one of the smartest tracks they’ve recorded to date.
Now we start to see more of a higher toned sound with a reminiscent ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ sort of overtone in ‘Live Forever.‘ A fitting name for the track, it’s another example that the band have retained much of their classic song writing style. However, the overall song starts really early with falling into a regular kind of trend that is hard to break. To follow up, the second potential hit on the album ‘Damaged Soul’ comes in strong with another original riff pattern that would have contested with ‘Paranoid‘ if released in the same era. Another heavy similarity this track has is to Led Zeppelin (i.e. ‘Dazed and Confused’), which is more evident in the drumming. I like that the bass is much more pronounced in this track compared to the rest of the album. It’s the kind of track that, if someone stopped listening to Black Sabbath in 1979 and you show them this song, it will trigger their mind and they will know who it is right away.
Closing out the album is ‘Dear Father.‘ This is by far the heaviest, meanest track on the entire album. Menacing guitars are joined by Ozzy’s soaring vocals and Brad’s on point drumming that helps to drive every riff home. It lifts its veil at moments to lighten the mood, but luckily it’s not for long. The progressive song writing on this track shows that this band still has many years of excellent songs and good fortune ahead of them, and would be another possible permanent live staple for the band. It’s interesting to note that the ending of this track sounds like the rain from the very beginning of the ‘Black Sabbath’ track.
With 13, Black Sabbath have carved out another deep niche that other bands will be copying from for many years to go. They have outdone themselves yet again.
Black Sabbath – 13 gets…