Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Review; Black Sabbath - 13

Track Listing:

1. End Of Beginning
2. God Is Dead?
3. Loner
4. Zeitgeist
5. Age Of Reason
6. Live Forever
7. Damaged Soul
8. Dear Father
9. Methademic (Bonus)
10. Peace Of Mind (Bonus)
11. Pariah (Bonus)

Black Sabbath need no real introduction, they're the forefathers of Heavy Metal, after all. Their announcement that they would be reforming to record a new album and to do tours and festivals sent the metal world ablaze with anticipation for what would be the band's first album with singer and general legend Ozzy Osbourne since 1978's 'Never Say Die' album. Since then, news that guitarist Tony Iommi had been diagnosed with Lymphoma and the dispute with drummer Bill Ward threw two massive question marks over the planned album and tour. However, here in June 2013 it all seems like ancient history - Sabbath have released '13'   (with Rage Against The Machine drummer Brad Wilk filling in for Bill Ward) and already we feel the overwhelming sense of euphoria at the return of our world's most legendary band.

The album opens with 'End Of Beginning' and a riff that is very reminiscent of the soong 'Black Sabbath'. It's great to hear that Tony is still capable of composing riffs that can move mountains, cancer or no. Ozzy's vocals are on good form and Geezer Butler's bass guitar flourishes are as skillful and well placed as ever. As the first single 'God Is Dead' comes in with an eerie guitar line and a riff that will last through the ages it further confirms that Sabbath are back and they're here to show all the bands that have come since them just how it's done. Butler's lyrical input is still as ingenious as ever, with lines like "I watch the rain as it turns red, Give me more wine I don't need bread" show he still knows a good hook is as important as those riffs.

'Loner' is another great show of the guitar-and-bass duo of Iommi and Butler that has made Sabbath's music so identifiable throughout their career. Ozzy still sings with his unmistakable tone and use of melody. We also hear plenty of those Osbourne brand cries of "Alright now!". A small point, but one that feels like it adds to the authenticity of a Sabbath album.

The band's choice of drummer was going to be faced with scrutiny no matter what, with many claiming tat it's not Black Sabbath without Bill Ward (a silly claim) but throughout the record Brad Wilk proves the naysayers wrong. He doesn't completely imitate Ward, but seemingly he realises that he'd need to utilise a jazz-like style on the opening track, whilst not being afraid to pound away at the skins at the album's more energetic points. The easing percussion heard in the acoustic led and beautiful 'Zeitgeist' is a particularly nice touch. As is the well structured, bluesy guitar solo that Tony leads the song out with.

'Age Of Reason' brings back the stomp rock tempos that the band have proven so proficient at over their years in music. Again, Tony doesn't let up on the quality of riffs. Lyrical content still proves poetic and soulful and all in all the band show they've never lost the knack for good tunes that gave the world 'Iron Man', 'Symptom Of The Universe' and 'Paranoid'. The riff heard four minutes into the song nearly made me die, it's classic Sabbath material!

'Live Forever' sounds the trumpet for the Doom Metal template they unwittingly set out the blueprint for before changing up to a rock 'n' roll tempo. The big thing that Black Sabbath were always going to have to deliver was great guitar riffs and solos, and Tony Iommi refuses to pull any punches as the album progresses. Lyrics are again, memorable. "Well I don't wanna live forever, But I don't wanna die" is almost a declaration of the rocker lifestyle.

'Damaged Soul' brings back the knack for great storytelling within songs that Sabbath demonstrated on classic cuts like 'N.I.B'. It's evil, it's apocalyptic, and it may be unlikely to scare people the way it might have back in the 1970's but it's still good fun. Geezer's bass proficiency cannot be overstated, and this track ahows why. His thunderous tone keeps the song heavy through Tony's old school guitar ditties, and no note from either of them goes to waste.

'Dear Father'. More riffs. In fact this whole review could probably be summed up by saying "RIFFS, OZZY, GEEZER BUTLER, OH MY FUCKING GOD!!!". The song has a chilling narrative that seems to translate about either an abusive father figure or a seeking of forgiveness in the eyes of a preacher, but however you interpret the lyrics, the song is great. Again the band take songs into double time for a climactic feeling before churning the earth's crust with crushing riffs.

Sadly, the song and the regular version of the album close to the familiar sounds of rain, thunder and a church bell tolling. This gives it a real feeling of finality - The band end where they began. However, sad though it may be, and the end of an era though it may be, this album is one hell of a swansong that nobody expected!! Even without the ridiculously good bonus tracks, this is an essential album that no metal fan can be without in 2013, so if you haven't already done so, buy this record and bask in the glory of Black Sabbath. After all, without them, none of us would fuckin' be here. All hail Black Sabbath!!!!!

Rating: 10/10

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