Black Sabbath – 13 (2013) – Review

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Ha! They can still do it! The grumpy old men from Black Sabbath in the original formation. Minus the drummer, I would hasten to add. Because it looks like Bill Ward had issues with a contract, a written contract to be precise. Something he could sign – or more the lack thereof. And he of all people should know that contracts with the devil are not signed. Or then only in blood.

Now, Black Sabbath‘s latest, but hopefully not last album 13 hits us with full force. It comes indeed across as much more powerful, louder and sinister than the other albums ever attempted to be.

13 feels like a continuation of the self-titled very first record Black Sabbath – the band – produced way back in 1970. So the album kinda moves back to the roots. And it is – indeed – a far cry away from albums of other eras like Heaven and Hell, the piece with Ronnie James Dio for just one record. But then again, they were never meant to be comparable.

13 delivers that new (old) sound, minus the woozy, boozy, heavily doped interludes that poisoned the early records. That’s all gone out the door with the advancing age of the crew of this black ship. Now we see a very dark, kind of street-wise streak emerging from Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler. And I absolutely love them cheekily questioning all of those worldly woes, like the existence of spiritual powers. Or the lack thereof.

But more to that later. 

The mix of deep and dark riffs, stellar solos reminiscent of olden times, heavy bass, combined with the trademark metallic whine of Ozzy Osbourne are just irresistible. And at their age, Black Sabbath still show the youngsters where the masters are. Just listen to End of the Beginning and wait for the friggin’ solos to blow you into space. Holy Shit! But then, Iommi is famous for his astounding ability to hammer out a solo that will just leave you speechless. A major one of his many talents.

You know, when I heard that Tony Iommi was diagnosed with cancer, I thought that this is it. No new album. No further doomish delights for yours truly. And all this happened just about when they were starting recording. Well, to Iommi‘s credit, the band decided to go ahead anyway. This not only shows astonishing stamina of all involved but a steely discipline that is not often found when facing a deadly disease.

And what about the tracks?

I really love God is Dead. The song actually is a question, full of evil jabs at our Christian beliefs and the Nailed God’s reign of terror. If you believe in all that of course, that is. Especially the line “…give me the wine, just keep the bread…” had me reduced to heaps of helpless laughter. Good old Black Sabbath! You just can’t beat the unholy humor and cheeky wickedness the band around Ozzy displays.

Zeitgeist saddles you with another tongue-in-cheek piece of worldly wisdom. And that’s about humanity this time. I really like the way they matched the music to the lyrics. This is followed by some soul searching through the corridors of time, with a notable Age of Reason lamenting the state of the world.

The latter ends with a superb friggin’ solo à la Sabbath that had me just jumping into the air, starting to rock with the track. Now, towards the end, the old fuzzy, weedy Sabbath sound raises its head in Damaged Soul. Oh, yeah, no kidding. Not only does it sound like the ’70s again, but the solo in there will positively blow you away. 

Same as with a load of their previous records, 13 is a must-have for all metal fans. The record goes down like old wine in front of the fire. Leaving you with that urge for more once the music stops. And there isn’t even a chair missing.

This is Black Sabbath at their best or really THE best since the beginning of their career. You can’t top that one. I do hope, though, that they will come back one day. And serve us with many more of those metal delights. But I honestly fear that this was it. But – hey – I still can be proven wrong. Who knows?

Ed’s note: The review made it successfully onto the first-ever ‘Intermittent Best Of‘ from the fearless RMR crew. Congrats!

Record Rating: 10/10 | Label: Vertigo Records | Web: Official Site
Release Date: 11 June 2013

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