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| 20 June 2013 | Reply

Label: Universal
Released June 2013
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Black Sabbath - 13 CD

A fiery, molten lava flow of guitar emanates menacingly from the speakers as opener End Of The Beginning heralds the much anticipated return of the three-quarter original line-up of Heavy Metal’s midwives, Black Sabbath.

There’s nothing like a tour or some scandal to get the publicity machines spewing out words, and the genesis of 13 had both, with Sabbath’s tour roaring through Australia only a month and a half ago, while the gossip pages and news boards have gone haywire, first with the news that original drummer Bill Ward was excluded from both the album and tour amid rumours of management strongarming, financial unfairness, and more recently, singer Ozzy Osbourne’s allegations that Ward had covered his drum kit in post it notes because he couldn’t remember what to do. Throw in Osbourne’s latest admissions of an 18 month drink n’ drug relapse, and there’s been nowhere to hide from the ongoing shitstorm.

The music though, is more important, and Osbourne, bassist Geezer Butler and guitarist Tony Iommi have all said for years they wouldn’t do this if it didn’t live up to the old stuff.

If you consider that their last two albums together were 1978’s Technical Ecstasy and the following year’s Never Say Die, then 13 is an unmitigated triumph, far exceeding the quality of either of those two patchy (I’m being generous, particularly about T.E.) affairs.

Heavy as it is, and quite brilliant in parts, it’s still no rival for those first five classic Sabbath albums, which is what it has it’s eyes firmly on: there’s thankfully no attempts made to update their classic sound or incorporate themes from their latter work.

One listen will tell you its Tony Iommi’s album, full of crushing riffs and crazy solos, but if Iommi is Sabbath’s MVP in 2013, then Osbourne is the one who the coach should pull off the field from time to time. His patchy, nasal voice has declined over the years and there are a couple of instances (on the opener, for instance) where his natural crazy charm and sheer uniqueness can’t elevate his contributions out of being a hindrance.

First single God Is Dead is big – no, make that BIG. Great Iommi riff, excellent rhythm section in Butler and drummer Brad Wilks of Rage Against The Machine fame, and a solid Osbourne delivery of some suitably arcane Butler lyrics.

Loner – at 5 minutes long, one of only three songs under seven minutes – is a little too stock-standard to stand out in this company while Zeitgeist (the shortest song here, at 4:38) successfully revisits the jazz-fusion bongoes-and-picked-guitars soundscape of Planet Caravan.

Age Of Reason’s riff gives the listener a personal line straight to the Gods of Metal, Live Forever could be off Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Sabotage, and closers Damaged Soul and Dear Father showcase most of what is best about this band, and closing out the record with similar rain, thunder and chiming church bell as their debut opened with is a master stroke of cool.

All up, you’re unlikely to find a bunch of sixty-somethings producing as unapologetically heavy and enticing an album as 13, even with its imperfections. With Osbourne now going on the record hoping Bill Ward will be on board for their NEXT album, the future looks very promising indeed.


Category: CD Reviews

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