When it was announced that the legendary Black Sabbath was reuniting and would be releasing a new album, the music world rejoiced. The very thought of Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, and Bill Ward all joining each other in the studio to record new music was something that had seemed, for ages, an impossibility. After all, if 35 years since Never Say Die! wasn’t enough to make this seem like a myth, surely the age of each member was enough to be the final nail in the coffin. But no, the band dismissed all, stuck their devil horns in the air, and proclaimed, “We once said ‘never say die’ and we fucking meant it!”
Then came Iommi’s lymphoma and the departure of Bill Ward. Suddenly the fate of the album was cast into doubt and no one knew for certain if it was ever going to see the light of day. Then came the questions of, “Was it even necessary?” But the group stuck to their guns and enlisted the aid of Rage Against The Machine drummer Brad Wilk to record all percussion. The album moved forward under the guidance of renowned producer Rick Rubin and 13 was born.
Now, today, the album is available for the world to hear. Have the pioneers of heavy metal been able to deliver yet another album that inspires millions of aspiring musicians or has age tamed these once wild beasts? Find out below.
The album opens with “End Of The Beginning”, a sinister track that enters a full on classic heavy metal glory. Complete with a face melting guitar solo and a thrilling ending, Black Sabbath shred any doubt that they are still able to kick your ass. It is immediately obvious that Iommi proves that he is still a master of bringing one awesome guitar riff after another.
“God Is Dead?”, the band’s current single, continues the trend of sinister heaviness. It’s a fantastic song that continues proving the band’s ability to rock. “Zeitgeist” is beautifully constructed with wonderful textures amidst its minimalistic approach. “Age of Reason” has a truly grandiose and epic ending, the type that made me love music in the first place. It called to mind elements and touches of Pink Floyd.
The production of the album is a shinier, classier version of what the band sounded like in their heyday. The guitars are chunky but never overly distorted, the bass thick, well-rounded, and wonderfully placed. Osbourne sounds better than he has in years, his voice commanding, his melodies spot on. Drummer Wilk is inventive and adds his own brand of flair to the album, although he sometimes doesn’t play with as much subtlety as needed. Still, he fits right in and knows exactly what to play and when.
While the album flows and moves together like a well-oiled machine, there are still some times when the album feels like it drags ever so slightly, especially considering that the average song length is around 7 minutes. Still, these moments pass as the album has an amazing ability to hypnotize the listener.
Black Sabbath are a band that shaped the very sound and attitude of heavy metal, fully embracing the evil attitude that the music produced and using it to their advantage. With 13, they have once again shown just how relevant they are and how necessary it is to not only respect the past but to revisit it with fresh ears.
The Final Word: The world questioned whether or not we actually needed a new Black Sabbath album. The band took it all in stride and released their answer in the form of 13, proving that age can’t dull the sheen of the masters.