If you thought some old age pensioners, once the pioneers of heavy metal music, were too old to make metal music that is relevant in 2013, then you will be sadly mistaken.
It has taken 36 years, but finally metal’s forefathers have reunited and released another opus, albeit with Bill Ward replaced by Rage Against the Machine drummer, Brad Wilk. The lines on the faces may be more pronounced and the arthritis may be swelling in the joints of the Grandfathers of Metal but Sabbath are back in all their bloody glory.
‘End of the Beginning’ kickstarts the album; like its name suggests, it leaves the audience pondering more questions of the band’s validity than the song itself. However, after a subdued, haunting beginning, Tony Iommi’s riff encompasses the track and half way between heaven and hell the truth is apparent – Black Sabbath are back!
Epically proportioned at almost the nine minute mark, ‘God Is Dead’ is pure Sabbath. Dark, controversial and heavy it builds to one of those well known crescendos with Ozzy Osbourne posing the question “Is God really dead?”. ‘Loner’ lends itself to a more up-tempo beat then the album changes tack as ‘Zeitgeist’ enters the fray. Ozzy draws on his spaced-out mode while ears are treated to an acoustic ambience resembling classic Sabbath releases from some 30+ years ago. ‘Planet Caravan’ is an obvious parallel with the eerie hippie vibe.
The highlight of 13 is without a doubt ‘Age Of Reason’. Geezer Butler’s bass sets the scene and Iommi gleefully takes the reigns for one of those solos you’ll be playing air guitar to for a long, long time. ‘Live Forever’ feeds the listener more riffs whilst ‘Damaged Soul’ delves into a bluesy vibe. Sabbath still make metal that is very cool.
Closing is ‘Dear Father’, an ode to a molesting priest. Lyrically brilliant yet challenging as well, the scene is set amongst a sludgy bass line provided by Butler and once again we are taken on a train of riffs from Iommi. Perhaps the track that best defines Brad Wilk’s influence, with some pounding rhythms midway through the track that transform the song to an angst ridden roller coaster.
Rick Rubin has pulled a stellar sound throughout and encapsulated the best of some ageing musicians. Although lambasted by some technical quarters for producing a highly compressed sound, the average listener should not be perturbed by these comments. Ranking alongside the Sabbath icon albums of yesteryear, Master of Reality, Paranoid and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, 13 is a concrete sledge of riff with the metal conductor himself Ozzy Osbourne back behind the wheel leading the onslaught. A contender for album of the year, 13 has taken the Sabbath of the 70s and dragged it into the new century and showed them to be as relevant now as they were all that time ago.
1. End of the Beginning
2. God is Dead
5. Age of Reason
6. Live Forever
7. Damaged Soul
8. Dear Father