Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#865 in the Series) is Black Sabbath, 13
Black Sabbath are not merely just one of the founding fathers of heavy metal music, they totally made it their own by making it incredibly doomy and gloomy while still staying true to its bluesy roots and even sounding very optimistic through the shadows. Their latest outing, 13, stays very true to that form and marks the triumphant studio return of original lead singer, Ozzy Osbourne, for the first time in 38 years.
The band has had some really nice albums with various other singers, most notably the Ronnie James Dio years of the early ’80’s, but hardcore fans have always yearned for the original four members to create some new material. Even though the original band has played and recorded live together on and off for about 15 years, the original four members have not produced a new studio work since 1978 (damn, I was in 9th grade then!) They almost get it here.
Under the masterful hand of producer Rick Rubin, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and Osbourne have produced a fresh new batch of tunes with Rage Against the Machine drummer, Brad Wilk. We don’t get original drummer, Bill Ward but, for Sabbath fanatics, having new material with Osbourne on board is way good enough.
What they have to show for it is Rubin doing his usually great job of producing a fresh sound out of an aging group of artists that would sound drab and moldy under the hand of any other producer. Iommi still has his great, death bluesy hooks, riffs and leads. Butler has his grumbling funk bass lines. Wilk does a great job of sounding new to the band while keeping up Ward’s legacy of thundering rolls and Ozzy hasn’t sounded this good in years, pulling out some surprisingly cogent and poetic lyrics.
Starting with the track “End of the Beginning” you can hear Rubin’s influence on the band without ruining their style. Ozzy’s vocals are taunting, energetic and clean with a little help from a more than normal tuning down of the rest of the band. It allows him to be at his best without the dreadful auto- tune that the producers of some of his later solo works have demeaningly drug him into.
Iommi and Butler are more polished and play with a finesse that comes with their obvious experience and knowledge. On “God is Dead?” they give us crisp breaks that come from out of nowhere. Oh, and the riffs? They still can jam! Remember, they still are basically a blues band. A Robert Johnson recording on 16 rpm’s (yes, some of us still remember that turntable speed!) but still a jammin‘ blues band.
“Loner” is a chunky little number that shows off how remarkably funky the rhythm section of this band has always been. Go back and check out the bands old tracks like “Fairies Wear Boots”, if you need a reminder. There is the Zen gloom of the lyrics in the track “Zeitgeist” and a track like “Age of Reason”, which leads one to think of Soundgarden, Metallica or Rage… until you remember that all of those bands sound like Black Sabbath! The later track, in particular, gives us a smarter, more age wise Sabbath, one that sounds like they are the Kurt Weil/ Bertolt Brecht of modern heavy metal. Hell, maybe they always have been!
On “Damaged Soul” The group puts together a great jam session, once more, with Wilkes aggressive slaps and rolls driving a macramé of guitar, bass and Ozzy blowing harp. You can almost see Rubin conducting the band through their Devil’s interval, spooky arpeggios and trademark “Allright Now” vocal improvs.
Just like last fall’s latest KISS album ,”Monster”, there is nothing really different here. It’s just new and fun. Instead of sounding old and in the way, like many of their contemporaries, this sounds like a new piece of vinyl that I would’ve been jamming to while cleaning weed out of the album cover to do bong hits in my bedroom in Western Maryland way back in 1978. Nostalgia makes me smile and so does Black Sabbath’s 13. A lot!
– Bubby Lewis, Frostburg, Maryland USA
- “End of the Beginning” 8:05
- “God Is Dead?” 8:52
- “Loner” 4:59
- “Zeitgeist” 4:37
- “Age of Reason” 7:01
- “Live Forever” 4:46
- “Damaged Soul” 7:51
- “Dear Father” 7:20
Here’s a few tracks
Album Release Hangout Event
The making of the cover