Black Sabbath, ’13’ – Album Review
Ozzy Osbourne has stated multiple times that ’13’ could possibly be the most important album of his career. With such a fabled discography preceding ’13,’ both with Black Sabbath and his solo career, Ozzy’s claim is not one to be taken lightly, and although ’13’ may not be the greatest album to ever be attributed to Ozzy’s name, the disc is a definite success for Black Sabbath.
The build up to ’13’ made it one of the most anticipated metal albums of the 21st century. Released 19 months after the original Sabbath lineup announced their reunion, the album almost didn’t happen at all. The departure of drummer Bill Ward and cancer diagnosis of guitarist Tony Iommi seemingly stopped Sabbath in their tracks. Cancer, however, didn’t impede Iommi from writing some of the sickest guitar work of his career, with an extra-bright light tilted toward the riff master’s virtuosic soloing.
The disc begins with ‘End of the Beginning,’ a solid track reminiscent of the song ‘Black Sabbath’ once the verse kicks in. The intro riff of ‘End of the Beginning,’ which is stretched out for nearly three minutes, isn’t mind-blowing, but Iommi’s riff still retains its beefy feel before he really starts going to work. The remainder of the eight-minute track is a controlled, yet step-on-the-gas Sabbath piece as Iommi’s lead and backing guitar lines keep the album’s kickoff track on a steady course.
Next up is the five-star monster ‘God is Dead?,’ which ventures into doom territory as Sabbath delivers one of their heaviest and creepiest cuts to date. Special attention should be directed at bassist Geezer Butler and his immense bass tone, accented well by Brad Wilk‘s drumming throughout, allowing ‘God is Dead?’ to personify Black Sabbath’s intensions to keep a signature sound in tact while injecting some fresh energy into its core. ‘God is Dead?’ captures a more primitive side of the brain, possessing the listener to float along during slower parts while punching whatever may be within an arm’s length during Iommi’s bigger, more energetic licks.
’13’ begins to slow down a bit as six tracks remain. ‘Loner’ starts off with a fairly generic riff and a take-it-or-leave-it verse, but picks up immensely as the track takes a more melodic turn. Iommi once again brings the song’s quality to an impressive level as the guitarist connects piece after piece with skillful precision. Ozzy’s howling vocals during Iommi’s softer parts also command a well deserved tip of the hat (or bowler).
‘Zeitgeist’ is Sabbath’s ballad within ’13,’ harnessing the use of Middle-Eastem percussion, wind instruments and a distorted filter on Ozzy’s voice. Iommi’s rich guitar blends from the slow, ‘Changes’-paced track into ‘Live Forever’ — a better-than-average piece which makes good use of Iommi’s ability to keep a song flowing. Ozzy once again adds a great deal of character to the piece, this time honing a more poetic touch with the lyrics: “They say you see your life go flashing by / Cold dark endless nights / To burn in Hell or bathe in everlight” and “I don’t want to live forever, but I don’t want to die.”
‘Damaged Soul’ and ‘Dear Father’ round off the record as big Iommi riffs and wild shredding continue to create a swamp vs. hurricane dichotomy. ‘Dear Father’ in particular is home to an especially trudging Iommi / Butler riff, giving the duo a break from stomping through their doomsday landscape.
As an album, ’13’ belongs to Tony Iommi. Ozzy, Geezer and Brad Wilk all have their moments throughout the album, but when it comes to consistency and meteoric impact, Iommi’s work is the predominant factor of why Sabbath fans will sink their teeth into ’13.’ We all expect the world from Black Sabbath, and after a 19-month wait and 35 years without hearing a full release from Ozzy, Tony and Geezer, anything less than classic Sabbath is doomed to show its cracks. ’13’ isn’t a perfect album, but it’s a damn good one; saturated with piece after piece of pure Iommi brilliance.