Released: Jun 10, 2013
Genre: Heavy Metal, Traditional Doom Metal, Stoner Rock
Label: Vertigo, Universal
Number Of Tracks: 8
Once referred to as "the lords of doom and gloom," Black Sabbath have created one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2013, but can it live up to the hype?
UG Team, on june 10, 2013 9 of 15 people found this review helpful
Sound: For the first time in 18 years Black Sabbath is releasing a full length studio release, and with Ozzy on vocals for the first time in 36 years. Black Sabbath has already cemented themselves in music history as the band that created doom/sludge metal. This was ultimately the result of an engineering accident where Tony Iommi's fingers were injured and he began to down-tune his guitar and use prosthetic fingertips in order to play. This approach on guitar, and the band's original interest in riff-driven blues of the time lent itself well to a heavier sound. After seeing the line outside the theater to see the movie "Black Sabbath," they took the name for themselves and began to focus on darker lyrical subjects. From here they went on to release classic hits such as "Iron Man," "Paranoid," "N.I.B.," "Sweet Leaf," and "War Pigs," to name just a few. As listeners we all can judge the merit of "13" for ourselves, but the band doesn't really have anything left to prove.
There was a false-start reunion of Black Sabbath in 2001, which fell apart as Ozzy put it on hold to continue work on a solo album. There have also been a few reunion concerts here and there, but they failed to produce a full-fledged reunion. Oddly enough, while the album is titled "13," it is the 19th studio album released by Black Sabbath. "13" will be the first album of new material written and recorded by Black Sabbath with Ozzy on vocals since before most of our readers were born. Initially, the reunion and album were to include the original 4 members in 2011. The project was once again delayed, though only briefly, by Tony Iommi's diagnosis of lymphoma. Bill Ward attempted some last minute legal negotiation on his contract, but instead he was nixed from the reunion. This was at least in part due to Tony Iommi's desire to finish the album quickly (according to multiple interviews) as he didn't know how he would react to his cancer treatment. Bill Ward was replaced by Brad Wilk, the drummer from Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave. The recording process had to be scheduled around Iommi's cancer treatments causing further delays. They completed recording the album and announced the album title as "13" in January 2013, and from there the mixing process began. The standard edition of "13" includes 8 tracks and clocks in at approximately 54 minutes, while the deluxe edition has 3 additional tracks and clocks in at 69 minutes. Most tracks on the album range from 4 1/2 minutes long to a little over 8 minutes, with the bonus track "Peace of Mind" the only track under 4 minutes. The first single from the album, "God is Dead?" was released in mid-April to mixed reactions from the online community of fans. The second single, "End of the Beginning," debuted on the television crime drama "CSI" in early June just a week before the album release. All lyrics were written by Ozzy and Geezer Butler, and all music was written by Tony Iommi. According to interviews with Iommi, the album was recorded mostly live in the studio including the solos. The guitar and bass tones are immaculate for the genre, and overall the album is mixed well. Brad Wilk does a respectable job on drums.
The album opens up with the track "End of the Beginning," which in all honesty comes across as a pretty mediocre track chugging along at a forgettable mid-tempo. The next track, "God is Dead?," does a lot better job at creating that vibe Black Sabbath is known for but isn't very original. The third track, "Loner," begins with a riff that immediately reminds me of "Locomotive Breath" by Jethro Tull. I can't help but wonder if this has something to do with Iommi's short stint in Jethro Tull. The fourth track, "Zeitgeist," is the first track that really caught my ears and held them. It is a slower track, with acoustic guitar and unusual percussion that is carried by the bassline. The next four tracks are all pretty standard Sabbath-style doom metal, and they mostly escape sounding like a cover band of themselves. The next three tracks, available only with the deluxe version, contains two of the better songs from the album. The tracks "Methademic" and "Peace of Mind" are solid tracks that seem to pick up somewhere in the neighborhood of where Black Sabbath and Ozzy left off in the '70s, but the track "Pariah" seems more like a weak B side with the exception of having a really solid solo by Iommi on the track. This is NOT a modern metal album, and doesn't try to sound like it is. This is an album that attempts to pick up where Black Sabbath and Ozzy left off with each other in the seventies, with mixed results. // 7
Lyrics: Ozzy is an odd dude with an odd voice, and people seem to either love or hate his vocals. What can be said about Ozzy's voice is that somehow it is still mostly intact. His age doesn't seem to have much impact on his vocal ability, which is amazing considering the hard life he has led (mostly in full view of the public). There is minimal vocal processing going on for most of the album, with the occasional subtle or not-so-subtle effect thrown in for variety. The lyrics on the other hand, seem to be hit or miss. Some of the lyrical offerings seem to be pretty solid but others go into the realm of cheesy clichs. A good example of the cheesy side of lyrics can be observed on the track "God is Dead?," where Ozzy proclaims: "The blood runs free/ The rain turns red/ Give me the wine/ You keep the bread/ The voices echo in my head/ Is God alive or is God dead? / Is God dead?" // 7
Overall Impression: While recording the album, Iommi came into the studio one day to discover a lot of vintage amplifiers had been brought in. The logic behind this is the label thought this would help Iommi find an early Sabbath-sounding guitar tone, which is kind of funny. Ultimately, Iommi made the point that they were trying to get him to find a good tone to imitate his own tone and instead used his normal equipment. I've had some of the most mixed emotions I've ever had regarding an album release after listening to "13." At times the album seemed to be an almost a formulaic caricature of previous Black Sabbath hits, but at other moments I found myself impressed with the musical atmosphere they create. I really find myself enjoying "Zeitgeist," "Peace of Mind," and "Damaged Soul." I didn't completely hate any tracks on the album, but I was under-whelmed by "God is Dead?" and "Pariah." The bottom line is this is a decent album, but not mind-blowing. Iommi does play some really interesting solos on the album, and according to interviews they are all tracked live in the studio which is impressive in this modern age of ProTools and such.
srsfiter, on june 24, 2013 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: This is the first time in a long time that Sabbath has been in the studio with Ozzy Osbourne. And let me tell you, I am absolutely stunned that they are back! This album delivers an excellent sound. Brad Wilk does an excellent job in filling Bill Ward's shoes, Iommi is back with his old school style soloing and right from the beginning we should be able to agree that this album sends a chilling rush down the spine. This album is a prime example of how Sabbath should sound! Even the 3 tracks on the bonus disc are absolutely extraordinary! If you decide to pick up this album, I urge you to get the 2 disc deluxe edition for that exact purpose. // 8
Lyrics: You can somewhat hear that Ozzy's voice is not what it was when he was a lot younger, but that being said, he still sound perfectly acceptable. Honestly, it is a true mystery how this man can't speak at all without stuttering/mumbling, yet he is able to vocalize quite nicely. Ozzy's voice was, and still is unique, and to many people including myself, this is one of the primary elements that makes Sabbath so great. I am not hating on Black Sabbath with Dio, or Ian Gillan, but what I am saying, is that Ozzy has this uniqueness to his voice, that nobody can replace. We longed to see Ozzy return to Sabbath, and after several years, we got our wish! God is not dead Ozzy, because you are the lyrical God! Let's analyze some of the best examples of lyricism are as follows:
"Faster than the speed of life
Not so super nova burns
The black holes turn and fade from sight
The strings of fear they hide within the human race
The answers buried underground
The love I feel as I fly endlessly through space
Lost in time I wonder will my ship be found." // 9
Overall Impression: This can be looked at as a time machine taking us back to the year 1971, it is very "Master of Reality"-esque, with somewhat of a modern twist. This absolutely exceeded my expectations, so overall I am giving it a perfect 10/10. Not their best album by any means, but when you take into consideration the fact that they are aged quite a lot, then this album deserves a 10/10. I have been listening to this album nonstop since I got it yesterday, I just, I absolutely CANNOT stop! If this album was stolen or lost, I would most certainly replace it in a heartbeat! This is just one of those albums you need to have by your side at all times, truly powerful, truly emotional, and a word that is overused, but fitting, it is truly perfect. // 10
adamwalker4991, on june 24, 2013 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Thirty-five years since the release of "Never Say Die!" (1978), an album Ozzy Osbourne once called "disgusting," the original line-up of Black Sabbath re-entered the studio for the second time. Whilst their efforts in 2001 failed to produce an album, their work over the last year has proved successful, culminating in the release of "13." With tensions between Bill Ward and the other members of Black Sabbath at a peak, Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine was called in to replace Ward, in the early stages of writing. Cited as the pioneers of Heavy Metal, many of their albums have been considered as true classics, each more defining than the last. When "13" was announced, in January of 2013, with the recording almost complete, the music industry split. Half were largely sceptical as to how Wilk would replicate Ward, and how the band would sound in their forty-fifth year, particularly with producer Rick Rubin at the helm. The other half had faith. Clocking in at just over 53 minutes, the standard edition of Black Sabbath's latest release consists of eight tracks, each battling a number of radical and complex themes and motifs.
Geezer Butler, the sole lyricist for 13, has openly stated that Rubin strived for the band to "pretend this [was their] second album," in an effort to rekindle the classic, genre-defining power of Black Sabbath. When listening to the album's opening track, "End of the Beginning," one can only assume that the band may have taken Rubin's advice too literally. While the song opens with the crash of Wilk's cymbals, and the roar of Iommi's guitar and Butler's growling bass, the song quickly slows down, and becomes remarkably similar to "Black Sabbath" the opening track from their eponymous debut album, "Black Sabbath" (1970). Iommi follows the same pattern of sparse note playing, with Osbourne's haunting vocals over the top. Whilst it starts slow, the song quickly builds into a progression of powerful, original riffs, with drumming from Wilk that fits perfectly, before closing with a melodic solo from Iommi. "God Is Dead?", a track held together by Butler's roaring bass guitar, is fantastic. Iommi's quiet, haunting guitar riff contrasts heavily with the power chords presented in the song's chorus. As the song develops, Iommi riffs alone, and as the drums enter, the song turns into a true heavy metal, groove-based, headbanging paradise. Whilst "God is Dead?" goes through a number of time changes, and guitar tones, it is a definite strong point on the album. Opening with a riff that relates heavily to "N.I.B.," again from "Black Sabbath" (1970), "Loner" epitomises Black Sabbath. Rhythmically, Osbourne, Iommi, Butler and Wilk truly connect. "Loner" shows that Osbourne can still wail as effectively as ever, and is vocally strong. Heavy riffs soon transcend into a melodic breakdown, before Wilk thrusts the song back into heavier territories with his powerful playing. Similar to "God Is Dead?", the song goes through a number of time changes, but the highlights of the track are Iommi's spacey, distorted guitar solos, recurring throughout. Whilst the album may have opened slowly, "Loner" and the songs that follow are truly iconic. The fourth track, "Zeitgeist," is transcending. An enigmatic acoustic piece, exploring the concepts of love, loss, and the universe, it is hard to truly describe how emotive and effective a piece of music it is. Following the heavy riffing of "Loner," the combination of Iommi's acoustic guitar, with Wilk's percussive playing, contrast heavily, and yet work perfectly with Osbourne's distorted tone. Beneath them all, Butler adds structure through his bass. Closing with a bluesy, clean solo, Iommi closes out a truly great song. Whilst Black Sabbath may be credited with pioneering Heavy Metal, recording pounding drums, and wailing guitars, "Zeitgeist" is a true acoustic ballad that deserves true credit. It is a shame therefore, that as Iommi's guitar solo fades into the distance, the listener is smashed with over-produced drumming, with a compressed snare, as "Age of Reason" opens. However, as Butler and Iommi enter, thoughts of hatred towards Rubin's tendency to over-produce diminish somewhat. Whilst the song is not as exciting, both lyrically and rhythmically as others on the album, "Age of Reason" builds into a great, solid track. The song truly comes alive as Iommi riffs over a layer of keyboards, before slowing into that plodding, sense of doom that Black Sabbath are famous for. Whilst "Age of Reason" starts slowly, it builds into a great song, with strong riffs and a fantastic lengthy solo from Tony Iommi. The three tracks that follow, "Live Forever," "Damaged Soul" and "Dear Father" are the three strongest, heaviest tracks on the album. Starting with pounding cymbals and bass, "Live Forever" quickly falls into the doom-filled grooves Black Sabbath fans love, with Wilk's drumming complimenting Iommi's riffs perfectly. After being slammed against the wall by heavy, hard hitting riffs, Iommi descends into a melodic solo, which suits the song surprisingly well. Wilk may not have that "swing feel" that Ward brought to Sabbath, but his solid, powerful, yet simple drum patterns fit Black Sabbath well. This can be seen particularly in the opening to "Damaged Soul," which is arguably the most blues-influenced. Osbourne's harmonica break leads into an effective building solo from Iommi, whilst Wilk and Butler work well holding down the timing and the grungy sound. The song ends strongly, as Iommi and Osbourne battle, between guitar and harmonica, to create a truly memorable finish. "Dear Father," the final track on "13," is a magnificent close to the album. Whilst Osbourne's lyrics follow Iommi's riffing, as well as Wilk's drumming, the track is relentless. As the band thrust endless guitar riff, bass licks, and pounding drums at you, Osbourne wails about a young child molested by a violent priest. There is no let-up, no slower breakdown, the song continually grows heavier and heavier, until suddenly rain. Black Sabbath fans are greeted with the sounds of rain, thunder clapping, and the infamous bell toll that was first heard more than four decades ago. Whilst some may believe that the band have become over-produced, and will point fingers in the direction of producer Rick Rubin, Black Sabbath undeniably sound heavier, stronger, and more precise than ever before. // 9
Lyrics: While it may only be three years since Osbourne's latest solo release, "Scream," his vocal work on Black Sabbath's latest album holds more power, strength and control than seems apparent in his recent releases. This is perhaps compounded by Rubin's production. At a time when artists are seemingly moving towards an analogue approach, Osbourne has praised Rubin's use of Pro-Tools, striving for modernity. While it is clear that Osbourne sounds different today from Black Sabbath's self-titled debut album, which is inevitable, Rubin still manages to capture Osbourne's distinctive wailing to great effect. Taking control of the lyrics on the album, Butler maintains the hard-hitting, direct style of Black Sabbath, with some exceptional craft. Whilst all eight tracks on the album are strong, some, lyrically, stand taller than others. In particular, "God Is Dead?", the first single from the album, is beautifully constructed. The lines "To safeguard my philosophy, until my dying breath/I transfer from reality/into a living death" offer a succinct summary of all that is Black Sabbath: horror, instability, death and prophesying. Through "Zeitgeist," Butler offers a true literary masterpiece. The opening lines "Astral engines in reverse/I'm falling through the universe again./Down among a dead man's visions/ faded dreams and nuclear fissions span" instantly whisk the listener to the cosmos, akin to "Planet Caravan" from "Paranoid" (1969). The closing lines, "And very soon/the boundless moon/will show us light./And as we crash/we'll pray and kiss/and say goodnight/goodnight," whilst again, are not complex in language, are complex in what they portray. Osbourne's voice connects with Butler's writing on a level that has arguably never been heard before, to create an emotionally complex ballad concerning love, loss, and the endless universe. The closing track, "Dear Father," a song Butler wrote twelve months ago, is again, a literary triumph. The song tackles the concept of living with abuse directly, as Butler writes, "Dear Father, forsaken/you knew what you were doing." While as words, they may not hold ultimate power, when combined with Osbourne's haunting tone, Iommi's endless supply of captivating and addictive riffs, Butler's growling bass, and Wilk's strong drum beats, they come together, to create a fitting close to a great album. All in all, Osbourne reinvents himself as a truly great singer, with incredible writing from Butler. // 9
Overall Impression: With the history, fame, and success of Black Sabbath, it is inevitable that fans, writers, critics and fellow musicians will compare Black Sabbath's latest release to the rest of their discography. Whilst the band were never going to achieve the sound and feel of their debut album, which was driven by youth and adrenaline, it is clear to see that they have taken inspiration from it. Black Sabbath have taken a new approach, but have managed to maintain the strength, and raw power of their younger days. "13" takes you on a journey a journey that completely summarises Black Sabbath's entire career. From the apocalyptic "End of the Beginning," through the emotionally complex "Zeitgeist" before slamming back into the plodding, inescapable heaviness of "Dear Father." Black Sabbath have returned, and are stronger than ever. // 9