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Black Sabbath's "13" reviewed

the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?



















This is much better than we had any reason to expect. With the brain of an overactive peanut and the religious backtracking you might expect from men of a certain age, if you can get past the silliness you’ll discover Back Sabbath have done the difficult: provided 53 minutes of Gothic heavy metal as invented by the boys back in 1968.

Ozzy Osborne sounds about the same as he always does and Tony Iomni seems to sink through the mix with a certain beauty and curdled milk intensity and bassist Geezer Butler along with Rise Above The Machine drummer Brad Wilk provided a consistent as always vision of life as hell with a light at the end of the tunnel even if nobody knows quite what direction it is pointing in. The first album of new material featuring Ozzy since 1978’s Never Say Die, it could’ve been much much worse. Hand it to producer Rick Rubin who has always been excellent at producing bands the way they really sound, let’s Black Sabbath do the work for him.

The problem here is that you have to get past the self evident truth that lyricist Geezer is a Birmingham butthead. Nothing he says is real, no position he takes reflects anything in this world. He is like a Coheed And Cambria type lyricist, telling stories that don’t much signify. Sometimes, “eventual extinction of the human race” Ozzy intones but really, it is kinda doubtful when put like that. I mean, really? That’s off a very good song called “Age Of Reason” so you might not want to worry too much.

The album opens with two, eight minute salvos that bang you to attention.  “End Of The Begining” is the first song, a cruncher by the numbers with the real theme here -growing old, hiding somewhere underneath. The bass is really powerful and the sense of a downward spiral is brilliant. “God Is Dead’ (Ozzy doesn’t believe it) is the first single and second song  and about as original as the title would assume and the tempo all the way through this album is mid to put it mildly: Black Sabbath owe nothing to any Metal than its own, it hasn’t mashed with anything but its own doom and gloom. 16 minutes in and the band has made their point though they leave one of the best for the end, the penultimate track “Damaged Soul” is 8 minutes of blues.

By my reckoning that makes 24 minutes of first rate music at the very least and I am not a fan, by the way. I always found Black Sabbath a little too silly for my tastes but Ozzy, who has had a pretty wild career, has done the right thing by his band mates and all of them owe Rick Rubin a debt for leaving em to it.

Grade: B+

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