Black Sabbath - 13
Label: Vertigo Records
Reviewer: Sama Shahrouri - 2013-07-06
Highlights: Zeitgeist, Damaged Soul
It almost seems too real that the legendary Black Sabbath released their 19th studio album just a couple of weeks ago, but then again that’s probably because it IS real. This coming from a person like me means nothing at all to the metal world, I mean come on, the last Sabbath record was released when I was one, and when my brother (who’s a bigger Sabbath fan than I) wasn’t even born yet! In the world of metal, Black Sabbath are considers the founders of the genre, and having fans much much older than I am gives me no right to criticize anything they have ever done, but then again what is there to criticize? Its Black –fucking– Sabbath we’re talking about here! And regardless of their age or the different musical eras their fans come from, they all agree on one thing, 13 is Black Sabbath’s lucky number.
“13” took only 35 years to be produced (which gives us Tool fans hope), and it sounds like a classic (semi)original line-up Sabbath record. The differences between it and “Paranoid” for example are a couple of things: personnel, and sound quality. Other than those two, it has a classic Sabbath sound to it. All found in Ozzy’s eerie neutral vocals, Iommi’s doomish riffs, and Geezer’s pounding basslines. Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine was added to recording sessions’ lineup to present us some youthful drum jams, and he was the perfect fit to the band. “13” is produced by the heavyweight Rick Rubin, kudos goes to him for all the hard work put into making “13” sound as good of a Sabbath record as possible. Even the themes are seemingly untouched by the hands of time; the desperate and depressed topics, as well as this typical late-graveyard-shift feel to the music is still all there, which is something hardcore Sabbath fans are very glad to hear again. If anything, this record would be a perfect farewell to the scene, if it were a farewell to the scene that is.
With songs rarely shy of the 5 minute mark, five of the album’s 8 tracks stand at 7-plus minutes in length, which may be argued as a little bit too much for the old die hard rockers, Geezer, Osbourne and Iommi, or their fans. Every song sounds great alone, but once you’ve spun “13” around a good number of times, you start to get this unadmittable and shameful feeling of wanting to skip ‘the rest of the song’. Most songs on here, especially the longer ones like “End of the Beginning” and “God is Dead?” follow an arrangement of: musical intro, verse one, chorus, repetitive riff, verse two, chorus, change in tempo, solo, back to pre chorus and chorus, etc… which is cool, again typical Sabbath, but it’s all just so expected. Sorry if I’m making it sound like a bad thing, it really isn’t, on the contrary, it’s EXACTLY what the fans want. It’s like the idea of the PERFECT Sabbath album.
At two points in the album though, this claim could be argued against. In “Live Forever” Black Sabbath present the most upbeat song on here. It has this catchy tune in its chorus and a pretty chill solo as well, which easily makes me predict it being the next single of “13”. Its length helps it out on that too- just barely less than 5 minutes long, this will be a radio-friendly tune that people will easily love.
The other point in the album is “Zeitgeist”. Listening to this makes me want to slip into my own dark shadows and hope that the Prince of Darkness himself could just be there with me and invite me to a pint of flaming hot holy drink with him… sorry… but really, this track has everything metal is within its musical notes, from this doomy, gloomy and mellow acoustic guitar strum met by an excellently evident oriental drum in the background building some kind of hopeless atmosphere, where everything feels so mortal and temporary. And accompanied by Ozzy’s distant vocals, this song could be perfect for any sentimental situation, because it is a very sentimental song. With subject matters of loss, death, deprivation, unattainable wants and need as well as hate and love, Sabbath impress quite nicely. Not bad at all.
“13” was probably one of the most anticipated albums of all time. And it was worth the wait because if it had been produced 5 or even 10 years after Black Sabbath’s last album (“Forbidden” 1995), it would have been condemned as repetitive, or said to be ‘like any other Black Sabbath work’, but because of this 17-year gap of Sabbath or, this 35-year gap of original Sabbath, it was an excellent comeback record. It couldn’t have been any better. But at the same time, it puts a lot of pressure on the backs of Osbourse, Iommi and Geezer; how could they present something better than “13” now that it’s out there and people love it? My guess is, they won’t. They possibly won’t be releasing anything newer than “13” under the name of Black Sabbath again. And like my brother sadly noted, “13” ends the same way as Black Sabbath’s first song “Black Sabbath” off their first album “Black Sabbath” begins, with the ring of church bells.