Black Sabbath: 13

sabbathBlack Sabbath
(Republic Records)

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Thrilled as I was to hear that Black Sabbath finally reformed and was releasing 13, I was instantly depressed to learn that only three of the four original members, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Ozzy Osbourne, are on these eight tunes. (Original drummer Bill Ward, suffering “contractual disputes,” is replaced by the extremely powerful and competent Rage Against the Machine skin man Brad Wilk.)

“End Of the Beginning” opens the album. The song has that plodding, dangerous vibe we know well from Sabbath, but it’s just all a bit too plodding and never gets off the ground for me (though Wilk is definitely in the pocket). The first single from 13, “God Is Dead?,” is next and though it’s another tune that kind of just lies there, bassist Butler is subtle here in the soft verses as well as bouncy and growly in the nasty choruses.

“Loner” rocks with Iommi power chords and once again Geezer’s routing the whole thing together. “Zeitgeist” is a really cool acoustic tune with Ozzy’s voice run through some neato swirly effects, Wilk playing high-end percussion, Iommi on sweet acoustic and Geezer on soft bass. “Live Forever” snaps with those big Iommi riffs; the man is best known for and truly gets moving with Wilk and Butler locking in perfectly.

But for me “Age Of Reason” is what Black Sabbath was/is and could be about. It’s a great tune smack dab in the middle of the proceedings here. We have all the elements that producer Rick Rubin was most likely hoping to exploit – heavy, tight drumming throughout, Iommi’s big riffs and wailing at the end, Butler growling around every opportunity he gets and some good effects round Ozzy’s vocals, which may or may not be up to the task any longer.

Yes, lyrically these eight songs fall into the limited and often sophomoric, and the overall sound is exactly early 70’s Sabbath. And yes, 13 features only three of the four original members of this classic band, but still, this is not a bad album at all.

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