Overall Score: 9/10 Influence : 10/10 Relief That They've Pulled It Off: 10/10 Riffs: 10/10 Pros: The Perfect Contemporary Black Sabbath Album In 2013 Cons: Purists May Not Like Aspects Of The Production
There’s pressure to perform and then there is pressure to perform. Before discussing the relative merits of a NEW Black Sabbath album let’s examine the facts; this is an album by the inventors of an entire genre that has developed over the years into a sub-culture/way of life, it’s their first under the name since 1995’s Forbidden, their first to feature original vocalist/icon of popular culture Ozzy Osbourne since 1978’s Never Say Die, it has been recorded under the stress of finding a new drummer after Bill Ward’s controversial and acrimonious departure, with naysayers writing off Ozzy due to his recent relapse back into rehab, not to mention guitarist Tony Iommi’s on-going battle with Lymphoma throughout the entire reunion process. If that wasn’t enough pressure to make you turn tail and run then lord only knows what is. Couple this with the fact that the expectations are so inevitably and insanely sky high then, surely, Black Sabbath are going to fail to deliver? How could they not?
Let’s get this out the way quickly then, 13 is nothing short of spectacular. An absolute triumph that even the most hardened devotee couldn’t possibly have imagined. It’s everywhere you look, from the molten lava fluidity of rhythm section Geezer Butler and stand in drummer Brad Wilk’s driving backbeat, Osbourne’s, oh so recognisable, voice sounding clearer, sharper and more confident than anything he’s put his name to in decades and, of course, in Iommi’s perfect, mind bending, jaw dropping, skyline levelling guitar work. Credit should also go to producer Rick Rubin for making Sabbath sound like a band from 2013, as opposed to a 70’s band playing now. This is an album that makes Sabbath sound contemporary and cutting edge. No mean feat for a band with a vintage of over 40 years.
End Of The Beginning starts the album off with a riff so heavy it could swallow the whole stoner rock scene up in one mouthful, slowly but surely adding the layers to the heaviness until it takes shape as trademark Sabbath, God Is Dead follows and keeps the typically doomy, monolith vibe going. It’s even more impressive than the opener, due in the most part to an almost never ending supply of blinding fretwork from that man Iommi. How long he’s had these parts in his head we can only speculate on, but it’s certainly been worth the wait. Every song is crammed almost to breaking point with licks, grooves and leads that almost beggar belief. It’s hard to argue against this being his album. Even the trippy, Planet Caravan-esque Zeitgeist is peppered with beautifully fragile six string nuances that colour the song perfectly. His, and the rest of the bands, best work is served up on penultimate track Damaged Soul , a flawless swinging blues number that would make Kyuss, Down, Electric Wizard, Clutch and the rest whip out the white flag within one listen.
When, at the end of final track Dear Father, you hear the thunder and rain fall then the chiming church bell that opens the first track on the self-titled debut Sabbath album it’s not just nostalgia, it’s a reminder of just who you are listening to and the legacy that they had to live up to. The hairs on the back of your neck will stand up and a shiver will shudder down your spine. Pressure? What pressure? Black Sabbath clearly thrive on it.