Over three decades in the reckoning, and to the delight of metal aficionados from New Mexico to Beijing, the eponymous genre defining metal band Black Sabbath are back with their original line-up of founding member Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi. The result of this reunion and their exposure to producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin (Foo Fighters, Slayer) is ‘13’, their mammoth comeback to the mainstream and a call to arms to metallers worldwide.
With Ozzy back on vocals after the tragic death of Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi as the axe man, Geezer Butler providing the bass and Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk sitting in on drums, the sound on ‘13’ is suitably triumphant, with a sense of an impending apocalypse. The ominous commencement of the album ‘End of the Beginning’ is Sabbath at their doom filled best, with Ozzy’s trademark vocals cutting deep from the word go as he croons “Is this the end or the beginning/or the beginning of the end”. Rubin’s influence is apparent from square one, with the producer’s epic sounds resonating throughout the record, and epic seems to be what the aim was on this Sabbath record, with seven of the eleven songs on the record clocking in at over 5 minutes.
To enjoy this album though, you need to forget all pretence of any drama within the legendary metal band, and you certainly need to forget Ozzy’s ill-fated solo record and that dreadful duet with daughter Kelly. This record is about a shameless progression of what made the band a pillar of modern metal. Bring Me the Horizon have produced arguably the most progressive and defining metal record of the past 12 months, but in ‘13’, you have a re-emergence of old-school metal. ‘13’ is best epitomized by a line from the opening track, “rewind the future to the past”, and that is exactly what the band have done on ‘13’.
It’s not exactly back to basics, but Black Sabbath were never in any way basic, they were a progression of what was before them and now, they have set a marker to all bands in metal 2013. Sabbath are revered amongst bands and fans of the genre alike, and it would have been difficult for them to go wrong on this record, and that’s why it almost feels like a bit of a safe effort. Single ‘God is Dead’ is undeniably classic Sabbath, from the booming drums, to the trademark strumming of the Iron Man himself Iommi.
The record falls a bit flat with the staccato guitars that intersperse the mid-section of ‘13’. It feels a bit uncharacteristic of Sabbath, and also again feels very safe. But the album does show a lot of the character we have come to expect from a Sabbath record. It’s obvious why they are so well-regarded and are held in such esteem and their relevance is as poignant in 2013, as it was decades ago at the bands inception. ‘13’ delivers in that respect and seasoned fans will lap this record up; however, if this to be the start of Sabbath 2.0 then a more ambitious approach must be considered. For now though, having the original line-up back producing mammoth tunes like ‘Loner’ and ‘God is Dead’, is quite enough for this not so Iron Man.
‘13’, Black Sabbath’s long-awaited reunion album, is out now on Mercury.