Black Sabbath

Universal Records, 2013


REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Barely two minutes into 13, I was struck with the notion that what I was listening to might just be one of the best, if not the best “reunion” album of all time. When thinking of examples of similar records to 13, albums like Endless Wire, Hell Freezes Over/Long Road To Eden, That’s Why God Made The Radio, Two Against Nature, Move Like This, and American Dream came to mind. One realizes that, for the most part, those albums fail to do one of two things: firstly, justify their existence (this also can function as the “Was it good?” question), and secondly, remind people why they were fans in the first place.

Take Endless Wire, for instance: a solid record that earned itself a B from this reviewer. If you were to apply my reunion album criteria, it would earn a yes on both accounts. However, when I do the same with The Eagles’ take on the comeback, A Long Road To Eden, it’s 50/50. It decidedly answers the second question, but had it never been released, would we have missed out? That’s not to detract from it’ quality – I gave that album a B as well – but The Eagles could have left things along with The Long Run.

The original lineup of Black Sabbath sputtered out in the late ‘70s, finishing their run with the whimper of a record that was Never Say Die. And while I would not put too fine a point on it, at that time did anyone honestly expect that Ozzy Ozbourne would still be around in 1983, let alone 2013? Yet even with a decidedly weak ending, the legacy of the original lineup of Black Sabbath lived on with the advent of heavy metal. Their run of albums from 1970-1976 is one of the foundational elements of the metal genre. Why bother trying to bring it all back, essentially thirtyish years later?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The answer as it turns out, is because they could. Sabbath was never a particularly complex group; it was the sound that made them famous, with those tuned down guitars and slow, sludgy take on blues/rock. Couple that with lyrical aspect that earned them the “Black” half of their name, and there you had Black Sabbath. 13 completely recaptures those elements of the band in shockingly accurate fashion.

Iommi, Ozzy, and Butler do not play it safe either: this was a full on plunge back into the metal world, not merely a dipping of the toes. Leading off 13 with back-to-back eight minute tracks (“End Of The Beginning,” and “God Is Dead?”) that actively seek to recreate the feel and scope of classics like “War Pigs” was a risky choice, but it completely pays off. The choice to release “God Is Dead” as the lead single was an excellent one; by the time Ozzy reaches a full on wail and asks to “give me the wine, you keep the bread” Sabbath had me, hook, line, and sinker.

Special attention must be given to Mr. Osbourne: his performance on 13 makes one wonder just how much he played up the more...dullard parts of his personality the past decade and a half. There are many who only know Ozzy from reality television or his wife and not for helping to found heavy metal. When I first heard that Sabbath had reunited and was planning on releasing a record, my only question was, “Is Ozzy up to it?” Not only does Ozzy sound very similar to the vocals of his heyday, but he puts on a very Ozzy performance. It’s not difficult to hear the passion he has, and when he screams at the listener “Come on now!” you are listening to a man who has been doing this for a very long time and knows just how to reach you.

The group also touches on aspects of their career that some may have forgotten about. For example, “Zeitgeist” attempts a very similar style to that of the psychedelic “Planet Caravan” from Paranoid, while Damaged Soul” functions as a Zeppelin-esque blues jam, which as mentioned previously is where Sabbath originated from. The former works much better than the latter; “Damaged Soul” could have been trimmed in half and would have accomplished just as much.

13 is amazing in that when you ask our questions, the answers are both superlative yes’s. In fact, were one to take 13 and place it back in the ’70s somewhere between Master Of Reality and Sabotage, it would be remembered as one of the great Sabbath albums. There is no trace of ego, no poorly handled attempt to make sure that every band member gets to throw an outtake from his solo career onto the record. It’s a Sabbath record in every sense of the word. That is high praise indeed.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2013 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Universal Records, and is used for informational purposes only.