Album Review: 13 by Black Sabbath
Posted by RiffRaff
After writing up, not liking, and then deleting and rewriting and then throwing away again and again my review of Black Sabbath’s new album 13 I’m going to just put an end to it now and let a big ol’ brain fart burst forward from my finger tips and shoot from the hip and type up my thoughts on the album without following any of my rules for trying to create a compelling or flowing review. So, pardon the atrocious writing style or grammatical errors you may find here. This was the only way for me to express myself about one of my all time favorite bands.
What can I say? Up along Iron Maiden lies Black Sabbath as one of my all time favorite bands. And I’m a particular fan of Ozzy era Black Sabbath, so you can only imagine my surprise and excitement when I heard that they were finally going to record that long fabled reunion album. Ya, I was f’n hyped up for it. Then I bought tickets to go see Black Sabbath live, which eventually ended up getting canceled and replaced with an Ozzy and Friends show. I still went, but something inside of me died that day when I saw Ozzy that night. Lord bless him he tried, but he sounded pretty bad and he hobbled around on stage like an old man. Which he is. But seeing that your heroes aren’t immortal after all does hurt a little bit. Mix that with the fact that Tony Iommi is hurting with leukemia and Bill Ward is still not performing with and seems to be in bad spirits with the rest of the band, yeah, it kind of takes some of the piss out of the music. I still tried to keep my hopes up the 13 would be a great record, but when the track “God is Dead?” got released, well, some of my fears about Black Sabbath releasing one hell of a doozy for their quite possibly final epitaph record didn’t seem quite possible. Don’t get me wrong, the single isn’t horrible by any means, but it just lacked that energy that I look for in a Black Sabbath song.
So, the time is here and 13 is in my hands and has been spun quite a few times over. I do have to say it’s actually a pretty decent album, undeniably Black Sabbath, and I enjoy many parts of whole heartedly. But that’s the thing, I enjoyed ‘parts’. While I found myself really rocking out to certain sections of songs I felt I had to slog through a bunch of bull dookie to get there. With the majority of songs breaking the 7 minute mark, this gets really problematic. It really hurt the record for me and those long sections where I’m not engaged really takes away from the energy that the well performed sections exude. Nothing is jarring like having to fast forward a song to get to the cool part, and I had to do that more than a few times on the record.
But man, when they hit a sweet spot, Jesus Tapdancing Christ, they hit a fucking sweet spot. At times Tony Iommi is playing the best he has in his entire career, and as prolific of a guitarist he is, that’s saying a whole lot. Add in Geezer Butler also being at the near top of his game and you have one hell of a combo. Even studio drummer Brad Wilk (Rage Against the Machine) delivers some really great parts and fits with Mr. Butler quite well. And Ozzy…. Well, he doesn’t sound horrible, and actually really good at parts, but after seeing how he sings live, the fact that I know there is some studio trickery going on to make him sound decent kind of kills his energy a bit for me. And yes, I am holding them to ridiculously high standard, I mean, c’mon, it’s Black Sabbath!
One thing that did strike me about the record after a few listens is the lyrics. On first listen they come off as kind of weak and cliché’. But when you look at how old Ozzy and co. are, when he starts singing about contemplating God and death while they are quite close to it, it kind of takes on a whole new meaning and energy. And Tony, man when he does play, knowing that this may be his very last recorded album, there is such a beautiful energy coming from his guitar that just clenches to your heart.
Do I recommend this record. If you’re a Sabbath fan and already have all of their records, yes, I do. I enjoyed it a lot more than Technical Ecstasy and Forbidden, but when held up against the greats like Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Vol. 4, and Paranoid it really falls short. If the songs had some trimming done to them, this album could have been a masterpiece. But man, knowing that this could have been something more amazing that it is and then having to fall into the pattern of boring section awesome section boring section awesome section really takes a lot of energy for me to get into. If I had to toss a rating on 13 I’d say 3.5 out of 5. Those awesome sections are something special and worth listening to, but this could have been so much more. I guess that’s it. What are your thoughts on the new Black Sabbath album? Peace Love and Metal!!