Album Review: 13 by Black Sabbath

black-sabbath-13-1370285735After 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.

Black-SabbathBut 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!!


About RiffRaff

Just takin' it easy for all you sinners.

Posted on June 13, 2013, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Having not yet heard the whole album, I’ll reserve judgement, but you’re as big a fan of the early Sabs stuff as me, Matt, I have to say that your review kinda sums up what I’m expecting – well-written, well-played but lacking the youthful energy and creative spark of the old stuff. I just listened to Bloody Sabbath today and was struck by how fresh it still sounds. Departures from the expected ‘doom’ sound like Who Are You?, Sabbra Cadabra and Spiral Architect – anything like those on the new record? Probably not, I guess? I’ll keep my mind (and ears) open, though. Roll on payday.

    • You see, the thing is, I can’t say the songwriting is solid. If it were those boring sections would have been edited down. And in hindsight, it’s that over focus on the ‘doom’ sound that is a big contributor to the record not being as great as it could be. It feels that ‘doom’ needed to shoehorned into every song leaving no room for departure, which was one of Sabbath’s strong points. It’s like they are just copying themselves more or less. But then again, holy fuck does Tony Iommi simply just rock on the record. When you get your listens in I’d be very curious what your thoughts are.
      Also, since you’re a big fan on Ozzy-era Sabbath, check out a band called Orchid, they really capture that old-school Sabbath energy and sound with a little modern touch.

  2. I am not sure when I am going to get around to checking out this album. I have never been much of a fan of Sabbath (blasphemy, i know). When I saw them at Download, it was cool…but, yeah they are getting old. It happens.

    I understand what you mean when you have to “wait” for the good parts. That’s quite frustrating when there are good tempos, but unfortunately buried and need to be filtered. In the end, it’s cool they are still making music. At some point, we are going to see many of our favorite bands retire. Then, what will we have left? Miss May I! Damn!

    • HEATHEN!!!!!! BURN THE WITCH!!!!!!!!!!

      Ya, it really sucks seeing your heroes get old. Especially when you go to see them live… If anything, in today’s metal realm, there will always be another band who will further the sound established by your favorites, just need to keep an open ear and open mind. Right now it’s seeming like Orchid are going to be the torchbearers of Sabbath if they keep on continuing down the trail they are blazing for themselves.

  3. I’ve only spun the album once, but I like what I heard. I wasn’t so pleased with “Zeitgeist” though. It sounds like a song made by a bunch of old fogies trying to do something different and it doesn’t work.

    The rest of the album is OK. But, it’s Black Sabbath, so it’s hard not to hold them to such a high standard. If this were their debut album I’d be all over it, but since we’re all expecting more and better from them, I give it a 4 out of 5, which is still pretty good.

    I just wish they would come near my town. I’ve never seen them live.

    • I actually thought Zeitgeist was one of the stronger songs on the album. I enjoyed the Planet Caravan vibe and Tony’s playing had this kind of ‘blue’ vibe to it. Really chill track, but as with many of the songs on the record, some editing or some more dynamics could have really made the song shine.
      I have seen Sabbath 3 times with the Ozzy line up and they are great live. Especially Tony and Geezer. After seeing Ozzy last summer, I really wouldn’t advise you to get your hopes high he has a good show, though I would imagine the rest of the band would be more of the ones carrying the set.

  4. Thanks for posting this review. I’m a long time fan of the original Sabbath lineup. It wasn’t til after Dio died sadly that I started appreciating his work with them.

    I haven’t listened to the new album yet but I’m stoked that theyre still up to putting out good material – and based on Rick Rubin’s work in the past – Johnny Cash is a good example – I’m expecting good things.

    • Thanks for reading! I was the same kinda, it took me a little while to get into the Dio-era because I was so fixated on the Ozzy-era. Luckily I did get into them before Dio passed on and got to see Heaven and Hell live, which was out-fuckin’-standing.
      Rick Rubin is really hit or miss with me. At times he eggs bands to put a bit too much of a commercial spin on their records or the recording feels ‘out of place’, other time he is damn great. On this his work seems to be middle of the road. The recording is pretty good, though it could have used a tad less compression and a more ‘analog’ sound could have really added a much needed and nice dynamic to the album.

      • I’ve had a listen and I think you’re right about Rubin’s work this time round. The album isn’t bad but it really feels like it was done by the numbers. And while my crappy sound setup hardly qualifies as a reference system I can definitely hear that commercial FM radio style compression. I’m not disappointed – but I’m not overwhelmed either. I enjoyed the Birmingham “Reunion” recording a hell of a lot more.

  5. I’ve been spinning the album — the “deluxe” with the three additional songs — in the background while at work for the last few days and I must say that I am pleased. Maybe I managed my expectations or maybe a more focused future listen will affect my views, but I must say that at present I am very happy with this album. I’m not so much multi-tasking while I listen to both hear the songs AND mentally compare them to the old (fantastic) stuff, but rather am just monitoring myself to see if the current listening is making me happy and making me want to cue the album up repeatedly. So far, so good. I’m liking it.

    • The weird thing with this album is that ‘sweet spot factor’. Like I said in the review, when they hit it, it’s simply nirvana, some of the best Sabbath ever. Those sweet spots are what keeps me coming back to the record, which I have been listening to quite a lot this week (as well as other Sabbath releases, been on a binger 😉 )despite my gripes. It’s just that with highs that peak as high as they do and some tweaking in the consistency 13 could have really blown me the fuck away. Mix that with my expectations which were next to impossible to try to sweep under the rug for this one (I really do try to not let them interfere with my reviews, but I just couldn’t be honest in this one without wearing them on my sleeve) and I’m left with just a very good record, which is a very good thing. I just wanted an album that oozed excellence from every pore.
      I have noticed however I tend to enjoy this record a lot more when I am doing things and not in a full focused listen. It lets me slip in for those sweet spots at a nice and comfortable pace.
      Thanks for reading!!!!

  6. Everything seems to be said here already. I would agree with what you wrote about “13” in the review and the comments. But I wouldn’t say that some of the “spots” are some of the best Sabbath ever, they are just really good. I listened to it about eight times and overall all songs after the first two are quite good, but there is just not one single hit, nothing that really stands out. I’m pretty sure I will listen to it some more times. But then in the future, when I want to hear Ozzy-Sabbath, I will most likely return to their first eight records, of which every single one is better than “13”.

    And I have to say, also it’s a good record and much better than I expected, I would exchange the entire “13” for one song like “Air dance”, “Snowblind”, “Megalomania” or “All moving parts stands still”. Which leads me to the final statement that “Technical ecstasy” is a totally underrated record and “Never say die” is not nearly that bad as it is repeated by some music journalists over and over, just because it fits so well in the chaotic final phase before Ozzy was kicked out.

    But I’m kind of happy that they made a record that good, that it would be an respectful final statement and nothing to be ashamed off. Also I wish Tony Iommi all the best for the future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: