Genre: Heavy Metal, Doom Metal, Thrash Metal, Stoner Metal
Label: Vertigo Universal
Number of Tracks: 8 (11 on the deluxe edition)
Overall Rating: 7/10
Black Sabbath have already cemented a place as metal gods as a band that have created Doom/Sludge metal. This was ultimately the result of an engineering accident where lead guitarist Tony Iommi's fingers were injured, and he began to tone down his guitar and adjust to playing with prosthetic fingers. This gave Black Sabbath (who originated as a classic blues band) a deep, darker tone and they focused on darker lyrical subjects evident in hits such as 'Iron Man', 'Paranoid' and 'Sweet Leaf', selling over 50 million albums world wide. As listeners we all have our own opinion, but no matter what people think of the new album '13', they have nothing to prove, and will go down as one of the most successful metal bands ever.
'Rewinds the future to the past' sings Ozzy Osbourne on his first vocals to appear on a Black Sabbath record for 36 years. This couldn't be a better summation of what any reformed band who has entered the studio have attempted to do. Producer Rick Rubin suggested that this latest release would be 'not retro' and said 'If this had come out in 1972, i think people would have loved it'. Rubin persuaded the band to 'Unlearn everything over the past 43 years. Pretend this is your second album'.
Most of the tracks on the record range from 4 1/2 minutes to over 8 minutes long, with the bonus track 'Piece of Mind' the only track under 4 minutes. The first single from the album 'God is Dead?' was released mid-April amongst mixed reactions from fans, the second single 'End of the Beginning' was released on crime drama 'CSI' in early June. All lyrics were written by Ozzy and Geezer and all music was written by Tony Iommi.
The album opens up with the track 'End of the Beginning'. It comes across as mediocre as the only musical highlight would be a head banging riff leading up to the solo. Its slow tempo up until this point but Tony did not disappoint with the solo. The second track, 'God is Dead?' starts of tranquil, and does a very good job of creating that Black Sabbath vibe they are famous for. However the lyrics are ambiguous and aren't very original. 'Zeitgeist', the fourth track caught my attention, with a weird slow acoustic, and percussion which is predominantly carried by the bass continuing with the dark spiritual feel to the album. Over the next 4 tracks, Tony Iommi deals out bone crushing scything riffs, laced with a dose of heavy blues, also known as the usual Black Sabbath Doom metal and finished strongly with 'Dear Father'. The next 3 tracks are only available on the deluxe edition, and it is definately worth getting. Arguably the best tracks of the lot are 'Methademic' and 'Piece of Mind' and a spine tingling riff in 'Pariah'.
The album is strong vocally, and there is little sign of age in Ozzy's voice. His age and his antics have phenominally hardly had an impact on his vocals. The lyrics sound hit and miss, some lyrics being pretty solid in songs like 'Age of Reason' where Ozzy sings 'Do you hear the thunder, raging in the sky? / Premonition of a shattered world that's gonna die / In the age of reason, how do we survive / The protocols of evil ravage through so many lives'. Other songs can be cheesy and cliche, for example in the song 'God is Dead?' Ozzy proclaims: 'The blood runs free/ The rain turns red/ Give me the wine/ You keep the bread.' Overall a pleasing vocal performance, and the lyrics in most part have stuck to their demonic roots.
I'm flooded with mixed emotions, as i want to love it but i was dramatically under-whelemed by songs such as 'God is Dead?' and 'Zeitgeist', however pleasing songs such as 'Pariah', 'Piece of Mind' and 'Age of Reason' made it thorughly enjoyable. I did not hate any song, and i particularly love the riffs which Iommi has written on the album. This is by no means a modern metal album, but more of an attempt to pick up where Black Sabbath left off, and Sabbath fans will love it.
Ozzy has previously talked about aiming to end his career 'The right way' as opposed to how he ended it after the 1978 album 'Never Say Die' where he was too incapacitated to finish. For all its flaws, '13' has a sense of finality to it, and it would be difficult to say they havn't succeeded with that aim.