Black Sabbath. These two words say so much. They conjure images of Ozzy Osbourne peace signs swinging in the air hoping up and down like a coked up Richard Nixon. Of Tony Iommi standing in place playing the evilest riffs that can be conjured. And Geezer Butler, whose bass tone and style is the gold standard for all of heavy metal. These three titans have come together with the help of producer, Rick Rubin to release their first new album in 35 years, 13.
13 starts off with the ominous opening riff to the album’s first track “End of The Beginning.” “End of The Beginning” has a very slow ominous feel to it that is very reminiscent of the band’s eponymous song “Black Sabbath.” The song eventually picks up and the listener gets bludgeoned by another one of Iommi’s signature riffs.
13’s second track is entitled “God is Dead?” which starts off with a slow instrumental section that sets the mood for the song. This then gets interrupted by another one of Tony Iommi’s signature riffs. You can hear how tight the band is on this riff especially bassist Geezer Butler and session drummer, Brad Wilk. The slow meandering riff comes back again and with it we hear Ozzy’s vocals which sound excellent. Rick Rubin did a great job polishing Ozzy’s voice on this song, as it is spotless in performance. Butler’s bass is super punchy during the verse too, which gives the song a certain movement that is different from Iommi’s guitar playing which is very smooth. The chorus comes in and this is when we hear Black Sabbath as it is meant to be heard with extremely loud riffs. Around the 5:55 the song hits a bridge and this is by far my favorite song as it fits in with the band’s older material like “Hole in the Sky.”
“Loner” is the next track on the album, which is a track about pure alienation, which lyrically is interesting because many of Sabbath’s early songs were about that same topic. The riff in this song is very standard and simple, but it gets the job done. But where the song really is stunning is towards the middle where it slows down for a short period, but then the band kicks in, and they’re full speed.
“Zeitgeist” is the albums fourth track, and is one of my favorite tracks on the record. The song has a great feel reminiscent of their great track, “Planet Caravan.” It’s a beautiful track, and Rubin did a great job on the mixing allotting each instrument the correct space in the mix. If there’s anything that would be the polar opposite of “Zeitgeist” it would be the next track, “Age of Reason” which is a riff driven track about the end of the world, but what I love about it is it’s riff which sounds like a number of my favorite Black Sabbath songs got shoved into a blender, and the end result was this track. Tony Iommi’s guitar playing is also something that should be noted, as he provides a very heavy mechanical feel, but still makes the track groove. Wilk’s drumming is also great on this track.
“Live Forever” is another one of those tracks that you just want to bang your head to. The riff has so much groove. It’s a tremendous song, and the lyrics on the track are spectacular too. “Damaged Soul” is the seventh track on the album, and this song sounds like it came straight from 1971. The production on this song isn’t as spectacular as the rest of the album, but the unpolished feel adds to the rustic and true image that Black Sabbath has always portrayed.
“Dear Father” is the last track on the album, and this song is as heavy, as anything I’ve heard even though it’s a slower song in parts, I would say it’s one of the heaviest tracks I’ve ever heard. I love it.
13 is a collection of eight great tracks that bring one back to the 70’s. Rick Rubin said he wanted the album to sound contemporary, but also have a vintage feel, and with this record he definitely captured that vibe. Sabbath is back!