Black Sabbath/ 13 (Vertigo/ Republic, 2013)
Every single review of this album states how this the first studio album with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals in 35 years. Has everyone forgotten the two ill-fated studio tracks with Ozzy Osbourne from 1998's live album, Reunion? 13 does the impossible: it doesn't disappoint, and it actually impresses me. Given their collective recent output in various projects, I wasn't sure if these guys still had it in them to make a truly great album. I'm happy to be proven wrong.
Bill Ward was unfortunately left off of what is likely the final album that these guys will do. Instead we get Rage Against The Machine's Brad Wilk on drums. It would have been nice to have the original four horsemen of the apocalypse together again, but 75% original Sabbath is still more lethal than 99% of Heavy Metal bands.
Rick Rubin got these guys to do the impossible by leaving the Metal more or less behind and focusing on their earlier, bluesier sound. It sounds more evil than if they were all playing in their more recent manner. Loner has a great, simple, repetitive Iommi riff that makes you want to air guitar. If a song can channel my inner adolescent in such a way then it's a winner. One of my favorite aspects of those old Sabbath albums is that while they were extremely heavy for their time, there were quieter moments on them that added to the dynamics. Zeitgeist is a perfect follow up to the stomp of Loner. Yes, I still listen to albums in their proper order.
Age of Reason gets genuinely cryptic sounding at around the 2:50 mark and then slams. Black Sabbath rules! I've beat those old albums into the ground over the years, and you sometimes forget how great these cats are. Tony Iommi's guitar tone is vintage sounding throughout the entire album, and his guitar solo on this song is godlike. Or would that be Satanlike? Live Forever sounds wicked, with some classic Iommi riffing.
As awesome as the heaviness is, it's the more melodic parts that just kill me. I love heavy stuff with an underlying melody. There has to be something to hum or it's just a waste of time for me. Try humming a Cannibal Corpse song and see how far you get.
The bonus disc starts off with a song faster than any on the album proper, Methademic. That one is more “Metal” in the contemporary sense, with Ozzy's vocals sounding closer to his latter era solo stuff. Three of the four bonus tracks are found on the regular deluxe edition. The fourth bonus track is a Best Buy exclusive, and it's a damn shame, because Naivete In Black is a total jam, sounding like something off of Sabotage. There is no good reason that all 12 songs from both discs weren't included with the regular album to begin with. I burned them all on one disc and they clocked in at 72:36. I do believe that this is the final Sabbath album, as it ends as the first one began, with gently falling rain and a bell tolling in the background.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I bought the Best Buy version, which has 4 bonus tracks on a bonus disc and a lenticular 3-D cover on the tri-fold digipak. I think that is bullshit when bands do these chain exclusives, as it only encourages piracy. While I am a physical media fan and love owning tangible music, someone who would buy the iTunes download might just go torrent the whole thing. It is also unfair to the independent record stores. Bands- all bands, not just Black Sabbath, should just release an album and be done with it. I know that is not how the game is played, this is just my opinion. The extra songs could have been an EP or saved for B-sides.