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Thursday, 13 June 2013

Reviews: Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath: 13 (Vertigo)

Firstly let me make this clear if you don't know who Black Sabbath are then stop reading this blog until you have listened to everything they released and then come back (even the Tony Martin years). Right now that that is out of the way we can continue, 13 marks the return of 3/4 of the original Sabbath line up (Bill Ward refused to join after contract problems) still Iommi, Butler and Osbourne are all back for their first album together since 1978's Never Say Die and from the opening doom laden riff of End Of The Beginning you can tell that this is classic Sabbath as they start off slow and menacing before Iommi switches tempo and brings the gallop middle, solo and then the melodic outro. As an opening track this mixes all eras of Sabbath starting off on the debut before moving through the pacier Vol. 4 era and then ending in the more melodic Never Say Die territory. A perfect encapsulation of the Sabbath sound in one song. 

 The band sound revitalised, Geezer plays his bass like a lead guitar as per usual, drummer Brad Wilk (RATM) does a great job of doing just enough to emulate Bill Ward but doesn't really have the flourishes that the great man had but is a perfect fit for the album, Ozzy is on fine vocal form with his unique delivery sending a shiver down the spine and then finally there are Iommi's riffs and I do mean riffs, there are at least four different ones in every song, he really is the sound of Sabbath and on the descending scale of down tuned notes on God Is Dead? kick off you are transported back to the evil roots of the debut and realise that doom would be nothing without these same sounds that Sabbath pioneered all those years ago.

 God Is Dead? then turns into a gritty heavy riff at the end to really get the heads banging. Unlike the newest Purple album this is pure old school Sabbath heavy riffs, rumbling bass, and the haunted wail of Ozzy, backed by some progressive time changes and intelligent lyrics (we've come a long way from rhyming masses with masses). The fuzzed voodoo of Loner has some of the classic Paranoid charm before everything goes all Planet Caravan on the bongo fuelled Zeitgeist which brings to an end what used to be side one. Here it is time to note that the production is absolutely perfect sounding old school but also crystalline, Rick Rubin has outdone himself again but the engineers and mixers also deserve a hand too for making this album sound huge.

 Side two begins in earnest with the stone age bludgeoning of Age Of Reason which has some backing choral effects to make it sound more gothic than it already is. The immediacy Live Forever with its percussive drive has to be the sequel to Fairies Wear Boots. The album ends in fine style with two 7 minute epics the first is Damaged Soul which has the Ozzy vocoder at full delivery making his vocal sound wounded on the slower bluesy number that features some superb solo's from Iommi who shows his slow stuff is as good as his faster stuff and ends with Ozzy honking on bobo in the true blues tradition. The final track is the epic Dear Father which again twists and turns through Iommi riffage and brings together all of the Sabbath hallmarks even ending with the thunderstorm and bell chiming that so memorably opened their debut. I have mentioned the word classic here a lot and that is what this is it's the sound of a band using their heritage to their advantage and have created something that is both original but also sounds exactly like the Black Sabbath that you remember and this is a hard trick to pull off but one that Sabbath have done masterfully! 10/10 (could it be anything else?)  

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