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3 stars Here we go again, Black Sabbath!

40 odd years ago as a teenager, I was mightily impressed by the heavy sound of this band. To this day I still enjoy their earlier works, but later they've lost that sound and I've lost interest. Truth is that I very much enjoy riff-based tunes, but I felt a bit embarrassed about being associated with Ozzy. You know, on the intellectual level.

I strayed towards more challenging artistic expressions. Little I realized that my interest in the band was much more captivated by Tony Iommy's tunes and delivery than of Ozzy's part, but the package as a whole was still very effective, nevertheless.. (It's worth noting that before Iommy decided to join the band, he was approached by the very Jethro Tull, an invitation he declined and the rest is history.)

Considering that the inclusion of Black Sabbath on PA was subject of heated discussions, it's hard not to notice that the band is one of the most popular ones here.

So, new album with Ozzy receiving very high ratings, but not a single review so far to give me an idea, I had no choice but to check it out - if only of curiosity. Well, it's a bit of a blast from the past as if "13" would have been released around 1972.

Ozzy sounds just like before and the lyrics remain unsophisticated, too... The heavy sound is present, Iommy plays crafty solos. So what has changed? Not much really and that's probably not a plus in this instance. The riffs too, are here, but appear to be too simple and easily accessible, closer to Heavy Blues than sparkling Heavy Metal. In 2013 this just won't suffice.

Chances are that one's expectations are somewhat higher today than of decades ago. In fairness, there is no such thing as dated music, only older people, To a young person all music is new!

My conclusion is that I enjoyed listening to "13", but I'd still prefer "Masters Of Reality" instead. This album is too simple for my taste and I am not left with the urge to hear it again, soon. Good, but excellent addition is only for "sabbathistas".

Report this review (#974596)
Posted Sunday, June 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ok. So here it is then.


Phew. A lot has happened since 1978. The lates developments of the endlessly dramatic saga of Black Sabbath of course being the numerous reunion tours with the original line-up, one aborted recording project with Rick Rubin, hiatuses, other projects, more reunion tours and other projects and finally the triumphant declaration that the true original Sabbath will reunite for one last album. Well that went to hell as we all know with Bill Ward dropping out of the project for dare I say obvious reasons of not being that good anymore, and even Cancer - already not in very high regard in the Sabbath camp for what he did to Ronnie J. - tried to [%*!#] with the proceedings. But Tony Iommi the Iron Man wouldn't have that and here we are.

If not the original Sabbath, then at least the Ozzy Sabbath is back again, and all things considered I say that's good enough. Personally I didn't dare expect much anything despite the fact, or, to be fair, my opinion that whatever Tony Iommi has put out in recent years, be it Heaven & Hell or solo projects, has been of very high quality. The man just doesn't run out of riffs and Geezer's still got his fingers working. But whatever new Ozzy I've heard lately has been extremely uninspired, but to be fair he still has sounded like he always did, though maybe a tad auto-tuned. So all the individual ingredients are basically there, but how does the Rubin factor alter the picture and what about the other B. W.? (I like to believe his initials and the number of letters in his name, along with his much more impressive work record, had some contribution in Rubin's insistence they use him instead of Tommy Clufetos). Does it feel like the real thing anymore?

Turns out Rubin chose the same approach as he did in saving his previous metal mammoth from trying new stuff; go back to the beginning, how did you do things then, try to get in the same mind set, etc. And so the first track, End of the Beginning, plays as an updated version of the song Black Sabbath. Very samey slow ominous onslaught of murky chords, first crashing in heavily, then the verse takes it down and then back up with full force, eventually fading into silence and then a change of tempo into a more furious riff. It all sound very, very familiar, even troublingly so. But soon after the song continues into greener pastures, all very vintage Sab but with new ideas. The first track is like a microcosm of the entire album; at times it sounds like it's been done before, at times it sounds like new stuff done in the good old BS way, but damn, the familiar parts sound way too good as well.

So you can bicker about N.I.B.2. or The Continuing Journey of Planet Caravan or then again you can just revel in the fact that the grandfathers of metal can still pound it with the best of them, and if they've been doing it for 40 years and counting, it's easy to forgive if something's perhaps been tried before. Because they really are some pretty wonderful tunes. You can pretty much sense the effect that Rubin has had on this record, as each and every song could be placed on one of their first six albums, no outside influences whatsoever than what they drew upon back then. The only exception really is Live Forever, the riffs of which I can imagine might originally have been written with the sadly missed voice of Ronnie James Dio echoing in Iommi's head. Since the first time I pictured RJ belting out the first line "Juuuuuust befoore you diee!" I haven't gotten rid of it and can't shake the nagging thought that Ozzy's lower, less powerful register is a bit of a compromise on the song.

But other than that, not much complaining to do. My favourites from this album tend to be the most epic, heavy numbers; God is Dead?, Age of Reason, Dear Father. A special shout out has to go to the "hey all you stoner kids, we were doing this decades before you were even born, so listen up!" track Damaged Soul. Sweet, sweet stuff. And when the album comes to an end with Dear Father, the first track's opening minutes gain some perspective; while everything starts with the extremely blacksabbathian riffing mentioned before, it also closes with a very familiar riff, sort of a less dissonant version of the original trinonus opening of the title song. Very cool bookends to the album - and when the track somes to a screeching stop, of course there is the inevitable thunder and bells closing out the saga where it began. An obvious, but classy move to highlight the end of the band's recording career.

So does it still feel like the real thing?

Hell yeah. Tony Iommi just doesn't seem to run out of riffs, Geezer's bass work is just as brilliant as it always was and he still owns a nice sharp pencil to work lyrics with, Ozzy sounds like Ozzy and remarkably good at that for his age and lifestyle, whatever autotuning there is being quite subtly done. Ok, Bill is not there, but Brad does an extremely good job half emulating his style and half bringing his own. The sound is semi-raw, unpolished, just as it should be.

Only the test of time will tell the end results, but I'm pretty positive that we can add a seventh album to the string of Ozzy Sabbath classics. Welcome back and farewell, gentlemen!

Report this review (#977292)
Posted Thursday, June 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars ( I bought the Deluxe Edition which was used for this short review )

This could have easily been called Black Sabbath Volume 5 because stylistically that's where it fits in with Sabbath's timeline just before the experiments with a more streamlined sound on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage arrived. It sounds more like and extension Master Of Reality while visiting other themes and formulas from the first four albums and to a lesser extent the next two. The skull crushing riffs, cynical lyrics and compressed sound are all here and I can't believe Ozzy still sounds so alive at 65 when other singer's vocal chords from the same period are torn to shreds.

This is not the Sabbath of the future but rather the Sabbath of the past. It's as if all the post- Ozzy Sabbath never happened. The ballad, Zeitgeist, recalls the singular and mystic Planet Caravan from Paranoid with some jazzy lines from guitarist Iommi as do so many other tracks like Dear Father with a Sabbath Bloody Sabbath-like riff and the opener End Of The Beginning that reminds us of the iconic first track ( Black Sabbath ) that spawned the whole multi-genre heavy metal movement that has consistently endured while others have gone by the wayside. The whole album seems to say : Remember, you asked for it. Whether the tracks here will achieve legendary status of classics such as Iron Man, War Pigs or Paranoid is doubtful. '13' is more like a novelty album heralding the return of the creators and the release of a new album consolidates their resurrection and as this is written in June 2013 the album has reached # 1 on the UK charts

So much has happened within the multi- faceted genre of metal since 1978 that one option for producer Rick Rubin was to turn the clock back and that's exactly what he has done here. A raw in-your-face old style Sabbath with tracks that will mesh seamlessly with their classics in live performance. Nothing revolutionary has occurred here and "13" will certaily hold more appeal for aficionados than younger metal heads. The only drawback of the album is the absence of Bill Ward who was just as much part of the Sabbath saga as Ozzy, Geezer and Tony. It's unfortunate that his issues could not be resolved and he will certainly be missed when the Sabbs are on tour.

I was a little wary about this one and all the hype leading up to it's release didn't quell any of my fears. Although I didn't freak out like I did back in the seventies I liked '13' upon the first listen and it is definately an album that I will throw on many times. There is nothing better or worse they could have produced given all the obstacles that were faced leading up to it's final release. Not a masterpiece but pure Sabbath and by far not another Never Say Die catastrophe.

Report this review (#978633)
Posted Saturday, June 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars So here it is. After years and years of waiting. Black Sabbath are back. The first album in over 15 years, and the first album with Ozzy in over 30 years. This album has been on and off for so many years that no one knew when this day would come. And now it has.

The best way to describe this album is by comparing it 2 other releases. The first one being Heaven & Hell's "The Devil You Know". Before Ozzy joined back in the band, Heaven & Hell, the reunion with Ronnie James Dio released an album, which in many ways was like this album, with the comebacks and all that. While it did have some good moments, at times the album felt aged and old, and almost uninspired. In many ways, "13" eclipses this incarnation of the band. Dio (RIP) may have been a better and more talented vocalist than Ozzy, but Ozzy does have a lot of personality, which in many ways outshines the talent of the former vocalist.

Now we go to an album that came out this year...Cathedrals "The Last Spire." The doom gods, who happily admit worshipping at the altar of Sabbath, ended their 20 career this year with a doomy gloomy masterpiece. Comparing these two albums, and it's obvious which leaves a bigger impact. "The Last Spire" is greater in comparison, due to its overall aesthetics and atmosphere. "13" does create a great atmosphere, but one of the biggest criticisms it has received has been its production. Rick Rubin, one of the most successful producers of our time has done a good job at tying the loose ends, but almost too good of a job. The album is pretty much note perfect, but one of Sabbaths brilliant charms where the rough style of their productions. From over fuzzed guitars and bass sounds, to pounding drums, on this album, the guitar at times has as much power as a triangle in Carnegie Hall.

One of the most noticeable is the darkness of the lyrics, bringing up rather existential topics, such as the existence of God, self, religion and in all fairness, just questioning everything.

Musically, the band are on form. Iommi is a riff god, and is still to this day can add a groove to a funeral. Geezer Butler has an amazing bass sound on this album, and is always on top form. Ozzy's vocals do sound aged at times, but throughout he will tend to suprise you. I have seen footage of them performing live, and he does seem to slip up a lot...but, this is Ozzy...he is old and shakey as hell.

Sadly, Bill Ward is not part of the line up of this album, due to...weirdness. Replacing him on the other hand is Brad Wilk (you know, from Rage Against The Machine). He's a great drummer and does a great job, but as always, people will always be begging for Bill Ward to come back.

The opener "End Of The Beginning" in many ways could be the younger brother of the track "Black Sabbath" from their first album. A very doomy riff with the tritone used to the full force to give the song a sense of evil.

The albums lead single "God Is Dead" is very much like a depressing version of War Pigs. A very bleak song draped with Nietzsche influence. Even though its the albums longest song, its still a great song for a single.

"Zeitgeist" in many ways is a follow up to "Planet Caravan." I was a bit annoyed that at times the album is like a rewrite of "Paranoid", but I did really like this song, and I actually prefer it to "Planet Caravan."

"Live Forever" is probably one of my favourite songs on the album. A brilliant groove throughout and some nice vocals from Ozzy. The lyrics are an interesting depth into the psyche and religion, which is always a plus for me.

"Damaged Soul", is a return to Sabbath's early blues roots. And this is what blues should be, because the 60's ruined it, with c***s like John Mayall who took the emotion away from the genre and replaced it with...mediocrity. Blues should be about dark topics, and nothing is more dark than possession, religious suicide and the battle between good and evil.

The album's last track "Dear Father" is probably the track with most vitriol. Lyrically about child molestation and scandals in the Catholic church, Geezer really attacks the institution with barred teeth.

In conclusion, this is a brilliant comeback. This may not be their best album, but it is in many ways a return to form and also a step forward. The bands best album in 20 years, and an achievement each band member should be proud of. There are some secret Sabbath classics on this album and


Report this review (#990512)
Posted Monday, July 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Black Sabbaths new album 13 is full of great riffs. I listened new album couple of times from youtube before I bought japanese 2cd edition. I havent tried with good stereo system yet, so I dont know how much loudness war has an affect to cd. Anyway album sounds at least very good and I think even excellent. There are not many boring parts on the record, actually I did not found any. Unique sounds from unique band. There are many good reasons to buy this album. One reason is that it brings lots of good memories to hear Ozzy singin Black Sabbath material. My highest recommendations! Go and buy it! (25.7.13 update: Just bought EU double vinyl. It sounds big, very good quality, flat heavy vinyl vithout any errors. And it was cheap, only 23 euros. Highest vinyl recommendations!)
Report this review (#991211)
Posted Wednesday, July 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is my third review of quite old artists/bands in a row.

After Bowie and Purple, here come the Sabbath time?My first two opinions were rather average, and I was not really aware of what I was going to discover with this Sabbath album.

The return of the giant Ozzy?

I Was this a joke or could this be something worth? Let's have a listen? From the VERY first notes of "End Of The Beginning", I knew that something special was going to take place. Their incredible and doomy sound, the fantastic Iommi on the guitar and the so special Ozzy voice. I felt like I was brought back in the early seventies (you know, the good old times)!

Just to remind you that my first concert ever was Sabbath in March 1973. At the time they were considered as hard (heavy) rock band?

The same feeling prevails during the fantastic "God Is Dead". It is a long, dark, doomy, heavy and slow paced song. What a great song! What a great come back for this band. From virtually nowhere actually. These two songs only are just a great kick! Second highlight for sure. But there are sooooo many more here!

There are really no weak track on this album (well the long heavy and bluesy "Damaged Soul" is not extraordinary to be honest). Even if "Loner" cannot stand the comparison with the two openers (which is very difficult), it is still a solid heavy song. One can even get an acoustic break in the midst of all this excellent heaviness ("Zeitgeist").

The third long number is another great song: "Age Of Reason" contains each Sabbath's vintage ingredient. I guess that all of their fans were submerged with happiness while listening to this great track (although not my fave). Who knows what the band could have achieved if their line-up would have remained stable (meaning basically with Ozzy)?

I am totally in line with "Vibrationbaby" when he asserts that this could have been "Sabbath 5". The music here is really incredible and so close to the one of their greatest days. "Live Forever" is another fabulous example! And what can I say I say about the closing number "Dear Father"?

This is just FABULOUS my friends.

If I can give you a tip: if I were you, I would get the special edition of this CD because the three bonus tracks are really worth (which is not often the case). "Methademic" is a solid hard rock anthem full of dynamics and heaviness and totally in line with the album. This has nothing to do with filler. By no means! Even more: it is another highlight as far as I am concerned. "Pariah" is just another great song of this excellent and surprising album!

I hope to be able to witness another Black Sabbath concert before they end their career (or before I end my life). This is a great heavy metal album. Four solid stars is my rating.

I wish to witness them once more in my (their) life. They cancelled a concert in 1999 close to my place as well as last year in Rotterdam due to Tony's health problems. See you guys???

Report this review (#1015846)
Posted Saturday, August 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Back during Black Sabbath's golden era I was a total "fanboy", I loved the band's music over its Ozzy period. When Dio took over vocal duties I still liked the band however my love for the band waned somewhat. "Heaven and Hell" fronted by Dio was a very good album which probably rescued Black Sabbath at the time and put them back in the spotlight however it wasn't the same for me without Ozzy. I followed Sabbath though and purchased each studio album on release, as I did with the Ozzy solo albums - the magic was gone however although I found a lot to like in each album that I got hold of.

It was with trepidation that I got hold of this new release from Black Sabbath - the iteration of the band that I adored was back together (except for Bill Ward) - would they be able to recapture the old magic for me? Would this be an album that would disappoint me and I would end up wishing was never made?

Well I can't say that I wish it was never made however I must say that the magic is still gone. It is an ok album that I don't dislike but it lacks the punch that I loved in tracks like "Snowblind", "Wheels of Confusion", "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" etc. It lacks the adrenaline rush of the Sabotage album. It lacks the enjoyment level that I got out of "Technical Extacy" and "Never Say Die" even though those two were the weakest albums of the early Sabbath discography.

The band seem to follow a bluesy metal approach throughout most of this as opposed to the hard hitting hard rock crunch of "Master of Reality" or "Volume 4" or the progressive approach that they took on "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and even more so on "Sabotage". The first track holds a lot of elements from the very first "Black Sabbath" track from the album of the same name and ,for me, the album just seems to stay in that territory right the way through. There is no "Tomorrow's Dream" or "Killing Yourself To Live" here. At times it felt like an Ozzy solo album and at other times like a reliving of the bands first album.

All in all then - an enjoyable blast from the past but not a magic one. Three stars from me.

Report this review (#1016921)
Posted Monday, August 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "13" is the 19th full-length studio album by UK heavy/doom metal act Black Sabbath. The album was released through Vertigo Records in June 2013. It´s the first album by the group since the release of "Forbidden" in 1995 and the first with Ozzy Osbourne since "Never Say Die! (1978)". The members have of course been busy with other projects in the intermediate years. Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi with solo careers and the two latter mentioned gentlemen also with Heaven and Hell (and with other projects). "13" was originally meant to feature original drummer Bill Ward too, but he bailed out because of contractual issues and his place is taken by Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk. So this is almost a reunion album by the original Black Sabbath lineup. As close as it gets anyway.

35 Years since these guys last recorded an album together and a new drummer do not affect the fact that the music on "13" sounds unmistakably like Black Sabbath. It´s audible that the band have gone for a vintage sound and it is the Ozzy-led albums from the early- to mid 70s that are the reference here. So we´re talking a heavy and organic sounding rhythm section, brick heavy guitar riffing, blues influenced soloing, and of course Ozzy Osbourne´s distinct sounding vocals in front. The lack of any surprises and the fact that the band have chosen to "play it safe" were slightly disappointing upon my initial listen, but slowly the quality of the tracks and the excellent musicianship begin to unfold and combined they actually make for a great listening experience. The Rick Rubin sound production is unfortunately not the best. Especially the drums sound a bit thin.

The opening pair of tracks, "End of the Beginning" and "God is Dead?" open the album in crushingly heavy style. Add a more dark and gritty sound and you´re close to being transported back to the 70s. The mellow and stoned "Zeitgeist" sounds like the younger brother to "Planet Caravan", and is a highlight on the album. Another highlight is "Damaged Soul", which sounds very retro and organic. The material are generally strong but not extraordinary, but if this turns out to the last album released by Black Sabbath, at least it´s a much, much stronger album than "Forbidden (1995)" and a much more suiting end to a great career. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#1031958)
Posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars The perfect Halloween album perhaps as we draw nigh to that date, Sabbath return with a fury on "13" - album number 19 in the studio. It is hard to resist the power trio of Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne, back together at last. If nothing else it is great to hear Ozzy wail and his tone is so endearing. I have enjoyed Ozzy's journey from early dark debut to solo career and of course The Osbournes is legendary television.

The new album impresses with Iommi'as incredible deep resonating riffs and Butler's mighty bass but the real star is Ozzy who is terrific on vocals. He sounds as though he has been put into a cupboard and dusted off to rise again such is the crystal clarity of his vocals. The man has hardly changed over the years in terms of vocal technique. The lyrics have remained as dark as ever too with a few laughable moments such as "Satan's waitin;" and "God is dead". It is not exactly groundbreaking but it is Sabbath through and through.

I could not really latch onto any specific song as a highlight because they all whirl past in a blur with a ton of metal guitar in a classic metal vein and a ton of melodic singing. However I can say I loved the opener "End of the Beginning" and "Zeitgeist" is a psych metal delight, and perhaps a strong contender for a return to the classic Sabbath riff is found on the wonderful 'Age of Reason'.

Overall this is a decent return to the classic lineup. I cannot compare it with the great proto metal sound of vintage Sabbath though as that is definitive Sabbath, however "13" is still going to please many a Sabbath fan.

Report this review (#1067302)
Posted Sunday, October 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It reminds me to the seventies ...

I never expected much on this new album by a band that is already old. But surprisingly when I first listened to this album I was really surprised by the music especially with the vibes it produced while I was enjoying the album. Somehow the music brings me back to the first album of Black Sabbath decades ago or during late sixties. The only different thing is that the record quality is now very digital with all sonic production is crystal clear and all subtleties can be enjoyed throughout the album.

The opening track "End of the Beginning" (8:05) reminds me back to Black Sabbath from the first album, at least from the riffs it produces as well as the guitar fills. In some way it's very similar. It's OK as long as it's coming back to the music of thir own. Ozzy's voice is still good and clear. Even though Bill Ward is not around, Brad is doing a good job in drumming. Even though starts slow the music moves in crescendo so that at the end of the track it sounds rocking. Aactually I hat the title of the second track "God Is Dead?" because I firmly believe that God has never and will not ever dead forever. But looking at the end of the lyrics there is a statement that says "I believe that God is not dead" - YES! Musically this second track is terrific and I love it very much especially how the song moves wonderfully from slow paced music with Ozzy's low register notes and it moves to heavier part as well. It's an easy to digest kind of music.

"Loner" (4:59) runs through different mode than previous two tracks but still a very good one to enjoy. I like the combined work of Iomi with his guitar and Geezer Butler with his bass guitar. The mellow "Zeitgeist" (4:37) is beautifully composed with merely using bass guitar with its solid lines and guitar fills. The music blast off again with "Age of Reason" (7:01) in faster tempo than previous tracks. I love all the remaining tracks as well as "Live Forever", ""Damaged Soul", and "Dear Father" are all very good tracks. THE BONUS MATERIAL "Methademic" is really great as well as the other two.

Overall it's an excellent come back for three original members of the band. Listening to this album in its entirety reminds me back to the early albums of Sabbath and also other seventies music like Moxy, Frumpy, Babe Ruth, Mahogany Rush, Grand Funk Railroad, Leslie West, Lord Sutch, Budgie, and many more classic rock bands ....oh what a glory days of seventies ... Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#1076902)
Posted Friday, November 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars In listening to this, the first Black Sabbath studio album with Ozzy Osbourne in 35 years (I'm not counting the two studio tracks that were tacked onto Reunion), it's impossible to escape one overwhelming impression: everybody involved REALLY wanted this to sound like a classic Black Sabbath album. This isn't necessarily for the best, as the ways in which they succeed at this and the ways in which they fail at this each undercut the album in their own way. On the one hand, nods to the band's past abound, both in general stylistic imitations of older material and in occasionally coming very close to directly plagiarizing themselves. On the other hand, Ozzy clearly sounds like an old man trying to imitate his younger self, and more importantly the album (as many people have noted) is mixed far too loudly to properly capture the atmosphere the band's classic albums had at their best. Those albums had often been loud and heavy by the standards of their day, but there was enough space in the mix to lend a sense of mystery to the sound, whereas everything here is so loud and in-your-face that that aspect of the band's sound is completely lost. Chalk it up to another Rick Rubin special.

Then again, if Ozzy and Tony and Geezer (Bill Ward didn't contribute for various reasons) really felt the strong need to make another Black Sabbath album together, this approach was probably the best of the realistic options. Ozzy and Tony had each had ample opportunity to try different approaches since parting ways, and I think it would be very generous to say that the results for each had been "mixed." Making a deliberate stab at imitating their style from 40 years previous may be artistically disappointing in that it would limit the ceiling of what this project could deliver, but it would also significantly limit the floor, and given that this approach also represented the chance to make a truckload of money, I'm perfectly ok with them taking this route. At the very least, Tony lived up to his part by writing plenty of great riffs, which he hadn't always done since Ozzy left, and it's nice again to have so many parts with Tony clearly in one channel and Geezer in the other.

The oddest feature of the album is just how long some of the tracks last; the album takes up 53 minutes in a mere 8 tracks. It's as if, among all of the other features the band decided to pull in from its classic period, the band decided they really needed to include "epics" along the lines of the longer tracks from Vol. 4 or Sabotage, and there isn't always a lot of justification for this. "God is Dead," for instance, lasts a whopping 9 minutes, but however good some of the riffs might be, I feel like this could have been easily reduced down to 5. "Age of Reason" has a killer riff of its own, but it's not enough to justify its 7- minute length either. There are long tracks that more-or-less deserve their full running times, though. The opening "The End of the Beginning" starts off as a hilariously blatant rip- off of "Black Sabbath" (both in the riff and in the nervous drumming), but it quickly spins off into a completely different (and kinda awesome) riff before growing into a guitar-frenzied passage that occasionally sounds like "Looking for Today" but only a little bit. "Damaged Soul" is a full-fledged 8-minute slow metal blues, with Ozzy playing some decent harmonica, and given that the band really hadn't done anything bluesy after the debut, I'm very happy to hear them go back in this direction for one track. The closing "Dear Father" also stands out with crushing primary and secondary riffs (there's a riff starting around the 3:00 mark that kicks a tremendous amount of ass, and there's a faster one after it that drives the song to its end), and it's kinda funny how the album closes with the same rainfall/chime sample that started off the debut album.

The other three tracks are a "Planet Caravan" imitation ("Zeitgeist") that isn't as great as the original but still kinda pretty, and a pair of five-minute decent riff-based heavy rockers ("Loner," "Live Forever") that could have blended right into the band's classic period (with different production, obviously). All told, this mix of decent-to-good tracks, hurt some by the excessive loudness and the blatant retreading, earns a ***, but it turns out that the version I have has four bonus tracks, and they're really good (almost enough to make me think about boosting this to ****). My favorite of the lot, and my favorite of all of the tracks from this album, is "Methademic," which grows from a quiet acoustic introduction into a speedy thrash-y rocker with lots of guitar texture in the verses and a killer riff in the breaks, with the best vocal melody of the album by a long shot. "Peace of Mind" is built around a riff where the guitar drops out at the end to highlight the bass (before speeding up in the second half), and if Vol. 4. had this song instead of, say, "Cornucopia" or "Snowblind," I'd think more highly of that album.

"Pariah" is a little weaker, but it has its own share of good ideas (and it has more contrast in the sound than a lot of the material from the main album does), such as the riff that plays when Ozzy sings the hilarious Sabbath-y chorus of "I'm your pariah, for your desire, ain't no Messiah, just your pariah." And finally, "Naivete in Black" is not an original song title for the band, but the song is nothing like its predecessor, reminding me more of something like "Neon Knights" than of an Ozzy-era track, and the blending of past styles works well here. I guess what fascinates me most about these four tracks, and consequently helps me like them so much, is that they strike me as tracks where the band backed off from its deliberate attempts to sound like its classic self, but in the process managed to capture the spirit and quality of its classic self far better than elsewhere; after all, at the time they were making those albums, Black Sabbath didn't yet know what the classic Black Sabbath sound was, and they were just making music the best that they could. The decision to relegate these tracks to bonus tracks that are only available in some editions baffles me.

If you like classic Black Sabbath, you'll probably like this album, but it's also unlikely that you'll regard it as important as the best albums from that era after you've listened to this three times. Still, I do rate it the main album as the equal of Vol. 4, and the version with the four bonus tracks slightly higher; given that my initial reaction upon hearing of an impending new Black Sabbath album was to brace myself that I'd give a ** rating, this outcome makes me very happy. It's a little unjust to live in a world where this got tons of press while the 2013 Deep Purple album Now What?! was ignored, but them's the breaks I suppose.

Report this review (#1080385)
Posted Friday, November 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars I was very excited when Black Sabbath announced a reunion tour and a new album on 11-11-11 (November 11th, 2011) and so began the wait for the mid-2013 release date!

The band released their first new single God Is Dead? a couple of months prior to the album release and I thought that it was a pretty decent track, even though the track was almost 9 minutes long and had little variation throughout it's first 7 minutes. End Of The Beginning was the second single and it initially sounded like the band trying to recreate the mood and sound of their band-titled track off the debut album. Eventually I've grown to like both these singles but none of them sounded like anything new nor was it all that forward-thinking.

Once I finally got a hold of the album it didn't take me long to begin enjoying it. I immediately found my favorite track off the bunch, Dear Father, which is both strong in its content and performance. The rest of the material felt like it was either in line with the two singles or was even better, which pretty much means that there are no lesser compositions among these eleven tracks! Tony delivers memorable guitar riffs, Ozzys vocals are great and Geezer/Brad provide solid foundation for the tracks. The only negative aspect that I can think of were the lyrics written by Geezer Butler which often felt quite flat, this was especially apparent on the two singles. Still, it's not a huge problem for me considering that the rest of the record is pretty solid.

If you are a fan of heavy metal music then 13 is definitely one of the top 5 albums you should be getting this year, an excellent album well worth the price of the admission. I would definitely recommend grabbing the deluxe edition of the album which features three bonus tracks, all of which are great and one of them, Methademic, even manages to show signs of excellence thanks to the riff work from Iommi. If I were Sabbath then I would call it a day and end on the high note which this record definitely represents.

***** star songs: Live Forever (4:46) Dear Father (7:20) Methademic (5:57)

**** star songs: End Of The Beginning (8:05) God Is Dead? (8:52) Loner (4:59) Zeitgeist (4:37) Age Of Reason (7:01) Damaged Soul (7:51) Peace Of Mind (3:40) Pariah (5:34)

Report this review (#1101642)
Posted Saturday, December 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Finally. After 35 years Ozzy, Geezer and Tony finally get together to release a much anticipated album. Bill Ward opted out and Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine took the slot, so this isn't a complete reunion but it really sounds like classic Sabbath. The band stayed as true as they could to the classic 70s era and I have to say that I really like the results of the effort.

What we get here is retro SABBATH in all its glory. The production is up-to-date but the songs feel like this album could have come out right after SABOTAGE and is by far more interesting than either TECHNICAL ECSTASY or NEVER SAY DIE. There is no doubt that there is some blatant self-plagiarism here. The very beginning riff sounds like the beginning riff of the very first album from 1970. The song "Zeitgeist" is a clear reference to "Planet Caravan" from PARANOID. If you listen throughout the album different parts will remind you of older songs.

A recycled album maybe but one that I really enjoy hearing and never really expected would be released after the gazillion attempts over the years to make this happen. Despite this not being a full reunion and also in no way in competition to replace any of the classics as a favorite album, I still find this a very satisfying listen. I can get behind this retro sound only because this is like a new beginning. If they decide to begin releasing new albums I really hope they don't stagnate trying to recreate the past and move on into some newer frontiers. 3.5 rounded up

Report this review (#1143305)
Posted Thursday, March 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars It can be pretty hard not to feel sorry for certain bands that destroy their own legacy, whether or not they did it intentionally. Even if it was their own doing, there's a genuine desire for a group to succeed and continue making quality records based on how good their old classic records were. There are plenty of obvious examples that come to mind: Metallica, Megadeth, Queen, etc., etc.; however, one of the worst cases of this would have to be with Black Sabbath. Why? Because they were such a significant band in pioneering an entire genre of music, of course the genre being heavy metal. While the band's records with Ronnie James Dio behind the mic were damn solid releases, most of the other post-Ozzy records have ranged from merely passable to downright atrocious (do we even need to mention their last album?). However, the hype train rolled in once the band's 2010 reunion with Ozzy Osbourne was announced. With him back into the fold, the group set out to record their big comeback album known as 13; the big thing to mention, however, is that Bill Ward isn't playing on this one. Due to a disagreement about his contract, he opted out and American drummer Brad Wilk ended up being his replacement. So, after so much hype and everything else surrounding the band, how good is 13? It's absolutely astounding.

First of all, rejoice because this goes back to the old 70s Sabbath sound! Tony Iommi's guitar work is as sinister and doomy as ever, and the band as a whole locks in well with the bleak atmosphere that Ozzy conveys with his vocals and lyrical imagery. Going back to Tony Iommi for a second, his guitar tone is exceptional on this record; you'd swear he was throwing his instrument against a giant steel wall because of how thick and metallic it sounds. Geezer Butler's bass work consistently alternates between locking in with Iommi's heavy riffs and performing some very complex (and usually swinging/bluesy) bass lines around a musical backdrop. Brad Wilk is actually a very good replacement for Bill Ward, offering lots of variety and maintaining a heavy degree of precision with the other band members. Speaking of variety, the songs are extremely diverse and let each musician stretch out his skills a bit. There's definitely a heavier dose of doom metal than in previous efforts by the band, as showcased in the first two tracks, "Age of Reason," etc. At the same time though, the album has a more modern-metal slant to it, which is not a bad thing at all in this case. The production is crystal-clear, and the aforementioned guitar tone certainly sounds more befitting of today's metal music as opposed to back in their initial heydey. Take the five-minute hard-rocker "Loner" for instance; the song sounds like a mix of 80s Dio-era Sabbath and elements of modern 2000s hard rock. The difference is that the band have plenty of tricks to differentiate this song from that very hard rock crowd; for example, there's a beautiful clean guitar section that comes before the typically heavy choruses, and it really adds some emotional depth to an otherwise ordinary song. On top of this, there's an insanely heavy bridge section in the middle that almost channels 80s thrash; a fast guitar riff from Iommi and Butler clashes against manic drumming from Wilk, while Ozzy places a neat vocal melody on top to give the section just that extra edge. Great stuff, to say the least.

As I mentioned earlier, the band aren't afraid to switch things up a bit; the biggest example of this is with the gorgeous ballad "Zeitgeist." Tony Iommi switches to the acoustic guitar as Ozzy provides distorted vocals reminiscent to those of the band's 1970 song "Planet Caravan." The song is of a minimalist nature, but including a bunch of embellishments would most likely ruin the song's magic. Iommi swiftly switches between very well-chosen chords and little melodies to offset them. The chorus is especially lovely and displays Ozzy's vocal work at its best as he legitimately sounds brooding and depressed throughout the climactic moment. Also, blues-esque solo at the end fits the acoustic chords very well and doesn't overstay its welcome. However, the most exciting portions of the record come in when the band do what they do best: play extremely doomy, sludgy anthems of darkness! There are plenty of them to choose from on here; "God is Dead" has already been out for quite a while and remains among the album's highlights, but "Age of Reason" and "End of the Beginning" are right up there too. The former pits extremely hollow-sounding riffs with masterfully placed melodic lines that offer a slight glimmer of hope. The barren riff in the bridge is particularly intense, sounding almost like something off Death's album Spiritual Healing. Ozzy's sinister vocals as he sings over the riff are just icing on the proverbial cake. The latter song "End of the Beginning" is a wonderfully bleak opener that actually bears many similarities to the band's very first song, the eponymous "Black Sabbath." The quiet verses and loud doom metal choruses certainly remind one of the iconic 70s tune, but the faster section that begins in the middle is done just a wee bit better than the speedier section in "Black Sabbath." The band enter a bluesy section aided by Brad Wilk's swinging percussion and Tony Iommi's stylish solo, and the climactic vocal section that comes afterwards blends very well with the faster portion of the song. Songwriting like that is what makes this album work so well.

The only flaw with this album is that there are some points that are a little too reminiscent of the band's past songs, but that's to be expected when a group has been around for so long (just look at some of the self-plagiarism in Metallica's Death Magnetic!). Honestly, this album is mindblowing. The riffs are amazing, the atmosphere is great, the vocals are surprisingly good, and the lyrics are very well-written and suitably dark to fit the music. I'd recommend this not just to a Black Sabbath fan, not just to an Ozzy fan, but to any fan of hard rock or metal music. This is a comeback album done the way a comeback album is supposed to be done: with quality and, of course, respect to the fans who have supported the band over the years. Buy this; you won't regret it.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

Report this review (#1446125)
Posted Tuesday, July 28, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Butler, Iommi and Ozzy reunited at last to construct what they were acutely aware may be the final Black Sabbath studio album, and perhaps under such circumstances it's understandable that they decided to take a long look backwards. Compare the structure of album opener End of the Beginning and the title track from the debut, for instance, and they're really rather similar, and final track Dear Father fades out into the sounds of a rainy thunderstorm just as the debut album faded in on one, tying the whole saga up in a blow.

In between those bookends, the boys deliver an album which, whilst I don't think it will ever rank on the same level as their early-1970s classics, is a more than appropriate swansong, taking the traditional metal style they originated and making it sing one last time and proving that they can still play slow, crushingly doomy metal which wouldn't sound out of place in a mix with Electric Wizard or Warning. If this truly is the end, it's not a bad way to go.

Report this review (#1840576)
Posted Monday, December 11, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars Black Sabbath Blasphemy. 13 is my favorite Black Sabbath album ever. There, I said it. 13 = bad ass Black Sabbath. Tis sad, Bill Ward chose not to attend the electric funeral. However, Rage Against The Machine's drummer Brad Wilk hooks into Geezer Butler's berserker bass , riding an exorcism of bazookas and eyrie thunder. Ozzy, the parodical son returns, delivering his best vocal performance since Sabotage. Tony Iommi cranks dozens of fat vintage thick riffs. The man is a riff- monster! It's Alive!

The material is primo and Butler's lyrics ripen like pomegranates smoldering in hell. In the twilight of life, Butler's meditations unearth cursed death fetishes, graves and tombstones yawing, beckoning, inexorably dragging your life, my life toward annihilation, " Is this the end of the beginning? Or the beginning of the end?" Heaven and hell unleashes impending doom as Iommi and Butler weld black diamonds and blood rubies onto their iron man, heavy metal crown. 13 sounds like 1972 yet, it sounds fresh. Catastrophic doom and destruction abound. More hooks than a Hellraiser movie marathon. Iommi's addictive riffs and Ozzy's vocalizations get in my head and I can't get them out!

1. End of the Beginning- Witches sway to a Walpurgis Night doom dirge , Iommi rips out a raw nerve, guitar solo, foreshadowing the accursed 13.

2. God is Dead- Geezer strains Nietzsche through a murder's guilt grater. Riffs crank, caught between Wilks gloomy funeral percussion and Iommi's creepy silky guitar picking. What undead lich resurrected Ozzy from reality tv hell? God maybe dead but Ozzy still kicking...hard-

"Blood on my conscious and murder in my mind. Out of the gloom I rise up from my tomb into impending doom Now my body is my shrine

The blood runs free The rain turns red Give me the wine You keep the bread..."

3. Loner- Most bands would spread all these riffs out over an entire album, an entire career! But not Tony Iommi. The man continuously packs four or more killer riffs into a single song over and over again and again.

4. Zeitgeist- Favorite Black Sabbath slow-mo acoustic song ever! Melodic hypnotic drums. Soaring gorgeous vocal. Beautiful sad guitar lead. Shivers down my spine crescendos.

5. Age of Reason-

"Mystifying silence Talking Peace on Earth. We should judge each other For ourselves not what we're worth.

Sustainable extinction, A fractured human race. A jaded revolution Disappears without a trace.

Always felt that there'd be trouble. Mass distraction hides the truth. Prozac days and sleepless hours. Seeds of change that don't bear fruit."

Hydra fanged bass riffs and guitar crescendos sucked into the mouth of a rhymical Ouroboros.

6. Live Forever- "I don't want to live forever. But I don't want to die" Can you empathize with how Geezer feels? Ozzy's sincerity bleeds through. Convincingly, Ozzy makes the song his own. Classic Sabbath galloping wraith rhythm section... charge!

7. Damaged Soul- Bluesy Ozzy dirge crawls across broken glass. Electric cables stripped of insulation. Harmonica. "I don't mind dying cause I'm already dead. Dying is easy. Living is hard." 13 is a sobering album.

8. Dear Father- Iommi is amazing! Listening to Tony makes me realize how anemic other heavy metal guitarists are.

"DearFather, forsaken You knew what you were doing In silence, your violence Has left my life in ruin, yeah"

And the albums ends...Thunder, rain, and church bells ringing. Full circle.

Report this review (#2237934)
Posted Saturday, July 13, 2019 | Review Permalink
3 stars All rock world was impatiently waiting for this long-awaited album whose initial work goes as back as 2001. Having 3 original members in the line-up and especially Ozzy behind the microphone sounded promising. The result is one of the heaviest Black Sabbath albums augmented by omnipresent dark riffing, loud guitar in the mix and drums being high in the mix which might be tiresome for a hard-rock album that very much focusing on heavy riffing. It actually makes a heavy metal album out of it with prevailingly moderately paced pieces.

In terms of compositions, the band harkens back to their most popular times in the 70's when doom rock was their major sound signature minus bluesy moves.

There are only 7 songs but all have plenty of time to develop and build or repeat. The last song even brings some feelings of being sorry and melancholy; it also contains musical references to the "Black Sabbath" song on their debut album.

This is a 4-star album to hard-rock and doom-metal/rock fans and a 3-star for progressive rock explorers.

Report this review (#2281752)
Posted Saturday, November 16, 2019 | Review Permalink

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