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Album Review: ‘13’ brings Black Sabbath Back from the Dead

Posted by Brandon Vesely on 06/26 at 04:54 PM

Grade: A

English metal pioneers Black Sabbath have reemerged from the abyss with the release of a new album, 13, and the announcement of a North American Tour.

Over the years, the famous, (and sometimes controversial), group has undergone a series of lineup changes.  They’ve enlisted the talents of a multitude of accomplished vocalists and musicians including co-founder Ozzy Osbourne and Ronny James Dio.

The influential group’s latest release features their most famous lineup, original members Ozzy Osbourne on vocals, Tony Iommi on guitars, and Terrence “Geezer” Butler on bass. Original drummer is absent from the line-up with Rage Against the Machine Brad Wilk filling in.

13 debuted at number 1 on both the U.K. and U.S. Charts – Black Sabbath’s first album to top the charts since their legendary 1970 album, Paranoid, which featured hard rock anthems like “Paranoid”, “War Pigs”, and “Iron Man.”

Released on June 11 in North America, the album includes many of the stylistic elements that earned the group their reputation as forefathers of metal– ominous, bluesy guitar work combined with Ozzy’s eerie vocals.  However, 13 is also innovative and receptive to current trends in the hard rock industry.

The album’s opening track, “End of the Beginning,” begins with a dark instrumental intro in a minor key that gives the song the unsettled feel that defined most early Black Sabbath songs.  The initially slow song builds by adding Ozzy’s spooky vocals and eventually reaches a healthy gallop.

Next up, “God Is Dead?” is the album’s feature track and climbed to the number 6 spot on the U.K. Pop Charts shortly after its release as a single on June 10.  The track includes another gloomy, bass-driven intro with the group’s signature siren effects in the background.  In accordance with old-school Black Sabbath tradition, the track jumps into a catchy guitar riff with plenty of distortion.  The soft, desolate verses transition into heavy, in-your-face choruses, and the song is reminiscent of early Black Sabbath hits like “War Pigs” and “Sweet Leaf.  The track’s combination of the group’s unmistakable Paranoid era sound with elements of newer metal music make the song unforgettable.

Check out the video for “God Is Dead?” below:

The third track, “Loner,” is definitely a classic rock track with a captivating guitar riff that drives the song forward into the quieter “Zeitgiest.” “Zeitgiest” includes airy acoustic guitar, softer percussive elements, and Ozzy’s floating vocals.  In some ways, the softer track reminds me of the group’s hit ballad, “Changes,” one of my favorite songs from their self-titled debut album.

The following tracks, “Age of Reason” and “Live Forever,” show off the vocal prowess that earned Ozzy recognition as the “Prince of Darkness,” a god of metal singing.  His versatile wails make him the perfect mouthpiece for a dark-themed metal group like Black Sabbath.  “Live Forever” also includes one of Iommi’s only guitar solos on the album, and bears testament to the guitarist’s unrivalled technical talent.

“Damaged Soul,” one of my favorite tracks on the album.  It’s unresolved melodies and chord progressions resonate with the jazzy, improvisational side of Iommi’s guitar work and Black Sabbath’s early material.  The instrumental work on this track is extraordinary and shows why Sabbath became hard rock legends in the first place.

In “Dear Father,” Iommi employs contemporary metal guitar playing that is similar to that of modern metal heavyweights like Slayer, Metallica, and Lamb of God.  The track is a stand-out and carries the album forward into its ninth track, “Methademic.”  “Methademic,” the albums ninth track, opens with a bluesy acoustic intro that explodes into an energetic guitar rift.  This track is distinctly modern and shows the band’s adaptability and unstoppable musical growth.

On the other hand, the album’s next track, “Peace of Mind” is undoubtedly reminiscent of the group’s earlier work.  Ozzy’s soaring vocals mesh with percussive guitar work to create a groovy, melodic track.

The album’s final studio track, “Pariah,” is a powerhouse track that touches on themes of social ostracization, depression, drug-use, and interpersonal strife.  These themes resonate strongly with Osbourne’s personal issues and mirror the group’s struggle to achieve critical recognition in their early days.  The song serves as a fiery conclusion to the dynamic album and contains many of the musical and lyrical components that earned the group their reputation in the first place.

Addtionally, the album includes a live track, “Dirty Women,” from 2013 performance in Austrailia.  The band’s unforgettable live performances, particularly Ozzy’s notorious on-stage antics, helped bring them to fame as they relentlessly toured Europe and North America in the 1970s.

13 constitutes a stirring revival of a sleeping metal giant.  The album’s fusion of Black Sabbath’s old-school sound and newer trends in metal music reflects the groups unwavering presence, influence, and authority within the worldwide metal scene.  Every track on 13 is memorable and unique, and the album is definitely worth listen.

13 is available for purchase in stores and on iTunes.

Don’t miss your chance to see Black Sabbath perform at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on August 10.

{name} Author: Brandon Vesely
Bio: Brandon Vesely is originally from the Pittsburgh area and is currently a junior majoring in Public Relations and Spanish at Penn State. In his free time he enjoys reading, writing, biking, and spending time outdoors. His musical interests are wide-ranging and include a variety of alternative genres including post-hardcore, indie, noise pop, and pop punk. Some of his favorite artists are Bayside, Yeasayer, Phantogram, and Fireworks.

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