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Black Sabbath “13” album review on Metal Hammer


Review by Geoff Barton for Metal Hammer, comes from the new issue of Metal Hammer, featuring a special interview with Black Sabbath themselves:

Listening to the first two tracks on 13, it’s clear their heritage weighs heavily on their minds. The End Of The Beginning is a curiously low-key opener, the lyric ‘Rewind the future to the past’ highlighting the difficulty Sabbath face in trying to recapture the glories of old. Next up, God Is Dead? tries its damnedest to replicate the churning mayhem of old. But, somehow, it’s like a bad Xerox copy.

Then something – Christ knows what; could be the moment when Ozzy went back on the sauce – happens. Loner kicks in and delivers the first genuine, shivering spine-tingle of the record. It’s full of lurching menace; it’s got that archetypal groove; it’s even got Ozzy screeching ‘Alright now!’ like he did on Sweet Leaf back in ’71. Holy shit. It gets better. Zeitgeist, a dreamy Planet Caravan sound-alike, provides a delicious change of pace before Age Of Reason lumbers into your lug’oles, Tony Iommi cutting loose with a solo of meandering menace and Geezer Butler’s bass grumbling like an impending earthquake.

Live Forever maintains the intensity, then Damaged Soul ups the ante further. This is 13’s standout track; a loose and lethal dose of doomy blues, it sounds like it was knocked up at midnight in a garage in Solihull after a day down the abattoir. Ozzy comes into his own, honking the harmonica and delivering classic Sabbathisms: “Dying is easy – it’s living that’s hard’ and ‘I’m losing the battle between Satan and God. The cataract of darkness forms fully. The long black night begins…”

Dear Father’s mawkish title disguises its tale of revenge against an abusive parent; the drug-addled Methademic has its roots in Vol. 4’s Snowblind while Peace Of Mind has Ozzy hamming up his cracked-actor persona to fine effect. And if you listen carefully to Pariah you can hear Iommi’s plastic fingertips skittering along his strings; it might be imperfect but it’s a signature element of Sabbath’s sound.

Gripes? No Bill Ward; replacement drummer Brad Wilk is a little fussy and doesn’t quite have the feel. Similarly, Rick Rubin is no Rodger Bain; the production could be much more primitive. And, with a running time of nearly 70 minutes in deluxe form, the album is overlong. Nevertheless, this comeback is better than anyone could have expected.

A certain comedy band might own amplifiers that peak at 11, but Sabbath’s go all the way to 13.


 Geoff Barton for Metal Hammer, 29 May 2013



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