New Album Review #7: Black Sabbath – 13 (2013)
13 marks the first studio album in eighteen years for the legendary hard rock band Black Sabbath, whose dark and gloomy sound paved the way for all metal bands to come since the early 70s. Despite having a whole, whole lot of lineup change in their over four decades lasting history, with guitarist Tony Iommi being the only constant, all of the founding members reunited in 2011 and announced a new record was in the making. Not much later, drummer Bill Ward did not agree with the conditions of his contract, so Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave fame was hired to joined the band for the recording sessions. We’ll find out, whether or not he’s the right choice for this particular band, as he is more famous for energetic, driving rhythms and Sabbath is a band that sometimes like to take things slow.
Songs & Production
The album start off with two long tracks End of the Beginning and God is Dead?, that effortlessly manage to stay out of the dreaded riff-verse-chorus-riff cycle other bands fall into by throwing in new riffs and new rhythms every once in a while. Generally, there is hardly any boring moment on this record. Whenever you might have enough of the heavy & tough-flowing snail pace, they pick up the intensity and vice versa. Especially the (with other bands mostly filler) ballad, Zeitgeist, really loosens up the album, not only by being less heavy and less fatiguing, but by setting up an ominous 70s psychedelic tone. The rest of the songs more or less fall back into the established slow/fast rotation and are hard to differentiate at first glance, as hardly anything really stands out the same way the chorus of God is Dead? has for example. Only the drastically different sound on Damaged Soul might be noteworthy, but more as a negative and irritating change.
Sonically, there is a good balance between the instruments and Ozzy’s vocals. Only Brad Wilk’s drum sound, despite being loud enough in the mix, fails to have the same impact and punch as his work for RatM has. But this might have been a deliberate decision to fit into the overall sound, which brilliantly captures the essence of what made them great back in the day and what they are doing now: with a more natural and less extreme sound than a modern metal or hard rock album, but at the same time it is modern enough to not be labeled a soulless rehash of older times.
Even though the record might be too long and not diverse enough for a non-fan to sit though in one session, it is still compelling and a worthy addition to the band’s discography. Brad Wilk might have had to adapts his drumming style to match Sabbath, but he still performed well in this record, even though he might have had to take the back seat to these behemoths of rock.
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The Final Judgement
A band as old as Sabbath with that much of a complicated history might have a hard time to keep up with the modern metal music and also to satisfy the older fan base. But no, they can manage both, easily. This record’s fresh and undated, heavy and hard, old and new; for Sabbath fans and rock fans alike.