Black Sabbath - 13

by Miz DeShannon Rating:9.5 Release Date:2013-06-10

Happiness and joy - not usually words equated with Black Sabbath, but after a week of stewing over exactly what to say about this new album there wasn't much else to open with. Opening with 'End of the Beginning' and the line "Is this the end of the beginning?/ Or the beginning of the end?", the band immediately put you right back in the 70s, the start of the tumultuous relationships that followed and (what some see to be) the end of their best music. Their heavy riffs and head-nodding bass are just the same, followed up with the doom-tastic 'God Is Dead?', the only difference being Ozzy doesn't quite have that pitch to his voice - but something had to age a little, and it most definitely is not Iommi's playing ability.

Despite this album being created amid a furore of falling out and the ejection of Bill Ward (replaced by RATM's Brad Wilk, doing a great job) it falls right back into that fantastic Sabbath sound. The only slight hiccup came early on with 'Loner', and that heart-dropping moment when you think it's going to be a copycat album, all be it of their own material, because the melody is more-or-less the same as 1977's massive release 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath'. It's all brought back with an astounding guitar solo, though.

With the band still enjoying misleading intro samples, 'Zeitgeist' subsequently brings some rather beautiful downtime and reflection on the first triple impact . With soft bass from Butler to compliment a nice acoustic guitar melody, it's all very flamenco. But he steams back in with some signature diving, doom basslines on 'Age of Reason' and the pace of 'Snowblind' (1976) on 'Live Forever'. Vocals are sparse and Wilk does a good job of imitating Ward's ability to change tempo and create the originality that the band had across their first few albums.

Pulled together by rock producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin, there is just more and more and more of that apocalyptic musicianship which set Sabbath as the true Gods of Metal. Five out of eight tracks are over seven minutes long, so much inventiveness and variety. Swinging blues and booming doom in 'Damaged Soul', the growling fear of 'Dear Father' - who else can pull this kind of thing off?

The intelligence and focus is back. It's neither the the end nor the beginning - faith has been restored. It's just a shame Bill isn't around for that cherry of perfection.

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