When it comes to heavy metal, it doesn’t get much bigger than Black Sabbath: the behemoths of hard rock who pretty much invented the heavy metal genre as we know it with their legendary albums Paranoid, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Black Sabbath Vol.4. So when it was announced that the quartet would be reuniting, with all four original members, the expectation on the new album was nothing short of huge.
Sadly the promise of having all four original members was short-lived, and saw drummer Bill Ward bow out for contractual disputes shortly after the announcement. Nevertheless the new album, 13, is here with Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler conjuring riffs like the proverbial thunderstorm in a shamanic display of epic majesty not seen since their early ‘80s heyday.
The album kicks off with the sludgy doom and gloom of End of the Beginning. It all seems a little slow and dull at first, almost like a jam in the studio with all the members bored and tired. But come two minutes in that killer riff joins and the song soon morphs from half-arsed jam to the soundtrack of some kind of War God. It’s epic stuff.
In the place of Ward is Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave sticksman Brad Wilk, whose tub-thumping is so heavy and potent it’s a wonder why he wasn’t considered as replacement sooner.
The songs truly come to life when the riffs gather pace and charge along with the gusto of a battle cry. Groove is all over this collection of songs, and whilst it may not be as memorable as songs like Hole in the Sky or Paranoid, a lot of the album does come close. God is Dead? is close to their classic sound, and Ozzy’s wailing on Loner is like a trip down memory lane.
It’s hard not to listen to this album and think of guitarist Iommi’s current battle with cancer, and there is a feel of final statement about this album. They came close a few years ago to really capturing the Sabbath sound with their album The Devil You Know under the guise of Heaven And Hell but this sounds much more genuine on 13. If this record is indeed their last hurrah then the band has every reason to be proud of a career that has now spanned over 40 years. Soak up the heaviness and enjoy the band that influenced two generations of metallers doing what they do best.