Black Sabbath’s 13 = Metal’s Magnum Opus

Black Sabbath 13
Heavy metal godfather’s Black Sabbath return to their thrones 33 years after their last record together with the original line-up (minus drummer Bill Ward who left due to contractual disagreements). The most shocking thing about this record is that it sounds as though they never left each other. They pick-up very differently from where they left off too. The members of Black Sabbath are all clean from drugs, married with kids and getting along; very well we might add. Not only have they overcome the odds with their most recent release 13 but they’ve actually went well beyond expectations of every critic. Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine notably takes the place of original Sabbath drummer Bill Ward on the album and fills the spot rather nicely.

The thrash of Tony Iommi’s guitar sets right in on “End Of The Beginning” giving birth to the tone of this tenebrous record. Ozzy sings “Is this the end of the beginning? Or The Beginning of the end?” The methodic and slow build-up of the song lead to a classic Iommi guitar solo that echoes early Sabbath pre-Master of Reality era.

“God Is Dead”, the first single Sabbath released, is one of the more memorable tracks from 13. Iommi gives us a classic Sabbath metal riff and the doom gloom sound on the track is a sound that Sabbath can proudly say they created. The song takes off right before we hear Ozzy sing “Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide…” The band leads us into a metal frenzy similar to “Faires Wear Boots.”

Geezer Butler’s lyrics resonate against the hard pounding drums, murky vocals and high power riffs/solos. Butler’s work especially shines through on the track “Loner”, in which Butler writes about a man suffering from a psychiatric disorder that leads him to a life of isolation. Ozzy ominously sings “He keeps himself concealed, a solitary man, an enigmatic child a riddle never solved.”

The track that deviates from the rest of the album is probably one of the most stellar tracks of all. “Zeitgeist” uses a bongo drum, an acoustic guitar and an arty jazz run at the end that still has a metallic heft. The track is a continuation of Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan.” Once again Ozzy’s voice is distorted as though he’s singing through water or a thick fog.

“Live Forever” is quite possibly Sabbath’s finest heavy metal track in years. The satirical grit and growl of Ozzy and the condescending lyrics of Butler work perfectly together against a bed of instrumentals that carry power similar to “Hole In The Sky” from Sabotage. 

The nearly eight-minute track, “Damaged Soul”, has all the elements of a classic Sabbath song with a harmonica reminiscent of that on “The Wizard”, heavy echo on Ozzy’s vocals, stupendous guitar thrashing by Iommi, hypnotic drum beats & powerful bass work by Butler.

The last song on the album ends as Sabbath’s first album began – – a steeple bell ringing, thunder and rain. “Dear Father” has the potential to become a huge commercial single for Sabbath and showcases Iommi’s incredible guitar tactics here.

The founding members of heavy metal reign the genre with this marvel of metal proving that age, drugs, death, life changes, world changes and technologic changes haven’t come in between them and their abilities to make some of the best music of their careers.

-Chris Ryan

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