Admit it. There is not a single metal fan that was not awaiting this one with bated breath. Many can argue that true metal began with Black Sabbath, and I am of that thought process too. Bands like Led Zeppelin and individuals like Jimi Hendrix paved the way in a lot of ways, but no metal band up to that time had the sheer power that Black Sabbath brought with their self titled release.
With 2013, we are treated to a new Black Sabbath release, “13,” with three of the original four members of the metal giants back for more. We wondered if this would even happen due to Toni Iommi’s recent health scares. Most Black Sabbath fans want the Sabbath line-up with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals. I have always been more of a Ronnie James Dio guy myself, but Ozzy is no joke either. I love Ozzy as well, but simply prefer Dio. That is no knock on Ozzy at all.
“13″ opens with End of the Beginning, and there is some good and bad here. The opening track is errily reminiscent of the classic track Black Sabbath. For many, that is great news. For me, I would rather hear them play Black Sabbath, which we know they will on tour. My main beef with the song is that Ozzy does not sound like he is up to task on this one. Love him as I do, I cannot turn the blind eye to the fact that his voice is not what it once was. His distinctive voice has taken a beating over the years from decades of shouting lyrics and other various forms of abuse that we all know about. The undeniable thing to notice about this song is that Toni Iommi will never forget how to write a riff. We heard it most recently on the Heaven and Hell release and we are hearing it on “13.”
The next track, God is Dead?, is the one that most people are familiar with. It is now the first single off the album. This is more of an updated song. I like this one a good bit. Geezer Butler’s bass sound is thumping and intense.
Loner is a song that sounds a lot like the amazing N.I.B. with its main riff. This is more of a straight rocker song, which is opposite of the following track, Zeitgeist, which is a much more mellow tune reminiscent of Planet Caravan. Ozzy’s voice is much more suited to this type of song these days than the darker, more evil tracks. Overall, Zeitgeist is not a bad song, but nothing so special.
Age of Reason is classic Black Sabbath all the way with its riffwork and vocal structure. Ozzy’s voice does not add much to this one, but does not detract from it either. The riffs steal the show on this one. The breakdown in the middle is very strong as well.
Live Forever is another rocker with that classic unmistakable Black Sabbath sound. Damaged Soul is a much more melodic piece with some great guitar licks by Iommi.
Overall, “13” is not a bad album at all, but nowhere near as strong as most people expected it to be. I have not been into an Ozzy release very much since “No More Tears,” and that was a long, long time ago. Sure, he has had great tunes since then, but full album efforts have been subpar for legends like Ozzy. Of course, I will listen to this a bunch more and may probably change my opinion on it over time. Iommi is the true legend of the band and will always be to me.