Black Sabbath - 13

Happy New Black Sabbath Day! The day we thought would never come has finally arrived: the release of a new Black Sabbath album featuring Ozzy Osbourne on vocals. Granted, only three of the four original members appear on the album (Bill Ward declined to appear over a contract dispute), but that works well enough for me. Brad Wilk from Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave sits in on drums and does a mighty fine job.

XM radio has been playing the shit out of various tracks off “13” for the past week, so when I bought my copy this morning on iTunes I’d already heard most of the songs. My excitement, however, was in no way diminished by having heard the songs already. Now I have the ability to listen to whichever I want, whenever. I am well pleased.

I have to admit that when I first heard that Sabbath was going to do a new album with Ozzy I was skeptical. While Ozzy’s voice still sounds good, his albums of late have been rather blah. Black Sabbath without Ozzy has been pretty bland since the departure of Ian Gillan in the mid-80s.

Then the single “God is Dead?” dropped and I damn near crashed my car the first time I heard it on the radio. I had of course hoped that somehow the aligning of these metal giants would produce an epic masterpiece, but how often does that really happen with these kinds of reunions with people at this point in their career? How could I have known they would produce something this incredible?

“13” is reminiscent of old-school Black Sabbath and definitely sounds like the band, but it does not sound like a re-hashing of old material thrown together to make a mountain of cash. I’d always read that they weren’t going to do this album unless they could do it right, and damn if they did not hit this one right out of the park.

Tony Iommi, arguably the greatest riff-master ever in heavy music, shows that he still has plenty of fuel in the tank with his showing on “13.” The riffs on this album are fucking monstrous. Somebody call Tokyo and let them know to batten down the hatches. It literally brings tears to my eyes to hear how good this album sounds. I sure hope Tony’s doctors are taking good care of him (he certainly looks good) because we cannot bear losing him like we did Dio.

Geezer Butler, of course, covers the bass and wrote all the lyrics for “13.” Geezer is an often overlooked yet vital piece contributing to the massive black hole of heavy that is the Sabbath sound. If his low-end were not enough, he has once again written lyrics that are dark, philosophical and damn interesting. There aren’t any throw-away lyrics on this album, and like Tony with his riffs, Geezer makes it seem effortless and casual.

Listening to Ozzy sing these songs I find myself very impressed with how he makes it sound easy to step outside the persona and style he’s been creating ever since leaving Sabbath, and just fucking nail these songs in a style that sounds like a natural extension of where he left off with the band, rather than aping his style from the 70s. What an amazing job you have done, sir. Again, I weep with joy.

After hearing “God is Dead?” on the radio a few times I started to wonder, well, would this be the only good track? Will this be the big single while the band just phones in the rest of the album? I know, I know, I’ve grown cynical after being burned by a lot of reunion albums. This morning I can happily report that there isn’t an ounce of fat or filler on “13.” Every single song on this album (including the iTunes bonus tracks) is a mountain of metal unto itself. The year is only half over, but 2013 is definitely the year of Black Sabbath. There is simply no way, no how, that anything else being released this year could knock “13” off the top of the heap. I’m saying it now, “13” is the album of the year. Everyone else might as well go home and try again next year.