Black Sabbath – 13

There has been much excitement around this release. Three decades since Ozzy got together with Iommi and Butler to make a record. Ward didn’t work out, so they got Brad Wilk, the ex-Rage drummer, who must be simultaneously beside himself with glee and shitting in his drawers to be having this experience in his life. Cool. And here we are.

Iommi seems to be as full of killer, monstrously huge riffs as ever. The band sounds tight. And yes, they’ve over-done Ozzy’s voice in the computers, but it was probably necessary, at this point. Fair enough.

But (and this is only my opinion) I think their biggest hurdle must have been trying to overcome all of the super-high expectations placed on this project. The world is full of metalheads, and these guys are credited with starting it all. So a new record at this late stage has to deliver or be the end, really. Of course, I don’t know why anyone was worried. I think this record kills. I’ll break my review into three parts: The Album, The Bonus Tracks, and The Bonus Bonus Track.

Part I: The Album 

End Of The Beginning starts off sounding like another famous Sabbath song you know well. Of course, this is meant as a nod to their beginnings, and planned out well in advance. Well done, boys. One wonders whether Rubin had a say in that choice… Anyway, then it lifts off into classic riffy chug mode. That guitar solo hits like a breath of fresh air. Oh man, we needed THAT! Up next is the single, God Is Dead?, which is a great chunk of Sabbath. So nice to hear it on the rawk radio. It sounds huge even in the tinny car speakers, and that’s a solid test, right there. On this track, I notice that rumbling bass first. Then the rest kicks in. Woo!

Mike says he likes Loner. I agree, it’s a cool track and another great riff. I don’t personally go for the “oh boo hoo he’s so alone, no one understands him” lyrics. There’s lots of other songs like that by other bands, they don’t appeal to me either. Guess I just don’t identify. But it’s a killer tune, musically. Zeitgeist is absolutely beautiful. So welcome, here! It breaks up the album nicely, and is just a gorgeous, trippy quiet throwback. This was a highlight track for me. It oughta be the next track they release for radio! I know it won’t be, but no one ever asks me. Just imagine a night drive, the yellow lines flicking past, and this on the radio… yeah!

Age Of Reason‘s opening drums momentarily made me think of a Foo Fighters song (My Hero, I think?) – sorry guys – but then it kicks in and lays so much waste with that musical assault. Holy hell. I love how it shifts, in the middle, too. It’s like listening to Maiden, a bit, the way they shift in songs. At high volume, this one can strip paint! YEAH! And then Live Forever has such a huge riff – other bands would kill, lie, cheat and steal for something this simple and yet so indelibly awesome and rough. So great. And when the tempo picks up a bit and Iommi’s off to the races… well dammit son, that’s yet another example of why we’re here!

And then we get to my two favourite tracks on the record. Yes, it’s the last two tracks on the record, but for me this whole listening experience has been building up through levels of awesome, culminating in these two centerpiece (and masterpiece) tracks:

Mike’s buddy Uncle Meat drew my attention to Damaged Soul early on, which lead to quite a discussion about it, and I have to agree with Meat. This is the way Sabbath oughta go when (not if) they make their next record. I can’t say enough about it. Just a monster of a tune, so beautiful. It’s Sabbath metal, it’s jazz, it’s Stones-y blues rock, it’s… A mix-tape track without question. And all of that slides right into the incredible Dear Father. This song hits so fucking hard, I couldn’t believe it. Love at first listen! And that middle section, just before the 4-minute mark where it achieves lift-off. Oh man. OH MAN! And then it ends with the bells and the rain, to remind us of their first album, first track (and take us back to the opening track on ’13’ too). Oh baby. Well played, gents.

So. That’s the album proper. My thoughts on this, upon reading it back, seem pretty breathless. In fairness, I do have one semi-complaint: It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between this being a Sabbath record and a few parts of it sounding a bit like, say, Ozzy’s solo No More Tears record. The line got a little blurred for me, and that’s still alright, it’s not a dealbreaker. Let’s just say that I noticed.

Part II: The Bonus Tracks 

I bought the deluxe edition, which came with three bonus tracks:

Methademic is a great tune, driving and riffy and faster than a lot of what’s on ‘13‘ proper. I liked it (even if that one guitar part reminded me of Black Flag’s Black Coffee). Up next is Peace Of Mind, another Sabbath crusher as only they can do it. It doesn’t matter how many times it repeats in the song, the way that riff chugs and allllmost falls apart (but doesn’t) just slays me. This song is all about that riff. Damn! And Pariah is a slinky beast that is built to shake the foundations of your house, given the proper volume. The lyrics are reminiscent of Loner, in a way.

Honestly, any of them could have been on the record, but since I got it all in my iTunes (and burnt onto CD-Rs for both cars) anyway, it’ll all play like an album anyway, so to me it’s all one big party. But I do agree with the track choices for the album proper, too. It works perfectly. That would have been a tough job, choosing what to leave off – they were clearly spoiled for choice! Hence the bonus disc, surely.

Part III: The Bonus Bonus Track 

And then, Mike being the true gent (and mad collector) that he is, bought the deluxe deluxe edition that had the bonus bonus track on it. He was kind enough to send me a preview copy of that track.

Naïveté In Black is a straight-on, pumelling rocker that just drives itself straight into your forehead from the second you press play. I loved it. This one maybe could have made it to the album itself. It’d fit the feel.  And at appropriately high volume (which is the only way to play this record), it will unapologetically knock you backwards. So great!

IN SUM:

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely already bought the damn thing. You shouldn’t be coming to me for advice as to whether to get it or not, kids – I’ll just tell you YES! What are you waiting for?  Doesn’t matter which edition you buy, JUST BUY IT!

This is such a fun record. It absolutely rocks, and is a throwback to the Sabbath of old without being trapped by the past. It’s way better than a lot of people expected; in fact, it’s GREAT!

You know, it’s only July, but I can already tell you now that you’ll be seeing this on my year-end Best Of list, no question.

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Posted on July 5, 2013, in posts by aaron and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Too early for me to comment but I’m enjoying the album so far. Not liking the Loner lyrics either. I love that your so enthusiastic about 13. It’s great that they still deliver after all these years.

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    • I’m glad yer liking it. It’s a grower. My enthusiasm for it only grows, and it is indeed a relief that it isn’t a pile of crap, not even close! I have hopes that this’ll be the first step in a few more albums yet to come!

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  2. It might actually be my first ever Sabbath album. I might pick up some other ones as well.

    I had bought a ticket for the concert in Dortmund in November (about two-and-one-half hours from where I live) before the concert in Frankfurt am Main (a few minutes from where I live) was announced. Any suggestions on how to trade the Dortmund ticket for a Frankfurt one? I’m sure I could sell the Dortmund ticket (maybe even for more than face value), but I’m sure the Frankfurt concert is sold out by now as well, so buying Frankfurt and selling Dortmund isn’t an alternative.

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    • It’s my goal, recently, to get all the Sabbath albums. I was afraid, while listening to ’13’ for review, that I didn’t have enough context, not enough knowledge of the history. I aim to correct that.

      As for your ticket dilemma, I say look into getting third party tickets to Frankfurt. If it isn’t possible or is too expensive, there’s only one thing to do: ROAD TRIP TO DORTMUND!! Man, I live 2.5 hours from Toronto, and I would drive there to see Sabbath in a heartbeat. Having them in your town is more convenient, sure, but there’s something about the road trip concert experience that makes it special. All is not lost! You have tickets!!

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  3. If I don’t buy it, or at least not right away, it will be because of the separate editions with various numbers of tracks. I just don’t get it. I can sort of see the point of bonus tracks if an album is re-released and one adds some new tracks because now more fit onto CDs than in the old days, or some old master tapes have been discovered, or whatever. But even then, I see this as a slap in the face of folks who supported the band by buying the first CDs (even if they had vinyl etc). Jethro Tull did The Right Thing with a double CD of just bonus tracks. But what is the point of releasing various versions of a new album? If one has a certain number of tracks, and they all fit onto one CD, then that should be it. If there are more, then perhaps a 2-CD version, but here I would prefer two separate CDs, so people who bought the normal one and want more don’t have to re-buy what they have already bought.

    I used to like going to the shop and buying new CDs. Now I have to wait a while, so that enough information appears on the internet. Then I have to see what I want and whether it is available in my shop. I don’t want to buy the wrong thing then buy something else (and then re-buy something I have just bought as well).

    And limited-edition releases are completely daft. Yes, some things are valuable because they are rare, and are rare because they are hard to make. But limiting a run of CDs just to make them more valuable is just stupid.

    I am a huge Floyd fan, but bought none of the recent immersion editions etc since I bought the entire box or remastered CDs just a few years before (even though I already had some Floyd CDs (and everything on vinyl).

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    • I’d say just get the 2CD set that seems to be available everywhere. That gives you 3/5 bonus tracks, all of which are great. The other may turn up online eventually but you didn’t hear that here . Now. Where was I? Ah yes…

      As for why bands do that, all the special editions with different bonus tracks… I wish I had an answer. It sucks. Another thing that bugs me is a band putting out a new release, and then anywhere from three months to a year later putting out the same album again, this time with a bonus disc or extra tracks. It’s calculated assholery, if you ask me.

      I did the same thing, back in the day. I bought CDs off the rack just to try them. Bands I’d never heard of, or had heard only minimal buzz. I got some duds that way, but discovered lots of cool bands that way too, ones I may have missed. The internet is a real boon, in making so many things and so much information available. But it also kind of sucks the fun out of music discovery too. In fact, I still buy things in shops without help from the ‘net, occasionally.

      I agree, limited edition runs are a bit silly, but then it gives something special for the collectors, the fans willing to pay a bit more… I dunno, I have a few special editions, but often I wish they’d just have put it all in one place so everyone could have it. Sabbath could have done that with ’13,’ but they opted to not. C’est la vie.

      The Floyd immersion sets were cool for people who didn’t have a whole lot in their collection. For people who already had most of the albums, they were a bit of a soaking.Our buddy Lebrain didn’t write about those (I don’t think), but he did write up the Shine On box set… http://mikeladano.com/?s=pink+floyd

      Thanks for your comments! We love comments!!

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      • Right, but the people who didn’t already have a lot of Floyd are not the target for the immersion sets; the target are the fans, who already have everything and have to buy it again in order to get some extra stuff. Why not sell just the extra stuff.

        This goes back to my general problem with box sets. Usually, they are a mix of “greatest hits” and “rare tracks, B-sides, demos and radio recordings”. Who is it for? All the lonely people….Sorry. Who should buy this? The fan? He doesn’t need a best of; he has everything (and maybe even a “best of” if he started off with that). The curious buyer? He doesn’t need 5 slightly different versions of the same song.

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  4. My opinion of this album always changes. Each listen, and each gap between listens sees my opinion of it shift. Sometimes I love it, sometimes its OK, sometimes I don’t care about it much.

    I like the bonus tracks the best though.

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    • I get that, and it’s an honest statement, I like that. Opinions were mixed on it from even before it was released. I am a (relative) Sabbath noob, but I owned the first four records straight away and when I heard 13 I thought this is perfect, it’s updated but it still sounds like it’s early days. And yep, the bonus tracks are gorgeous. I like the last 3 or 4 tracks of the album proper. Just incredible songs. I love it, and tend to think that given enough spins, it’ll grow on most everyone.

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