There’s a mom who drops off her two kids at my son’s school every morning, always waves and smiles, friendly-type. She’s a flamboyant soul, with big furs and make-up, jewellry everywhere (especially big hoop earrings), and swishing around everywhere she goes. Rock star Mom. Fun.
I’ve had occasion to talk to her once last year, and that was enough for me, though. Whatever innocuous thing we were talking about, probably school-related, became her ranting about the government and what a dickhead Stephen Harper is… I remember thinking whoa… he may be a dickhead, but how did we get here? And so quickly? It was tiring.
Anyway, this morning. She came barreling in the driveway like usual, but today the music was blaring. I mean, loud enough to be heard clearly outside her SUV as though the windows were down (they weren’t). When they opened the doors to get out, it got spectacularly loud. It turned everyone’s heads because, of course, she drove right up front and wedged in front of everyone else. Remember, this is 08:30 in the morning, most people are still waiting for their first coffee to kick in. Most people are just weary and bleary from having to wrestle their kids into snowsuits and out the door. No one else blasts their tunes in the morning, like that. Not even close.
And the tune? Black Sabbath’s The Wizard. CRANKED. Which is, of course, the only way to play Sabbath.
I have to think that that can’t be doing her kids’ ears any favours. But it is thoughtful of her to be giving the kids an education before they get to school. Rock star Mom!
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!
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.
At long last, here’s another batch of favourites. I will get to yours soon, I swear!
16 MIKE: Black Sabbath – Born Again
Directly From Mike: “Favourite record — I always give the same answer. Black Sabbath – Born Again. Considered by some to be one of their worst, due to the horrible production and the addition of Ian Gillan of Deep Purple on vocals. Me being a Gillan fan, and this being the first Sabbath album I ever heard (didn’t even know Ozzy was in the band back then), this has a warm place in my black, black heart.”
I’ve posted Mike’s response exactly, because after all, what else can I say to add to that? I played this record and to me, without Ozzy, the band is sub-Sabbath. Still brilliant, just less. I listen to Sabbath fairly regularly, but I must admit I’ve never even give this one any thought. Way to go, Mike! Your years spent working in a record shop are showing!
17 MATT: Nirvana – Nevermind
It was inevitable that someone would pick this record. Yes, it was seminal, yes it changed the way the world made rock music for a decade, yes Cobain was a tortured genius (even if, as radiohead said “you do it to yourself, and that’s what really hurts”). What really freaked me out about Matt choosing this one was that he said he was in public school when he first heard it. Man, that makes me feel old. Who did we have in public school, Bon Jovi? Gowan? Glass Tiger, ferchrissakes? What a difference.
I almost didn’t even need to play this record again. Just looking at the track listing on the back of the CD case instantly brought every track fully into my head, but I played it anyway and I loved it for all the reasons I did way back when. It’s loud, it’s angry, it’s messy, it’s slightly out of control (in a very controlled, calculated kind of way, but still). I still contend that Bleach is better, but this is the slick, monumental crest of that wave of grunge, and the world is indelibly altered because of it.
18 JIM: Bachman Turner Overdrive – Four Wheel Drive
What fun! This is pure, balls-out 70’s guitar rawk. Even better, it’s Canadian! We all know this band’s biggest songs, but it was a real pleasure to hear a record that was mostly album tracks that weren’t massive hits. It’s proof that this band had a lot backing up the songs we’ve all heard, and boy do they ever. This record weighs a ton in solid riffs and leads.
I had a bit of a hard time not injecting the words to You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet into the song Hey You (they do sound the same, in certain ways), but that’s OK. It’s all good. I really liked this record. Classic stuff.
19 PHILLIP: Beatles – The Beatles (White Album)
I asked Phillip what his favourite was and he didn’t even hesitate – he said this record. I have to agree, this one is pretty fucking sweet. I like the later Beatles a whole lot more than I like the early Beatles. Call it blasphemy, but that whole early, smarmy tripe thing didn’t sit nearly as well with me as did the band that gave us The Ballad Of John And Yoko. Excellent musicians, just not always the greatest song choices in their formative years. I say that as a Stones fan, you realize.
An excellent choice, Phil. Of all the Beatles albums, I agree, this one is stunning from start to finish. Most bands would give their left nut (and half of their right) to make even one track as good (or weird) as any of these.
20 MARSHA: Tragically Hip – Road Apples
I love the Hip. LOVE! And so does Marsha, apparently. Although she claims to be a HUGE fan and wasn’t even aware of the existence of their box set. Oh well. Such is the love that this band has garnered in this country. It asks no questions. It just rocks out to their tunes, and goes to see them in concert no matter what pot-hole they play in next.
Lots of people find the Hip repetitive and/or boring and/or annoying, and I even know a couple of people (an ex-girlfriend of mine included) who can’t stand Gord Downie’s voice like they can’t stand nails on a chalkboard. But I say it sucks to be them. That’s ‘Little Bones.’ I mean really, get with the program!
This is straight-on great rock/poetry as only the Hip can offer it up, and “we’re all richer for having heard them this evening.” (for those non-Hip fans out there, that’s a quote from the live record, so please try to keep up). Road Apples is one fan-freaking-tastic song after another until it ends far too soon. Just imagine, this happened before (before!) Fully Completely. They are truly unstoppable!