By ANIMESH ‘ASMO’ DAS
It gets tough for fans of bands like Black Sabbath to accept and assimilate any new music the band churns out. And that’s usually because of a nostalgic love of the band’s earlier output, which for most, would have converted people in to fans in the first place. The classic material, is just that. Classic. It can’t be touched. It’s influenced millions. It’s almost legendary. So when a band of that calibre decides to go back in to the studio years after they’ve ever done that sort of a thing, you pray that the musicians have still got it. You hope they don’t choke. You don’t want them to get hammered by critics or the lay listener.
Fans of Black Sabbath, it’s safe to cast away your fears. ’13’, the band’s nineteenth studio record, the first to feature original vocalist Ozzy Osbourne since 1978’s ‘Never Say Die’, does not disappoint. The eight songs on the album are a worthy attempt to relive the band’s classic bluesy, doomy, sounds. Yes, some of them, like ‘Loner’ and the beautiful ‘Zeitgeist’ take you back to previous Sabbath songs, but it’s not enough to get you stark-raving mad. The riffs, in their own way, pay tribute to the past.
That being said, you do miss Bill Ward’s jazzy, swingy drumming. Brad Wilk (of Rage Against The Machine fame) can certainly hold his own in front of the skins, but it’s just not the right feel. The drums sound cold and remote, as if the band wasn’t entirely convinced of their decision to include Wilk in to their inner circle.
What’s spot on though is Geezer Butler’s rumbling bass. Never one to colour within the lines, Butler’s bass work is exemplary, twisting, and turning, and teasing you throughout the album. Guitarist Tony Iommi is equally fantastic to listen to, especially the solo on ‘Age Of Reason’. You can hear him giving it all he’s got, and more. And i must admit, Ozzy is palatable throughout the record. He does sound post produced, but the end result is an Ozzy who seems to have accepted his physical limitations.
Interestingly, the album ends with the same church bells that started it all – Sabbath’s self titled 1970 debut. You could view it as a bookend. And, yes, ’13’ is definitely not a bad way to end. But as you spin the record for a second listen (or click on repeat, whatever you choose), you can tell that Iommi and Butler aren’t completely done yet.