Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Black Sabbath - 13 (2013)

13 is Black Sabbath's new album. I didn't buy it based on hype. I didn't buy it because I'm a fan of the band's output from the '70s, either. If I went out and bought every new album from every band I liked in the seventies, I'd be broker than I am now, and, quite frankly, I'd have suffered quite a few disappointments. Good or not, few classic bands can put out material that actually rivals the stuff they built their reputations on. No, I bought this album on the strength of its hit radio single alone (which, I remark with gleeful satisfaction, is a heavy track clocking in at an epic nine minutes long, during which Ozzy contemplates the death of God).

Funny thing is, I'm pretty sure I heard the single a few times on the radio without really noticing it - it's one of those songs that grows on you. Which isn't to say that it doesn't have a lot to love right off the bat. But I didn't really hear it until I was browsing an FYE store in the mall, and it came on the store's speakers, and I fell right into the groove of Tony Iommi's distorted chords and crunchy riffs. I didn't buy the album right then, no - I went home and then listened to it over the next few days on YouTube. All the while, it was sinking in, and I found myself liking it more and more. And, even if he's not entirely convinced, the fact that Ozzy sings about the death of God - a pivotal moment in the history of civilization that I believe we are currently in the process of experiencing - took it one step further and solidified my resolve to buy the new album.

And it sounds really good. It's classic Black Sabbath, with even a few homages to their heyday. For example, the opening chords in the first song, End of the Beginning, recalls the style of the title track from their first album, Black Sabbath, a theme that is echoed by the tolling bells (which open the band's first album) at the end of the last track, Dear Father - which is a scathing condemnation of the Catholic church's child abuse scandal. Hell, there's even a song (titled Zeitgeist) that conspicuously adopts the style of Planet Caravan, the unsung track from the otherwise uber-popular album Paranoid, a song that I was certain I was the only one who remembered.

The only near misstep on the album is a song that seems to criticize loners, but I'll grant that - preachy though it is - it does kind of end on a frighteningly poignant note. Still though, I'm for more and not less understanding of social reclusion. But that's an interesting point about Black Sabbath. They have this big reputation as a Satanic band - and to that interpretation's credit, the band does adopt a lot of Satanic imagery. But the reality is, they're more devil's advocate than devil. Yeah, they sing about dark stuff, rather than God and purity and all that dreck, but usually it's from the angle of: look at how bad this stuff is, it screws up your life. It's pretty ironic, when you think about it.

Take bonus track number one, for example - Black Sabbath turns its eye to a modern poison (remember Snowblind?), but rather than glorify meth addiction, Ozzy sings about how much it fucks you up. Q.E.D. You know, I was debating whether to shell out a few extra bucks for three bonus tracks (curiously released on an entirely separate CD, despite the main album's length being under 55 minutes), but I'm glad I did. The quality of the bonus tracks (including one song about being a pariah) are comparable to the rest of the album. It's a queer way to release a CD, though, but I'll chalk it up to artistic license.

Either way, if you liked Black Sabbath's classic seventies output with Ozzy at the helm, then you're going to love this album. I know I do.

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