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So the first Black Sabbath album in 18 years, or the first Black Sabbath album with Ozzy on vocals in 35 years, is finally here. Following the departure of original drummer Bill Ward, due to contractual conflicts and who knows what else, Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine is handling the drums on this album. I can't say that I dared to hope for a masterpiece album, especially not after God Is Dead? was released as a single - a song that I still feel is one of the weakest of the album. It just sounds very predictable to me, if that makes any sense.
The first thing that struck me when I listened to 13 was that some melodies were very familiar. The opening track End Of The Beginning is a slow, heavy song which bears many resemblances to the Black Sabbath - i.e. the self-titled song from the 1970 album - as well as the track Hammer Of Doom from Candlemass' 2009 album Death Magic Doom. The song does however take an interesting turn about halfway through and I find I enjoy the song quite much. A little bit later on we have the song Zeitgeist which is basically a more boring version of Planet Caravan, with the same kind of instrumental set up but lacking that psychedelic groove.
The album sounds more or less the way you'd expect a Black Sabbath album to sound in 2013. Brad Wilk does an okay job at the drums but I do miss Bill Ward's creative drum fills from the old days. The best performances of the album come from the gentlemen Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi, who complement each other fantastically. Geezer's thick, organic bass playing lays the foundation upon which Tony's riffs and solos sound even better, with the jamming-style second part of Damaged Soul as a shining example of this. It's just too bad that Ozzy really don't have any power left in his voice, although this should come as a surprise to nobody. Someone said that it sounds as if he's singing while sitting in a comfortable armchair and that's a pretty accurate description, in my opinion.
This album naturally has many similarities with 2009's The Devil You Know, both in how it's produced and in the overall impression of the songs. Actually, to me Loner sounds like a song written for Dio and not for Ozzy - especially the intro sounds like something off of Heaven And Hell or Mob Rules; I enjoy its straightforward rock 'n' roll feeling nonetheless.
The lyrics seem to be focused a lot around death, which is logical with Tony's battle against cancer in mind. It's something that gives an extra impact to the music - for example, the phrase "I don't want to live forever but I don't want to die" from Live Forever suddenly means a lot more than it would have otherwise. All in all, this is an okay album with some great moments and some weaker moments. If you enjoyed The Devil You Know then you'll probably like this album as well and I guess that which album you'll prefer of the two eventually boils down to whether you prefer Ozzy or Dio on vocals. Take it for what it is - a Black Sabbath album recorded 45 years after the band started out. After all this time, Tony Iommi still knows how to write new, awesome riffs but sadly Ozzy's singing is the weak link.
also review of: Vol. 4