What else can be said about Black Sabbath? Sabbath is one of a rare breed of bands: bands that change singers at the pinnacle of their careers, and become even more successful.
This lineup of Sabbath is the closest thing to the original: vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, and new addition on drums, former Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk.
Of course, some purists may be disappointed that their original drummer, Bill Ward, does not appear on this new album, ’13’. But let’s face it; who would think we would be having a new Black Sabbath album featuring three quarters of the original lineup in 2013? That being said, Wilk still does justice to Bill’s familiar drumming style.
There are a total of eleven tracks on the Deluxe Version of ’13’: the last three being bonus tracks, which definitely makes the CD worth the purchase. Within the first few seconds of the opening track, “End of the Beginning”, it’s almost as though the listener has walked through a door back in time. The journey then continues through the rest of the CD, where the members of Sabbath use classic elements that are reminiscent of their first few albums: Ozzy’s dark, brooding vocal delivery, Iommi’s legendary riffs, Butler’s classic bass lines, and the band’s haunting, often religiously-themed lyrics. Around every turn, the listener can hear influences that run as far back as their debut album, Black Sabbath.
The next track, “God is Dead?” takes the famous blaring air raid sirens and uses them for a different effect, but still asking the same kinds of questions Sabbath asked more than forty years ago. The following track, “Loner”, sounds very “N.I.B” inspired, down to Geezer Butler’s famous bass lines. The listener then moves into the “Spiral Architect” of the 21st century, “Zeitgeist”.
This song is both characteristically and uncharacteristically a Sabbath song: the entire song is acoustic, with just Ozzy singing, Iommi on guitar, with Wilk’s backing on bongos. It then moves into “Age of Reason”, which is much more up tempo, rife with Iommi’s precise solos, with Geezer following him note for note.
Track six is “Live Forever”, which is the most modern sounding track on the CD so far. Some listeners might suggest this song, both lyrically and musically, is inspired by Seattle’s own Alice in Chains. This track has the fastest tempo, and basically a summation of their past work. Sabbath revisits its own catalog for inspiration in “Damaged Soul”; this song is inspired by “Black Sabbath”, but is spliced with bluesy harmonica, which is an unusual but effective twist for the tone of the song.
Geezer Butler has always shined as Sabbath’s primary lyricist (excluding the Dio fronted years, where Ronnie gladly took over), and “Dear Father”, which is the final track on the standard release of the CD, is another jewel. There is a lot of wordplay, turns of phrase, and the all too recognizable tolling of the church bells.