Album Review – Black Sabbath “13” 2013

images  We live in a world with several fantastic Black Sabbath records, some indifferent ones, and a couple of complete dogs. With the arrival of 13, it would be easy to simply slot this reunion effort somewhere in the middle, say “good job”, slap these rapscallions on their wrinkly behinds and call it a day.

Not so simple. After a couple of listens, 13 is banging on the ceiling, perhaps even clawing at the podium. It’s a lusty, robust metal album by anyone’s standards, and a pretty great Black Sabbath album to boot.

Some folks have complained about overproduction, which is admittedly an unfortunate fact of life these days. I think in the case of 13, these people fall into two categories: those who a) have apparently never heard Death Magnetic and b) are still mad about Death Magnetic and want to blame all of the ills of the loudness war on Rick Rubin. This album shows tremendous restraint on Rubin’s part –  he stays the hell out of the way and lets Sabbath be themselves. Sure, he’s done the audio equivalent of whatever they used to do to Elizabeth Taylor’s photographs to Ozzy’s voice so that now the old dodger sounds stronger than he has in years, but so what? Iommi is speedy and vital as well, and Geezer in particular wields his instrument like a weapon against entropy.

The record is heavy as shit, sounding like a cross between The Devil You Know and something that was supposed to come out right after Volume 4. Long songs, stark and simple lyrics (“Alright now” makes an appearance) are kept afloat with massive, wobbling riffs that nobody else on the planet can create. Enjoy Tony while you can, we may never see his like again.

For various reasons (candidly discussed by the band in the liner notes) we almost didn’t get this record at all. The fact that it clawed its way into existence at all is amazing. The quality is the icing on the cake. If it’s all we get, it is a fitting coda to Sabbath’s long and tumultuous career. This 13 is lucky indeed. 8.5 out of 10

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