Saturday, September 28, 2013

Black Sabbath - End Of The Beginning

This year Black Sabbath released “13” their nineteenth studio album, you might have thought “13” was Black Sabbath’s thirteenth studio album, what being with the album being called “13” and all, but you would be wrong. This is a big deal. It is a big deal that Tony Iommi has kept the Black Sabbath spirit alive for the past forty three years and also managing to stay active the entire time. Producing nineteen albums is a testament to the longevity of Iommi’s, and to a somewhat lesser degree Geezer Butler’s, very successful careers; but that’s not what makes “13” a big deal. What makes “13” a big deal is Ozzy has returned.

“13” is the first Black Sabbath album featuring Ozzy Osbourne since “Never Say Die!” in 1978. In the thirty five years between “Never Say Die!” and “13” Tony Iommi, usually with Geezer Butler produced ten studio albums with various band members coming and going. The men who attempted to replace Ozzy include, Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan, Glen Hughes, Ray Gillen, and Tony Martin. Add in multiple bass players and drummers and you have Iommi’s Black Sabbath Odyssey pretty much summed up.

“Never Say Die!” was Black Sabbath eighth studio album and for the longest time presumed to be the last time the original line up of Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Ozzy Osbourne would be together as Black Sabbath. The reunion tour of Black Sabbath’s original line up, including Bill Ward on drums, in 1999 gave all of us hope, but most people, myself included, never thought we would see Ozzy record another studio album with Black Sabbath, and now that he has I believe it is accurate to declare “13” a big deal.

Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler.
These three badasses together again is a big deal.
I assume anticipation for Ozzy’s return to the Black Sabbath label would be high, atmospheric high, and “13” debuted as number one on the charts in most countries that matter (U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, New Zealand etc.). Critical reviews appear to be universally positive and fans are happy. Funny thing though, no one in my social circle is talking about “13.” Also the only online news I have heard about “13” I had to actively hunt down, so maybe there is a reason for me to write something.

The first single off “13” is “God Is Dead?” Why the question mark? Dramatic rhetoric I think. “God Is Dead?” is a good song.

Black Sabbath - God is Dead?

The entire album is quite good, but no one track really jumped out and had me falling in love with it. It is a very common thing for aged musicians to get into a routine in regards to their creativity and song writing, and forty three years is a long time. I somewhat want to accuse Tony Iommi of being guilty of reproducing effectively the same handful of songs over and over again, even before Ozzy even left Black Sabbath, but I hesitate to make such a declaration because it’s freaking Black Sabbath. However “13” feels similar throughout its eight tracks and similar to classic Black Sabbath, and I have to wonder if this is why I have been hearing so little about “13.” It feels like Ozzy and Tony haven’t missed a beat since 1978’s “Never Say Die!” they have returned to the status quo and its business as usual, and that business is metal. “13” sounds and feels just like a seventies Black Sabbath album only thirty five years removed, which is exactly what a Black Sabbath fan would want, and the niche following Iommi possesses combined with the glory of the Prince of Darkness it exactly the sort of thing that would appease critics, so basically all parties are happy, but unfortunately it leaves me with little say beyond, “yeah ‘13’ was pretty good. If you like Ozzy and Sabbath you’ll enjoy it.”

And... yeah “13” was pretty good if you like Ozzy and Sabbath you’ll enjoy it.

When I write these reviews I like to pick out an individual song so for “13” I choose the first track on the album “End Of The Beginning” which is slightly my favorite song from “13.” I suspect the first track being titled “End Of The Beginning” is not a coincidence, though what that specifically entails I am not entirely certain. This eight minute hard rock song is quite the journey from beginning to end, there are multiple bridges and transitions that keep the song fresh and interesting the whole way through, and also something about the lyrics feels right, feels like a Black Sabbath song, as it should it be.

I also like the line of “You don’t want to be a robot ghost...” which always makes me laugh, because it reminds me of this guy:

A ghost trapped in a robot.  He is Ghost Robot.
Venture Bros references aside let us conclude. “13” is likely to make Sabbath and Ozzy fans happy but lacking any profound innovation is likely to be largely ignored by the general populace as we are already seeing, neither of which says anything about the actual quality of the album which is about average for a Black Sabbath album, which in turn is well above average your average metal album. All eight songs are very good, none in particular stand out when compared to each other, “End Of The Beginning” is probably slightly the best one, so listen to it and then listen to the rest of the album. Iommi has always been awesome, Butler is one of the best bass players ever, and Ozzy still rules. Enough said.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

1 comment:

  1. This album really does seem like self-parody to me. I'm happy to see them still going, but some of these songs are just sad.