Black Sabbath - 13 13… Ham-fisted, but not like War Pigs

Review: Black Sabbath – 13

Published on June 17th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams

Had Black Sabbath not heard of the Blur album 13, the Teenage Fanclub album Thirteen or even the classic Big Star song “Thirteen”? Titular gripes aside, this the first Sabbath LP in some 35 years to include all of front man Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler, so it’s a little surprising that there hasn’t been more of a fanfare surrounding it. That it sounds for the most part like Sabbath-by-numbers was perhaps to be expected but it’s not entirely a shame; their sound has held up well over the years, not least Osbourne’s immediately identifiable sneer.

Ozzy’s opening gambit of “Is this the end of the beginning? / Or the beginning of the end?” sums up the overinflated sense of portentousness that once contributed to Black Sabbath’s greatness but now makes them sound a little too keen to staple themselves to their own former glories. 13 is more or less a procession of theatrical metal riffs, wailing axe solos, tired-sounding proclamations of doom and unnecessarily long running times from start to finish; it’s almost fascinating to observe how often they attempt to reinvent the wheel, and yet there’s just about enough of the old magic at play for there to be worthwhile moments.

“God Is Dead?” is absurd but entertainingly so, leaving it up to you whether or not to greet the lyrical likes of “Swimming in sorrow / They kill, steal and borrow / There is no tomorrow” and “Nowhere to run / Nowhere to hide / Wondering if we’ll meet on the other side” with a despairing shake of the head or a triumphantly raised-aloft sign of the horns. However, the afore-quoted “End of the Beginning” pushes its luck a bit with the line “Is your life real or just pretend?”, given that the man delivering it was the star of his own family-based reality TV show.

There’s nothing here as arrestingly tender as, say, “Changes”, although “Zeitgeist” comes relatively close with its tale of travelling on a “sinking ship”. You can’t sink a ship whose foundations are based on such commanding instrumentation as that which Black Sabbath still wield on 13 – dig the crashing drums and chugging bass of “Loner”, for instance – but if you find yourself wincing at “I’m a pariah / For your desire / Ain’t no messiah”, you should probably stick to their ’70s output.

Rocksucker says: Two and a Half Quails out of Five!

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13 is out now on BS Productions.

You can buy 13 on iTunes and on Amazon.

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About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.