Since its announcement in 2011, the Black Sabbath reunion has been plagued with bad luck. From Tony Iommi’s cancer diagnosis to Bill Ward’s departure, it seemed as if things couldn’t get any worse. Luckily, the same cannot be said for Sabbath’s new album: it’s very good. 13 is the first Black Sabbath studio album since 1995’s Forbidden. While Ward isn’t on this album, 13 is still Sabbath’s first album with Ozzy Osbourne since 1978’s Never Say Die. With Rick Rubin producing, 13 is a natural sounding Black Sabbath album.
Sabbath waste no time and open the album with “End of the Beginning”, a very doom riddled track with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler playing away. Drumming for the album is Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk, who does a very good job throughout the album. The song almost follows the same structure as the self-titled track off of Sabbath’s self-titled debut album, with it being heavy and then getting softer when Osbourne starts to sing. Things get more exciting when the song picks up speed, in which Iommi pulls of yet another amazing guitar solo.
The lead single, “God Is Dead?”, has the potential to be a future Sabbath classic. The bass work from Butler is superb and the song is well written. The lyrics, partially based off German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, are just excellent: “The blood runs free/the rain turns red” sings Osbourne. “Give me the wine/you keep the bread”. It’s also the longest song off the album, clocking in at nearly nine minutes. So this give the band time to jump into a jazz/swing part of the song, which is reminiscent of “Electric Funeral” and “Hole in the Sky”.
“Loner” is a very interesting track: it sounds like two Sabbaths at once. The heavy riff coming from Iommi sounds like something he would’ve written in the Ronnie James Dio era. When Osbourne starts to sing, it starts to sound like an Osbourne solo track. Still, “Loner” is a great song: the lyrics are fairly simple and the aforementioned Iommi riff makes this a highlight. “Zeitgeist” could quite possibly be the offspring of “Planet Caravan” while “Age of Reason” sounds like something off of Sabotage, given the choir in the background.
“Damaged Soul” could quite possibly be the bluesiest song that Sabbath have ever done. Sure, most of their debut album was filled with jazz and blues influenced but to hear them go back to this is something. Hell, even Osbourne plays the harmonica on this one. The album chugs out with the heavy “Dear Father”. The band even pays homage to the debut album by closing the track with the ringing bells that began the debut album.