Sabbath started off life as a blues-rock band by the name of Earth. They chugged away for a while under this moniker until 1968 when Tony Iommi temporarily jumped ship and joined Jethro Tull. (Iommi only played one show with the band and was replaced by Martin Barre.) Black Sabbath took on their new name, inspired by horror fiction. Iommi's guitar playing was forever impacted by the loss of the tips of the middle and ring fingers of his right hand at the age of 17. To compensate, Iommi strung his guitars with lighter strings, downtuned his guitar (from E to C#) and made thimbles to extend his fingers. Bassist Geezer Butler did the same to match Iommi, making Sabbath among the first bands to detune. This was part of what gave Sabbath their "heavy" sound on albums like "Master of Reality" and "Vol 4". The technique has become a mainstay of heavy metal. Rob Halford, vocalist for Judas Priest, when filling in for Ozzy Osbourne during an August 2004 concert in Philadelphia, introduced Tony Iommi to the audience as "The man who invented the heavy metal riff".
Do you really need to read a review on this disc? Heavy metal is forever indebted to the Sabs! Every song on here is a classic. Black Sabbath, along with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, can be credited with influencing a whole new genre of music called heavy metal, even if none of these bands would ever confess to being heavy metal bands. Regardless, these three bands were amongst the most respected bands of the first wave of British heavy metal.
Black Sabbath - Paranoid (Warner Bros.) 1971
1. War Pigs/Luke's
Once again, no review is necessary! "Paranoid" is one of the seminal, genre defining, classic heavy metal albums. Songs from "Paranoid" have covered by practically every band on the planet. Megadeth's version of "Paranoid" is especially cool. Having owned this album since was a kid in the 1970's, I have played it more times than I can possibly remember and have never grown tired of it.
Despite being an overtly "heavy" album, the mood changes throughout because of a series of mellower ballads written by Iommi. Two of these, "Embryo" and "Orchid", are short instrumentals interludes. The third, "Solitude", is a full song that features Ozzy singing out of character. To be honest, I was always under the impression that Bill Ward had sang on this song, but upon reading multiple books on the band, this is nothing more than a myth. Ward didn't sing on a Sabbath record until "Technical Ecstasy". "Solitude" gave Tony Iommi a change to show off his multi-instrumental talents. The song featured him playing not only the guitar, but flute and piano as well. Terry "Geezer" Butler's bass playing really stands out on this album as well. His signature style is part of the charisma that Black Sabbath has.
Again, in contrast to critics that claimed that the band were Satanists, the lyrics do not bear this out. In fact, "After Forever" focuses entirely on Christian themes. Back in 1971 this was a big deal and magazines like Rolling Stone criticized the band for these lyrics. Other songs are more typical of 70's hard rock. Much like "War Pigs", "Children of the Grave" is about war and revolution. "Sweet Leaf" in stark contrast is an ode to marijuana.
Overall, there is not a bad song on "Master of Reality". It is one of those albums that has to be heard in it's entirety. Most of the songs on this record have been covered by one band or another. Deliverance's version of "After Forever" is among my favorites, as well as Six Feet Under's death metal version of "Sweet Leaf". White Zombie covered "Children of the Grave" on the Nativity in Black tribute and managed to spawn a single off the album. Havok covered "Children of the Grave" on their "Unnatural Selection" CD. There are just too many covers to even list.
I would say this is probably my favorite Ozzy-era Sabbath disc with Vol. 4 coming in a close second. This is an essential metal disc for any heavy metal fan.
1. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (5:44)
2. A National Acrobat (6:15)
3. Fluff [instrumental] (4:08)
4. Sabbra Cadabra (5:57)
5. Killing Yourself to Live (5:40)
6. Who Are You? (4:11)
7. Looking for Today (4:59)
8. Spiral Architect (5:28)
Sabbath's fifth studio album was released in 1973 and is still absolutely brilliant! With "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" the band adds some complexity to their thick, doomy, heavy metal sound. Besides the crunchy guitar, pounding bass and drums, the also added in more complex orchestral arrangements, strings, and keyboards courtesy of Rick Wakemen (Yes). Ozzy is in his prime here. His vocal performance is genuinely bone chilling and fits the dark mood of the music perfectly.
The title track is another in a long line of signature songs by Sabbath. It is about as heavy as any song could be in 1973. In stark contrast there are songs like "Fluff". It is a beautiful and melancholy acoustic instrumental. Both "Sabbra Cadabra" and "Who Are You?" utilize a Moog synthesizer, something more common on Yes and Pink Floyd albums at the time. "Who Are You?" is about as close to prog-rock as Black Sabbath would ever get. However, that's not to say that "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" is an avante-garde progressive rock album. This is still 100% bone-crushing heavy metal. The band have just added a slightly different twist to their sound. "Spiral Architect" adds in a bit of orchestration, combined with some killer guitar work from Iommi.
As with most of the early Sabbath records, most of these songs have been covered by one band or another. Among others, Metallica covered the songs "Sabbra Cadabra" on their Garage, Inc. Anthrax covered the song "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" on their 1987 EP I'm the Man.
Cover drawn by Drew Struzan who was best known for his iconic movie poster art on the Star Wars saga, Raiders of the Lost Ark saga and many more. Drew worked for Pacific Eye & Ear at the time (he also designed the Welcome to My Nightmare cover for Alice Cooper). According to a recent documentary I saw, the man represented on the front and back is none other than the artist himself. Here is what Ernie Cefalu, the creative director of Pacific Eye & Ear had to say about the cover: "My concept for this album was based on two color illustrations that were given to me on my confirmation day in 1955, that I still have to this day. They are from the 1700’s and depict an evil man and a good man both at the split second of their death. When I showed them to Drew and explained the idea - well these pieces speak for themselves."
Black Sabbath - Sabotage (Warner Bros.) 1975
1. Hole in the Sky (4:01)
Black Sabbath - Technical Ecstasy (Warner Bros.) 1977
1. Back Street Kids
"Technical Ecstasy" is not held in high regard by most fans of hard rock and metal. I suppose it isn't Black Sabbath's most shining moment, but not a terrible disc either. I have read that some time off, some internal conflicts, and pressure from record company to become more mainstream nearly destroyed the band around this time. Most certainly the lyrics speak of some negative things the band may have been going through. I've read countless bad reviews of this disc, and while I will admit that it doesn't quite stand up to the mastery of albums like "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" or "Master of Reality", it is still better than average in my opinion. "Back Street Kids" starts the disc off with a fury. The very next song is a doomy, almost epic number and one of my favorite songs on this CD. I love the slow, moody, melancholy feel of this song. "It's Alright" features Bill Ward on vocals and is a moody, piano and acoustic guitar ballad. "Gypsy" is prime Black Sabbath with signature Iommi riffs. "Rock 'n' Roll Doctor" is a catchy song that is slightly more mainstream hard rock than what most people were use to hearing from Black Sabbath. The album finishes off with a pair of songs that seem to go together. "She's Gone" is a song about love lost, while "Dirty Women" is exactly what the title makes you think. "She's Gone" in particular features some of Ozzy's most emotional vocals. Personally, I find "Technical Ecstasy" to be far better than critics and some fans make it out to be. It was a departure from the norm for Black Sabbath as the band experimented with their sound a bit. I just happen to think it was a successful experiment.
I waited years to find a used copy of this disc and never saw one. I bid on it several times on eBay when I saw it for $5 to $6 or less, but some brilliant person always out bid me and probably ended up paying more than they would have at some big chain store. I finally gave up and bought this disc new for $9.99 at one of those big chain stores. $10!!! Did you hear that all you silly eBay bidders who always pay too much for discs that are still in print.
Black Sabbath - Live At Last (Creative Sounds/Germany) 1980
1. Tomorrow's Dream
Never understood this recording. Is it a bootleg? Is it an official release? Is it an import? From what I understand, "Live Evil" was the first "official" live Sabbath offering, so what the heck is "Live at Last." Ah, who cares! It's Sabbath live with OZZY! Essential to any Sabbath fan. All tracks were recorded at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England on March 11, 1973 and the Rainbow Theatre in London, England on March 16, 1973. The album was released in 1980, over a year after Ozzy left the band.
Found a German import copy used for $7.99 at a little hole-in-the-wall CD store. Have not seen another one since. Glad I didn't pass it up. "Live At Last" was finally "officially" released by the band as a 2-CD set titled "Past Lives"
Enter Ronnie James Dio, who had recently been given his walking papers by Ritchie Blackmore from Rainbow. Ronnie brings much needed new life to this band. "Heaven & Hell" is an inspired metal masterpiece that ranks ABOVE the amazing Ozzy discs, in my opinion. Yeah I know, I just commited some sort of heavy metal blasphemy, so what! Every song on this disc is a metal monster. "Neon Knights" is one of Sabbath's heavier and fastest songs and one of my all time favorites."Heaven and Hell" is a lengthy, dark and moody song and one of the quintessential songs in the Sabbath catalog.
Here is some weird and useless information; I owned this record for years and it had a skip during the guitar solo of "Neon Nights." Now, even though I have replaced my vinyl with a CD and haven't actually heard that skip in over a decade, I still expect to hear that stupid skip almost like it was part of the song.
Sleepy Hollow covered "Children of the Sea". Solitude Aeturnus covered "Heaven & Hell" on their "Adagio"CD. Stryper recorded a cover of "Heaven & Hell" and the song was also featured in the game Grand Theft Auto IV. Death Angel covered "Heaven & Hell" on their "The Dream Calls for Blood" CD. Steel Prophet and Queensryche have recorded covers of "Neon Knights".
"Mob Rules" is a bonified
Black Sabbath classic. First of all, this is one of those albums that sports
one of the coolest covers ever. Back in '81 this cover was so dark and eerie
looking. I remember staring at the album cover looking at all the detail in
the characters while listening to the music. Musically, "Mob Rules" easily matches
the brilliance of "Heaven and Hell" and may have even surpassed it. "Sign of
the Southern Cross" is one of the best Dio-era
Sabbath songs. (Fates Warning did a fabulous cover of this song on the Dio tribute from Century Media.) "Turn Up the Night" is a fine album opener and one of the
faster songs on the album. "Country Girl" is remaniscent of some of Dio's Rainbow material. Really every song
on this CD is choice listening making for an overall solid album. Even the dark,
moody and experimental instrumental is essential to this album. New drummer
Vinnie Appice really steps up here, adding a bit of energy to the band. He works
well with the pummelling bass rhythms of Geezer. Tony pulls out some of his
finest guitar licks to date. Whether it's slow tunes like the aforementioned
"Sign of the Southern Cross" or the upbeat title track, Iommi is at his best.
The voice of metal also steps up to the plate here, offering more of his bizzare,
poetic, lyrical twists and some of his finest vocals melodies.
1986's' Seventh Star" is a Tony Iommi solo album in all but name. The album was never really intended to be a Black Sabbath release, as the band had effectively broken up. "Seventh Star" was originally conceived by guitarist Tony Iommi as his first solo project, but rumor has it that record company pressure forced him to use his old band's name to increase sales. Knowing this, it is easier to disconnect this album from past Sabbath doomfests and makes the album VERY enjoyable. Vocalist Glenn Hughes (ex-Deep Purple) brings the album to life, especially on the more commercial cuts like "No Strange to Love." This song seriously should have burned up the charts. Iommi's guitar playing is fabulous on this disc with inspired riffs and outstanding fresh solos. "In for the Kill" is a vicious metal attack. "Turn to Stone" is a song that is packed full of dark melody and a vicious vocal performance. "Danger Zone" is another standout cut. I really can't understand why people hate this album so much. OK, it is a departure from the Sabbath of old, the music tends to be much more bluesy and has a more pop appeal, but it's still a very heavy and classy disc.
Starting with the "Born Again" album, Black Sabbath started going through vocalists and band members quicker than Spinal Tap went through drummers. After the recording of "Seventh Star" vocalist Glenn Hughes exited the band and new vocalist Ray Gillen finished the tour for that album. After the tour the band began laying down tracks for a new album. For whatever reason, after recording his vocal parts, Ray Gillen parted ways with Sabbath and vocalist Tony Martin was brought in to re-record the vocals. Despite the band line-up and the credits on the sleeve, all bass parts on the album were recorded by Bob Daisley (Ozzy Osbourne/Gary Moore) and Eric Singer (Kiss/Alice Cooper) completed all drum parts. Longtime keyboard player Geoff Nicholls, who is the invisible Black Sabbath member, adds superb keyboard support throughout the album.
Many fans agree that "Eternal Idol" is the best of the Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath albums, and I wouldn't disagree. The album opens with one of Iommi's finest "The Shining". The song ebbs and flows from erie bass driven verses to the heavy chorus. "The Shining" has a monstrous hook, a great guitar solo breakdown and easily could have been on "Mob Rules" with Dio behind the mic. Geoff Nicholls opens "Ancient Warrior", a dark and gloomy track with a crushing guitar riff. "The Shining", "Ancient Warrior" and the upbeat "Lost Forever" are some of the finest songs on this platter. Album closer "Eternal Idol" is definitely the darkest song on the album. The slow, heavy and doomy song is heavy metal personified.
"Eternal Idol" was released as an expanded deluxe edition in 2010. The original recording was remastered and includes two bonus tracks. "Black Moon" is an early recording of the "Headless Cross" song that was released as a B-Side to the "Eternal Idol" single. It has a very classic Sabbath vibe. The studio outtake titled "Some Kind of Woman" is a studio outtake from the "Headless Cross" sessions and was written by Tony Martin shortly after joining Sabbath. It was offered as a B-side to "The Shining" single and an early version of "Black Moon", which was released on Headless Cross, was released as a B-Side to the "Eternal Idol" single. The bonus disc contains the "Eternal Idol" sessions recorded with Ray Gillen on vocals. These demos have floated around for a decade or more in bootleg form. Some of them sound very poor, so it's nice to finally have these tracks in an official form. I've always loved these demo tracks and actually prefer them to the original recordings. Gillen had a magical voice. The deluxe edition is wrapped in an 8 panel digi and contains a 12-page insert with a lengthy biography and era-relative photos. This is one package that was worth repurchasing as the bonus tracks and disc are worth the money.
Another of Black Sabbath's forgotten discs. This album features consummate drummer Cozy Powell of Rainbow fame as well as vocalist Tony Martin. Cozy shares production duties with Tony. The songs are very good; most retaining a heavy, doomy, yet melodic hook. Songs like "When Death Calls" are actually some of the better Tony Martin-era material, if not some of the best Tony Iommi has ever written. Iommi has written some fabulous riffs for this disc, and as with most of these "newer" Sabbath discs should be thought of as classics over time.
Unfortunately Tony Martin did not put much thought into the lyrics as they come off as rather cliche and silly. The devil this and the devil that, blah, blah, blah. According to Tony Iommi, "On "Headless Cross' Tony had just come into the band and he assumed, oh, Black Sabbath, it's all about the devil, so his lyrics were full of the devil and Satan. It was too much in your face." (p279, Iron Man-My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi)
Black Sabbath - TYR (I.R.S.) 1990
I've actually owned this cd several times before and have traded it off for other things that I wanted. "TYR" is another Tony Iommi solo album in all but name. TYR is one of those albums that has grown on me with time, but I can honestly say that upon first listen several years ago, I was not instantly hooked like on past Sabbath projects. This disc is a bit more gothic in approach. Of course Iommi's crushingly heavy guitar riffs are in place, but the songs don't seem as aggressive as on past discs. This disc is also one of the first Sabbath concept discs based loosely around the mythical deity Odin and the gods of war. Also have to mention that former Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell is still on board for this one. Vocalist Tony Martin sounds great and holds his own with Sabbath's long list of impressive vocalists.
Black Sabbath - Cross Purposes (I.R.S.) 1994
1. "I Witness"
After Dio exited Black Sabbath for the second time in 1993, Tony Martin was brought back into the fold. Founding Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler was also still around for the recording of "Cross Purpose". Of the Tony Martin-era Sabbath platters, this is my personal favorite. I can only imagine if Dio had stayed on board how much better this disc would have been. I am certainly not saying that Tony Martin is a bad vocalist, but Dio certainly brings along a certain charisma that is missing from many of the Tony Martin discs.
"Cross Purposes" starts off with one of the best songs on the platter, a fast and furious song called "I Witness." The rest of the disc ranges from heavy, bluesy numbers to a few that would have followed up perfectly to "Mob Rules," like the sludgy "Back to Eden".
Geezer Butler eventually jumped ship to record g//z/r.
1."The Illusion of
"Forbidden" is the eighteenth studio album by Black Sabbath and featured a return to the TYR-era lineup from 1990, with the return of Neil Murray (bass), Geoff Nicholls (keyboards) and Cozy Powell (drums). It was the last album to feature Tony Martin on vocals. The band enlisted Body Count guitarist Ernie C to produce the new album and featured a guest vocal on "Illusion of Power" by Body Count vocalist Ice-T. "Illusion of Power" is definitely an oddity in the Sabbath catalog with Martin dueting with Ice T on a song that really does sound like a cross between Body Count and Black Sabbath. "Get a Grip" is a reworking of the main riff of Sabbath's classic "Zero the Hero". The song has the potential to be lethal but suffers due to the lackluster production qualities. The real standout track on the album is "Kiss of Death" which clocks in at just over six minutes long. The song which begins as a dark, melancholy ballad builds to a pummeling, heavy monster and then back again. "Can't Get Close Enough" has a similar vibe, starting with a melancholy sound and building up to a heavy, plodding riff. The song features a nice Tony Iommi guitar solo. Much of the rest of the album is a bit more disjointed. "Shaking Off the Chains" rides a cool Iommi riff but just sounds unfinished and underdeveloped. Similarly "Guilty As Hell" and "Sick and Tired" come off as needing something to really pull it out of the doldrums, though "Sick and Tired" does feature a nice Cozy Powell drum introduction and some wicked guitar solos.
"Forbidden" is definitely the most panned album in Sabbath's catalog. Fans almost universally dismiss it as phoned in and forgettable. The cartoony cover art only reinforces those opinions. I must confess, I too completely dismissed the album when it was first released. However, in retrospect, it is completely impossible for Tony Iommi to create a total dud. Even the most forgettable Sabbath record has a few diamonds in the rough and "Forbidden" definitely has a few of those.
Black Sabbath - Reunion (Epic) 1998
I am surprised it took me this long (two years) to finally secure a copy of this disc. For some reason I just never wanted to fork over the $20+ for this as a new disc. Even the used copies I'd see were well over the $15 range. Anyhow, finally picked up this copy for $5. Well, what we have here is live Sabbath with the original lineup of Ozzy, Geezer, Tony & Bill. With this the band came up with the incredibly creative title "Reunion." Ahhh...let us pause for a moment and ponder the creative genius. Anyhow, the band sounds excellent, almost as good as they did thirty years ago! There are points where Ozzy lets his age show, like in the disappointing vocal performance in "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" where he doesn't even attempt to reach the high notes. Also, Ozzy's crowd interaction is reduced to one four letter word. Apparently years of substance abuse have seriously limited his vocabulary and intelligence. On the positive side, there are a bunch of obscure numbers on this disc including; "Behind the Wall of Sleep" (complete with Geezer Butler's solo), "Snowblind," "Electric Funeral", "Dirty Women", and, the excellent, "Spiral Architect." "Dirty Woman" is especially surprising since I have never heard the band say anything good about "Technical Ecstasy," which is probably the worst studio album from the original lineup. Despite this, it's probably the best song from that disc. As for the new material, well, they're not bad, but they are not all that exciting either. "Psycho Man" received some radio airplay and is probably the most memorable of the two songs, but it actually sounds more like something off one of Ozzy's recent solo discs than it does a Tony Iommi number.
Seems like there have been a ton of Ozzy and Black Sabbath compilations coming out as of late. Guess 'ol Ozz is not happy with the millions he is making off of MTV right now. In anycase, of the recent releases, this one was of interest to me for two reasons. Disc one is supposedly a remastered version of "Live At Last" and disc two features live performances for the vintage 70's years of Sabbath. The material is all good to excellent, however, the recording quality and production isn't top notch. It's all listenable, but is really tantamount to a bootleg, rather than an official live release. The songs seem untouched with little or no studio fixes. Every crack in Ozzy's voice is left in. My favorite tracks on this disc are "Hole in the Sky," "Symptom of the Universe" and "Megalomania" all pulled from the never released, 1975 King Biscuit Flower Hour performance. "Black Sabbath," "N.I.B." and "Hand of Doom" are taken from the infamous 1970 Paris concert. These tracks sound like they were transfered directly from a tape, hiss and all. So, while this is a cool disc for the Black Sabbath die-hard like myself, I doubt it would be of much use to a casual fan. Nice booklet with tons of vintage photos and a decent essay on the band's Ozzy years as well.
Just what the world needs, yet another compilation of Black Sabbath hits. This is really overkill considering there are already so many 'hits' packages and compilations. Even Ozzy recently released discs with Sabbath classics. So, why did I buy this disc if it's a waste of plastic and paper? Well, actually I got it from BMG to fulfill my contract and to get a bunch of other CDs for free. That being the case, this collection is actually pretty nice. The packaging itself is rather nice, with a black slipcase enclosed with two digipack discs and a 50-page full color book. The book contains a ton of vintage photos as well as a pretty indepth biography of the Ozzy years of Black Sabbath. Of course no one will complain about the track listing. The songs here are all classics, with track selected from every Ozzy-era Black Sabbath disc. There is even the inclusion of the somewhat rare "Evil Woman" that was never 'officially' released in the U.S. So, while the world really doesn't need another Black Sabbath best of disc, this one is actually pretty nice.
Black Sabbath - The Dio Years (Rhino) 2007
1. "Neon Knights"
About a year ago or more, rumor spread throughout the metal underground that a new Black Sabbath box set was to be released that would focus on the Dio years of the band. Being a fan of both the Ozzy and Dio eras of Sabbath (as well as the lone Ian Gillan album), I was excited about the possibility of hearing such a collection. What got instead is this single disc 'best of' collection. Just to get it out of the way now, there is one glaring omission from this CD. How can there be a compilation of the best of the Dio years that does not include "Sign Of The Southern Cross"? This song is one of Sabbath's finest cuts ever. This complaint aside, "The Dio Years" is a decent overview of the short lived Dio era of the band. The collection is a sixteen track retrospective covering featuring thirteen tracks spanning four albums, as well as three newly-recorded tracks. Five tracks from Heaven make it to this set, where four from successor, Mob Rules, show up. All the chosen tracks are great, although I could have easily trade out "Falling Off the Edge of the World" for "Sign of the Southern Cross". Tracks 10-12 are from the 1992 Dehumanizer album, which was when Dio and Sabbath first rekindled their relationship, albeit for a short time. Beside the three tracks included, I might also have suggest including "Master Of Insanity" or "Time Machine". Either way, I am glad that this short lived reunion album was given fare time on this compilation. Only one track, "Children of the Sea" was chosen from "Live Evil". Again, this was a good choice. The last three songs are all newly recorded and are obviously included to entice die-hard Sabbath fans to purchase this collection of songs that most fans will already have. "The Devil Cried" was getting some airplay on my local Clearchannel station for weeks before this disc was released. It's a good song, as are the other two. Dio still sounds great, and Iommi is still the riff master. Overall, "The Dio Years" is a good retrospective of a classic era in the Black Sabbath saga. However, it's a shame the rumored box set wasn't release. Early rumors were that the box set would include a classic live performance from the Hammersmith Odeon from 1981. Instead this live CD is being sold exclusively through the Rhino website and only 5000 numbered copies are being released.
"Live At Hammersmith" is a 5000 copy, limited edition CD put out by Rhino Handmade Records. Hot on the heals of the recently released "Dio Years" single disc compilation and the Heaven & Hell world tour, "Live At Hammersmith became the fastest selling CD on the label, selling out all 5000 copies the day they were listed on the website. Within a week of it's release, copies were showing up on Ebay with bids upwards of $100. Several had starting bids of $140. OUCH! Each CD is numbered. (Mine is 3883/5000). According to the Rhino website this album was originally released as a double LP. The disc is 14 tracks running about 79 minutes! The CD is wrapped by a three panel digi and includes a 16 page booklet and an inlay card promoting "The Dio Years" collection. Long before this CD was released, rumor had it that this show was originally to be released in the "Dio Years" box set that was scrapped.
"Live At Hammersmith" was originally recorded on December 31, 1981 at London's Hammersmith Odeon. The show captures Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and drummer Vinny Appice during Sabbath's 1981 tour for Mob Rules. Personally I found this live album to be even better than the officially released "Live Evil" album. The band seems to be enjoying themselves on stage and all members give a spectacular output. There are a couple songs here that didn't make it to "Live Evil" as well, including "Country Girl" and "Slipping Away". The band also performs several pre-Dio classics including "Paranoid," "Children Of The Grave" and a smokin' version of "War Pigs."
1. End of the Beginning (8:07)
2. God Is Dead? (8:54)
3. Loner (5:06)
4. Zeitgeist (4:28)
5. Age of Reason (7:02)
6. Live Forever (4:49)
7. Damaged Soul (7:43)
8. Dear Father (7:06)
1. Methademic (5:58)
2. Peace of Mind (3:41)
3. Pariah (5:35)
4. Naïveté In Black (3:51)
"13" is the first full length studio record from Black Sabbath in 18 years (not counting Heaven & Hell) and their first in with Ozzy Osbourne 36 years. Though the album is titled "13", it's actually their 19th studio album. Initially the Black Sabbath "reunion" and album were to include the original four members in 2011. Unfortunately the "reunion" is without drummer Bill Ward. Ward attempted some last minute legal negotiations on his contract with the band, but instead was nixed from the reunion. The project was also delayed briefly due to Tony Iommi's diagnosis of lymphoma. The recording process had to be scheduled around Iommi's cancer treatments. For this record, drummer Brad Wilk, known mostly for his work with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave was brought in to fill the drum slot. All lyrics were written by Geezer Butler and Ozzy, and all music was written by Tony Iommi. According to interviews with Iommi, the album was recorded mostly live in the studio including the solos. The album is produced by Rick Rubin, who recently produced an album for ZZ Top that really captured their classic sound. As such, my hope was that Rubin would help Sabbath to capture their classic sound.
Of course all that information is pointless if the album doesn't deliver. In short, Black Sabbath 2013 deliver the goods like is was still the 1970's. Though some will make the claim that the overall album is to derivative of the classic Sabbath albums, it is sure to please most longtime, classic Sabbath fans. Though the production is more modern, the songs have that classic, heavy atmosphere that they delivered on albums like "Master of Reality" and "Vol. 4". Tony belts out one sludgy guitar riff after the other from the opening moments of "End of the Beginning" until the album ends. Iommi is still the riff master. Of course the big question is, can Ozzy still deliver? Though Ozzy has never been a great vocalist, what he lacks in singing skills he makes up for with charisma, character and emotion. Though he will never sound exactly like he did 35 years ago, he does sound great.
"God is Dead?" is the first single for the album and is nearly nine minutes long. The song has a sinister feel as Geezer's wall of sound bass blends with Iommi's crunchy guitar tones. The question is sure to be asked, what is the song about? Frankly, I have no idea. In par to the song Ozzy sings, "The blood runs free, the rain turns red, give me the wine, you keep the bread. The voices echo in my head, Is God alive or is God dead?...Do you believe a word, what the Good Book said? Or is it just a holy fairytale, and God is dead? God is Dead. Right! But still the voices in my head are telling me that God is dead. The blood pours down, the rain turns red. I don’t believe that God is dead! God is Dead." "Zeitgeist" is the shortest song on the album and is a melancholy number and could perhaps be labeled a ballad. Those familiar with the band's 70's material won't be surprised to hear an acoustic song of this nature. The song sits comfortably in the middle of the CD and helps keep the album from getting monotonous. Follow-up track "Age of Reason" is an epic song that builds and ends with well over a minute of killer guitar solo. However, the song that really blew me away was "Loner" thanks in part to a killer riff and an amazing Tony Iommi solo.
The Best Buy Deluxe Version of the CD came with a bonus disc with four bonus tracks. I half expected these songs to be out-takes or weak b-sides, but that is not the case. Surprisingly all four tracks are as good as the album tracks. "Naïveté In Black" in particular is a song reminiscent of "Neon Knights" and really should have been an album track. Though it's a shorter song, it's up-beat, heavy and catchy.
Black Sabbath are one of the bands that shaped and created heavy metal. Though many bands have attempted to copy the Sabbath sound, few can match the chemistry of Iommi and Butler. Four decades later and they are still able to deliver the goods. "13" delivers on all fronts. It will probably never replace the classics in most fan's minds, but it certainly is another fine album to add to the collection.