CD: Black Sabbath - 13 | reviews, news & interviews
CD: Black Sabbath - 13
CD: Black Sabbath - 13
Can the original lineup bring cheer, doom or both?
The original Black Sabbath were a feat of engineering on a par with a classic Land Rover or an AK47. Everything about them was basic, brutal, unadorned and brilliantly functional – and as such achieved a very real, if rather grim, kind of beauty. So it's very nice indeed to see Tony Iommi's churning detuned guitar, Ozzy Osbourne's desolate howl (one of the most inhuman voices in popular music this side of Kraftwerk, in fact) and Geezer Butler's basslines and lyrics of alienation reunited, 35 years after they last recorded together.
There are issues here. Sadly original drummer Bill Ward is missing from the equation, and so the machine is not quite complete; Rage Against The Machine's Brad Wilks does a tidy enough job, though. Ozzy's voice has less range than before, understandably given the punishment his body has taken over the years, so the real desperation he used to achieve is toned down to mere half-dead despair. And the first track to hit radio, "Is God Dead?", is ruined by some pseudo-goth jangle that suggests that the "Sabs” were trying to mimic people that they themselves had influenced.
However, for all that, of the eight tracks on the standard release, "End of the Beginning", "Loner", "Age of Reason", "Damaged Soul" and "Dear Father" are all near-perfect Sabbath dirge, the primal chug of Iommi's powerchords especially suggesting something old and horrible lurking in the modern unconscious. The dark acoustic psychedelia of "Zeitgeist" and the faster boogie of "Live Forever" aren't half bad either. Just one duff track on an album by a band of this vintage? For a record of half-dead despair that's a pretty joyous thing, really... the old machine might have a few wonks and kinks but it is still brutally effective.
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