Black Sabbath


Vertigo (2013)
Από τον Αντώνη Μουστάκα, 06/06/2013
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This is the end of a cycle. The album we have been waiting for from 2011, and 2001. 1996, 1992 and 1978. Each delay giving is even more to want from a new Black Sabbath album. Each new riff, song and album from everyone and their mother trying to copy, continue or plain out desecrate the Black Sabbath legacy simply added one more hurdle to the band’s return to the top.

35 years from their last album, and 38 from their last peak, the original line-up of the band that essentially gave birth to the heavy metal genre of music had more than a few obstacles to overpass in order to give us something monumental.

With Ozzy’s voice not being at its best, Iommi’s long battle with cancer and Ward’s ultimate cop-out out of the whole thing, Black Sabbath finally finish recording "13" with a little help from Rage Against The Machine’s Brad Wilk behind the drum set and Rick Rubin dishing out all the orders.

And what were those orders exactly you ask? Use an open-minded approach to song writing, which all three musicians have abandoned for quite some time now, and leave behind monotonous ideas and mannerisms. In the meantime, anything that even remotely resembles something modern, something not Sabbath, is automatically discarded by Rubin, who is being smart by deciding not to set the band down a path of them attempting to continue creating musical history, but rather down one that would simply remind everyone who they are and what they have achieved.

And the outcome was good. Sabbath have once again embraced that made them tick during their first years of their career. Most of the songs "spread" nicely, without having to worry about fitting into a mainstream mould, incorporating a number of (mostly successful) tempo changes and  Ozzy using all our beloved vocal delivery methods - even though his struggle his evident - of Butler’s simplistic lyrics. In "Zeitgeist" he demonstrates a glimpse of his best solo, ballady moments, whereas when travelling down more "evil" paths (e.g. "End Of The Beginning) he is not half bad. Live performances however will be a different story.

On the other hand, Iommi is once again the top dog. His riffs have the lead role in this effort and are effortlessly accompanied by excellent solo’s that can either swift from a bluesy character ("Damaged Soul") to one of a more metal-orientated nature ("Live Forever").

Butler’s distorted bass and solid playing just ads bonus points to the final outcome but never seems to step out into the spotlight, whereas Wilk stays respectfully in the shadows too, only rearing his head during "Loner". Ward would definitely have more to offer, in regards of Rubin’s orders, even though his physical condition isn’t the best. I mean, what should Ozzy say?

The weakest element of "13" is definitely the longwinded nature of some of the songs, but the fact that they almost seem a fabrication of the producer, rather than a natural progression of the musicians in the band (e.g. "God Is Dead?"). Additionally, the shorter and groovier track ("Loner, "Live Forever") really don’t have much to say. On the contrary, tracks like "Age Of Reason", "Damaged Soul" and "Dear Father", all of which surpass the 7 minute mark, definitely demonstrate the greater qualities of the Sabbath’s musicianship.

And whilst the band is looking back to their old ways of writing songs, Rubin tries to bring the Sabbath sound to 2013 (with one clear exception), avoiding the cliched old-school Gibson SG - Orange amp combo that most of the copycats go for. With "Damaged Soul" (the clear exception that I mentioned), being an exceptional psychedelic blues rock number stating that, if they felt like it, they could do everything better than any Swedish stoner band out there, the rest of the album sounds as modern as it could have, without tons of knob-turns and tricks.

The cycle ends as it began. With a bell chiming in the rain.

Minus the surprise.
Minus the shock.
Plus 35 years of musical evolution.
Plus the thousands of a la Iommi riffs that have been played in the meantime.

Plus a decent album.

A 15 second review on Doc Rock's couch:

End Of The Beginning: No end to a start.
God Is Dead?: Do Gods even die?
Loner: Collective solitude
Zeitgeist: Slow space walk
Age Of Reason: Logic and Maturity
Live Forever: Riffmaster for ever.
Damaged Soul: "Black" yet wonderful soul.
Dear Father: Daddy's Home.