You know all is good in the world of heavy metal when Ozzy Osbourne drawls out the words "Oh, yeah" over a mandrax-induced, intertwining caterwaul of guitar solos and riffs that could take the weight of a suspension bridge. As reunion albums go, then, 13 is up there not only with the best of their kind, but also with the best of Black Sabbath.
Let's recap: formed in the late 1960s in darkest Birmingham, Black Sabbath released in quick succession five albums of such brain-curdling intensity that they kickstarted a movement of imitators. Welding songs with a vaguely occult theme to music that kicked subtlety in the nuts, the band flourished, creatively, until 1973, when their last truly great album (Sabbath Bloody Sabbath) was released. Within two years the band's original line-up fragmented, leaving in its wake a depressing sequence of under-performing records.
You might think that, like some of their contemporaries, Black Sabbath might be into addressing issues that reflect the passing of time, but there’s none of that contemplative rubbish here. Instead, it’s like punk rock never happened: thunder ominously cracks, lightning frighteningly strikes, church bells dolefully ring. Tony Iommi’s guitar lines weave in and out and then come down upon you like Thor’s angry hammer. Geezer Butler’s bass treads a well-worn but not squelchy path. And then there’s Osbourne, who is either a heavy metal guru or rock music’s prime-time goon.
Whatever your opinion, there’s no doubt that Ozzy fits into Sabbath’s if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it framework perfectly. With Iommi and Butler in tow (original drummer Bill Ward is out, his sticks gripped by Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk), Osbourne takes his place at the table with head held high.
Kudos, also, to producer Rick Rubin, whose strategy of making a war horse sound like a young filly is accomplished over and over again. blacksabbath.com
Download: Age of Reason, Live Forever, End of the Beginning, Zeitgeist