Black Sabbath – 13 album review

With a few glaringly indulgent uses of pitch correction aside, you’d be surprised at how well Ozzy Ozbourne keeps up with his presumably younger band. Then again, younger than Ozzy is a pretty easily met criteria. This fact is not lost on the maturing rock icon, as most of 13’s songs come to deal with his own impending doom. Its ironic, then, that their lyrics and sound haven’t changed, at least to my ears, except the inspiration from their doom and gloom lyrics has shifted. Black Sabbath, and particularly Ozzy’s emotional dread, somehow manage to make what could have been so much less sincere, (given how many musicians perform in their later years) a worthwhile effort.

Although all of this is hanging on one big contingent: if you like Black Sabbath to begin with. There really isn’t much to say as stylistically they have not changed much. There’s a predictable lack of inspiration behind many of the bands songs, in particular some guitar riffs that aren’t having the dooming drudging scare tactics the same sound might have had 30 years ago. Where the guitars should be harsher they can come off as snoozy. However there is still a lot to like in the musicianship. At times the bassist will rip through the guitars into the foreground to dial up and down the neck of his bass guitar at a rapid pace with a very strong and deliberate attack. There are similar breakout moments with guitars, but no surprises. Black Sabbath a lot of very competent playing on 13 but rarely did it ever impress me in any audible way, my appreciation came mostly from the skill required to play certain solos or riffs, but the riffs were often quite dull.

So its to my surprise that Ozzy seems to be the one leading the pack. I fully expected the opposite with someone of his age, but his very real fears and frustrations inspire empathy for him in an otherwise gloomy atmosphere. The music really isn’t that great though, its primed and ready for the next Sports Truck commercial complete with low-angle shots of some serious American tradition splashing mud onto the lens. Just because the lyrics are empathy inspiring doesn’t complete negate the content, which can be reminiscent of a modern teenager’s rebellion against their christian upbringing,, that is, if they even had religious family. I bring this up because for how old he is, Ozzy only seems to be seriously asking these dark philosophical questions for the first (serious) time now. I’m inclined to think its a sign of how secular the world has become if a drug addled 80 year old’s lyricised fear of death is equivalent to an angst ridden blog post of a 14 year old goth queen. With no more nuns to antagonize, I wonder what the modern teenage nihilist will rebel against when they’re 80.

By Keith Roberts

Keith is a writer, guitarist, and hobby producer out of the Greater Boston area.

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