Arching back to a pre-Osbournes era in which Ozzy still had some flex on his metal legacy, getting the band back together for reunion mantle tour, Ozzfest, circa 1997, 13 is a roughly 13-years-in-the-making glory days push, channeling – and predominately tuning in – to the apocalyptic thrash the original four Sabbath dudes from Birmingham spawned some odd five decades ago, before and after Ozzy’s descent into drug zombie-ism. Except four became three with the pulse swap of founding drummer Bill Ward for Rage Against the Machine‘s Brad Wilk, and the reunion is actually 35-years-in-the-making, as the last record the dark lord-saluting metal ambassadors cut was 1978’s Never Say Die!
Rife with bending declarations of affinities for God or the devil – they can’t seem to decide – armchair philosophies about isolation and individualism, a quintessential metal fist aimed at society’s need for truth, and an odd curtin-calling knock at the atrocities the Catholic church has been capable of in recent years, the forefathers of painted-black rock mantra that production guru Rick Rubin helped them achieve is fittingly grandiose, but the sermon is convoluted. At one point, Ozzy babbles quizzically to himself, “I may be dreaming or whatever.” Then again, the church of Sabbath was not built on poetry, and 13 is evidence that even a wavering alliance to the dark lord won’t kill you, if not giving forever strength for those about to rock pushing into their twilight years. So goes our salute to some of your finer sentiments, Black Sabbath.
The sting felt from Ward’s reunion exit fades quickly with the cave-womp of pinch-drummer Brad Wilk, and the sludgy slither of cancer survivor Iommi gives way to Ozzy – hunched, babbling Ozzy – calling upon the sorcery of Sabbath past to put an end to the beginning in the name of unholy rebirth: [LISTEN]
Another Paranoid war-horse, er pig, story goes Ozzy came up with the blasphemous declaration during a daydream about the religious horrors of 9/11, while Geezer Butler tied in a Nietzsche thread to flesh out the backwater sermon in full, masterfully thickened by Rick Rubin and shockingly pro-Big G: [LISTEN]
Mayhaps too much Nietzsche on the brain from predecessor “God is Dead?” as Ozzy leads the almost original Sabbath statesmen on another philosophical trip, this time about a loner. Near jam-worthy as “Aqualung,” but for the headbanger set – a cautionary from rockers not ready for twilight years: [LISTEN]
Ah, the Ozzy laugh – the comforting echoes from the mouth of a bat decapitator. Dynamic beast, 13, Rubin’s thumbprint fades perfectly, bridging the last stretch of Side A with black hole acoustic blues balladry, following Ozzy on a djembe-pattered cosmic thinker with an immaculate goodnight kiss: [LISTEN]
Igniting Side B comes the gnar chainsaw rev guitar of Iommi, that’s tame compared to its metal-blues contemporaries, but labored enough to warrant some due elder respect, as Ozzy still going strong for five tracks, gets didactic with a lesson on “mass distraction” getting in the way of “truth:” [LISTEN]
The first bit of rust spotted on this comeback ride has everyone phoning in a cruiser, tailored for some odd teleprompter Ozzy stumble fail, but instead powers in fourth gear on with Wilk riding a kitchen sink cymbal ride so the “prince of darkness” can disseminate he “may be dreaming or whatever:” [LISTEN]
Eased in with a Floydian psych-talk fade, all this talk of God and rational thought goes the way of prime dark lord Sabbath yore, the prog blues crude-thick, Wilk finally emoting on the drums again and demonic Ozzie giving in to the dark side like he does best when he stops thinking about Sharon: [LISTEN]
Didn’t think we’d get a predatory catholicism screed about pedophilia, among other religious atrocities, on the final minutes of Sabbath’s first true record in 35 years. But the thunder matches the lightening and the fury of dark reckoning is vindictive enough to warrant a seven-minute sludgefest: [LISTEN]