Black Sabbath, 13 | Album Review
13, the comeback album by iconic metal band Black Sabbath, stands extremely tall. It’s pessimistic, atheistic, and Mephistophelean. Rock on.
“Blood on my conscious / and murder in mind / out of gloom I rise up from my tomb into impending doom…” Yep, that’s the sentiment throughout 13, the dark comeback album of the original Black Sabbath lineup, minus drummer Bill Ward. Most importantly, Ozzy Osbourne is back, 35 years later. If anyone was wondering why metal-heads were so excited, that’s the reason. They should be hyped – it’s a well-done album. Ozzy and company don’t embrace Satanism per se, but raise criticism about ‘God.’ Atheistic themes might tick some off, but the flip side is, you know what you’re getting into with Black Sabbath.
“End of the Beginning”
“End of the Beginning” opens bombastically, in moody fashion, with minor key intact. Things settle down after the initial punch, with Ozzy inquiring miserably:
“Is this the end of the beginning? Or the beginning of the end / Losing control or are you winning? / Is your life real or just pretend?”
Organized sectionally, there are tempo, groove, and musical changes throughout, shaping the enjoyable opener. Malicious, jagged guitar and bass lines ‘let it rip’. Even so, its outdone by the album’s juggernaut.
Having the nerve to title a song “God Is Dead?” takes some serious cojones. Then, making the polarizing number a single – damning! “God Is Dead?” is the crowning achievement. The assumed-to-be atheistic jabs appear prominently throughout the song, most notably as Osbourne sings on the first Chorus.
“The blood runs free / The rain turns red / Give me the wine / You keep the bread / The voices in echo in my head / Is God alive or is God dead?”
Then towards the end of the cut, a loop is thrown: “I don’t believe that God is dead.” What does it all mean? It seems as if Black Sabbath have multiple meanings going on, making the song more awesome. For music theory nerds, you gotta love that lower second and lowered fifth.
“Loner” packs punch with funkiness from the riffs, but fails to be the devilish blow of “God is Dead?” Still, misery loves company, and “Loner” is certainly miserable, judging by the lyrics.
“A solitary man / An enigmatic child / A riddle never solved / A prisoner exiled.”
And, there’s more:
“I wonder if the loner can assimilate / A life less lived alone plays devil’s advocate.”
Yeah, that’s damning loneliness. Making things more hellish are the reiterated lyrics, “Don’t descend.”
More company for misery arrives via “Zeitgeist,” another standout, lacking optimism. Interestingly, the cut is more restrained than “Loner,” but packs more weight:
“The strings of fear they are holding up the race / The puppets falling to the ground / The love I feel as I fly endlessly through space / Lost in time I wonder will my ship be found.”
Essentially, the lyrics criticize humans, the world, and etc. Sure, Ozzy is a ‘negative noodle,’ but isn’t he correct?
“Age of Reason”
“Age of Reason” goes harder, filled with colorful chromatic ‘metal’ notes, unified riffs, and full-throttle guitars. Furthermore, there are more shameful human race lyrics.
“Sustainable extinction, a fracture human race / A changing revolution disappears without a trace.”
Ouch. Again, it gets worse though:
“Always felt that there’d be trouble / Mass distraction hides the truth / Prozac days and sleepless hours…
Prozac is never good. And, even worse:
“Politics, religion, love of money too / It’s what the world was built for / But not me and you.”
Well, at least the guitar solo puts a smile on fractured faces worldwide.
“Live Forever” dabbles in longevity. Within Christianity, the belief is that there are one of two places your soul ends up after you die – heaven or hell. The band poses the question of whether, “To burn in hell, or bathe in heaven’s light.”
“Well I don’t wanna live forever / But I don’t want to die / I may be dreaming or whatever / I live inside a lie.”
It seems anti-religious, which would fit the trend of the effort. Besides the cool metal cues, a rousing guitar truly carries a spirit of rock. “Live Forever” may not influence the afterlife, but it does make you wanna spin it forever.
“Damaged Soul” finds “A preacher tried saving my black damaged soul / Possessed by a demon that had full control.” Hell seems to have been unleashed here, but from Ozzy’s perspective, he’s “Losing the battle between Satan and God”. So, he’s not a Satanist? Maybe not. He’s no believer either, judging by closing cut “Dear Father.”
“Dear father, forsaken / You knew what you were doing / In silence, your violence / Has left my life in ruins.”
Yeah it could be about dad perhaps, but seems all-in, faith-based. It definitely makes for a sick, chilling closer.
So where does 13 stand? It stands extremely tall. Sure, it’s pessimistic, atheistic, and Mephistophelean, but would you want your heavy metal lacking heaviness? Hell no! All eight of the standard cuts are consistent, rocking your socks off. Ozzy Osbourne may not be the greatest vocalist of our time, but he delivers this set of lyrics with the appropriate oomph.
Gems: “God Is Dead?”, “Zeitgeist,” “Live Forever” & “Dear Father”