Wow. Black Sabbath. The originators of Heavy Metal. The originators of Doom. Where does one begin? How about 1968? Eleven years before my dad made the mistake of busting that unfortunate nut, a Blues band called Polka Tulk loses the saxophone and changes their name to Earth. Two years and another name change later, they record a self-titled album that would change the musical landscape forever. (There isn’t a single soul reading this right now who would be the same person they are today if this hadn’t occurred. How’s that for a mindfuck?) Look, I don’t have enough space here to say everything I want to about Black Sabbath. What matters now is that 17 full-lengths, 8 singers, 6 drummers, 7 bassists, and a wealth of bad blood later: Iommi, Butler, and Osbourne are on wax together for the first time in 35 years. That’s pretty fucking awe-inspiring, even if said piece of wax often fails to be. I’ll keep it simple. 13 isn’t a bad record. It’s not a great one, either —they’re in their fucking 90s, cut ‘em a little slack— but taken for what it’s worth, it makes for a warm and fuzzy novelty spin. What exactly is it worth, you ask? That hinges on one simple question: Do you think it’s okay for legendary guitarists to steal their own classic riffs? Iommi isn’t even shy about it. “End of the Beginning” is “Black Sabbath,” “Loner” is “NIB,” “Zeitgeist” is “Planet Caravan,” etc. There isn’t a whole lot going on here that doesn’t sound familiar. The album even ends with the bell. It is what it is. We don’t seem to mind everyone else plundering the man’s spoils. If anyone, he should be allowed to do so as well. I wish Bill Ward were a part of this. I really do. But the dude from Rage Against the Machine actually does a serviceable impression of his drumming style. The best overall performance might go to Rick Rubin. He set out to recapture the feel of the debut —even forcing the trio to listen to it in the studio— and he certainly succeeded. Aside from “Dear Father,” which I’m pretty sure is about getting fucked in the ass by a priest, Geezer’s lyrics remain the same archaic verses. Impending doom, life and death, and that peculiar preoccupation with religion that sometimes makes you wonder if the guy’s a Jesus fag. Don’t be a Jesus fag, Sir Butler. It’s all a lie. As for Ozzy… I mean, c’mon… Taft was in office when this fucker was born. He didn’t have much range as a kid and can barely speak now, let alone sing. He sounds as good as he possibly can at this point, and honestly it’s probably the best he’s sounded since Lemmy was writing all his songs. Just be glad good judgement prevailed and this isn’t Michael Bolton for fuck’s sake. I refuse to pick on every little flaw just for the sake of badmouthing the record. The truth is: no Black Sabbath, no Metal Curse. No Metal anything. As a harmless nostalgic frolic, 13 serves its purpose as entertainment most dutifully.
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