Is it bad? Nope. Is it good? You know what? It is. If you want to talk negatives then it’s probably in the drumming department. That’s not to say Brad Wilk is a bad drummer. To the contrary, in fact, Wilk is a great drummer. He’s just not Bill Ward. Wilk comes from a different style that, unfortunately, doesn’t mesh well with the Sabbath bombastic drone that Ward created making 13 simply a “B” album an not an “A”. Adding to the lower grade is uber-producer Rick Rubin because all around 13 sounds a little too crisp. It’s a modern Ozzy solo album (Think No More Tears especially) production for a band that was born of the analog era.
But onto the good stuff which there is lots of on here as well as similarities to previous Sabbath recordings. Are there parallels between the foreboding opener “End of the Beginning” and “Black Sabbath”? Or that “God Is Dead?” intro with its start/stop rumble which has a certain “War Pigs” flair to it? Of course, because these are the guys that wrote the goddamn book on doom rock and heavy metal.
If you want real “modern” Sabbath then look no further than “Loner” which is hands down Black Sabbath circa 2013. Geezer’s low end is slammin’, Iommi’s riffage is solid, and Ozzy singing some “Al right now’s”? Sold! There’s a little more blues and sludge infusion here especially on the epic “Age Of Reason” and “Damaged Soul” (The latter of which features a scorching Iommi solo) as well and speaking of epic, five of the eight tracks on the standard edition don’t fly under the seven-minute mark! In an age where bands are looking for the next viral sensation or short hook-laden pop hit, it’s refreshing how deliberately long and meaningful each song on here is.
If there is another album, might I also suggest getting Iommi and Butler in the producer chair to rekindle that fire they brought on the Dio-fronted Heaven and Hell album in 2009? However, if this is the last album from the “original” Sabbath then it’s still a fitting coda.
13 is out on June 11th through Vertigo/Universal. Get your copy here.