Black Sabbath - 13
The Black Sabbath story is littered with addiction, death, destruction, internecine feuds and general mayhem, meaning the odds on a comeback album being any good some 18 years since the last album (and a whopping 35 years since they were fronted by Ozzy Osbourne) were pretty damn long. Add in the feud that has seen Bill Ward being evicted from the drummer’s stool those odds got even longer.
Perhaps it is Rick Rubin’s production and man management skills; perhaps it is Tony Iommi’s battle against cancer but, whatever the reason, 13 beats all the odds and really is a bloody great album - far better in fact than it has any right to be.
That wasn’t a given and ‘End of The Beginning’ kicks things off in less-than-stellar fashion with an overly dirge-like backing a wooden delivery from Ozzy but, half way through, things kick up a few notches as Iommi’s crunching riffs kick in and the cobwebs are well and truly blown away. Ozzy relaxes in to his role with aplomb his role and actually ends up sounding as good as he has since his early solo days.
The rest of the album follows the tried and tested template they so brilliantly set in the early 70s with doom laden epics laced with brain-melting wigouts, alongside a couple of full on rockers. The barrelling ‘Live Forever’ is the pick of these with its dark humour and sense of their own mortality being particularly apt. The ‘lighter in the air’ ballad, which is beautifully represented by the acoustic stylings of ‘Zeitgeist’,fits more pathos and beauty into its 4 ½ minutes than Coldplay have managed in a whole career.
As the poignant closing bars of ‘Dear Father’ fade away you are left in little doubt that this is almost certainly Black Sabbath’s swan song. With 13 they have defied all the doubters and delivered a fitting finale to the illustrious recording career of one of our truly great rock bands.