They tried it back in 1999, but it took another decade and change to become a reality – even now, it's technically still three-fourths of the original band. Regardless of how you feel about the studio reunion of the original Black Sabbath, the fact is, “13” is a crushingly heavy lesson in primordial heavy metal, and the guys sound like they're still the glint in every current that hums, somewhere, whenever an amplifier's knobs are fiendishly twisted far to the right.
The first recording since 1978's “Never Say Die” featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, and Geezer Butler is a little bittersweet for some, as many fans would have preferred a complete lineup featuring original drummer Bill Ward. Financial squabbles prevented that from happening, but Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk capably fills in on the album, wisely not trying to replicate Ward's swing/jazz-inspired smashing, instead adding his own looseness to the groove-heavy material.
The album is no lumbering dinosaur; lead track “End of the Beginning” is reminiscent of the takeoff in the band's 1970 song “Black Sabbath,” with Iommi's trademark riffs still bearing the tritone (see “devil's tone”) benchmark of classic British metal. The single, “God Is Dead,” lets Butler's 10-ton bass at once rumble like John Entwistle, yet speak in noodling tongues like Steve Harris; producer Rick Rubin manages to accent every ounce of wrath left in each musician's tank.
The acoustic “Zeitgeist” begins with Ozzy's asylum-dwelling laughter, a telling precursor to the song's touch-of-madness examination of life's catechisms – the flanged vocal effect on Ozzy's voice a la “Planet Caravan” hauntingly alludes to, “Lost in time, I wonder will my ship be found?” The band refocuses on riff 'n' roll with the chromatic duster “Live Forever,” sounding like a brass-balled champion steed galloping toward the finishing line; the band is simply a galvanized metal machine. Should this album be their swan song, it'll be one heck of a parting shot.
It's often said of an album, “This ain't your father's heavy metal.” This, in fact, is your dad's metal – coming back to steel-toe the youngsters' Hot Topic-fed inclinations back into shape.
Black Sabbath '13' Rating: W W W W V