We are still not worthy.
Black Sabbath scared the shit out of people in their heyday. There was Ozzy eating bats, songs about Satan and devil worshipping and, above all, the heaviest, doomiest riffs anyone had ever heard. Their debut self-titled album is widely credited with more-or-less inventing heavy metal, but metal has become exponentially heavier in the intervening forty years. The title track was once described by Judas Priest’s frontman as “probably the most evil track ever written”, but now is almost comical in its earnestness.
Yet despite Ozzy, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi all being in their 60s, they don’t show any signs of slowing down. This album is every bit as heavy as any of their previous efforts, with only a slightly-diminished Ozzy giving any hint at their age. But he still sounds sharper here than he did on Sabbath’s recent Australian tour, where he was dwarfed by the on-stage sets and the giant screens. He’s certainly helped by Butler’s lyrics (he’s written most of Sabbath’s lyrics since the very beginning) which are as dark and demonic as ever, while the final track, ‘Dear Father’, is a typically-Sabbath take on living with memories of physical abuse.
But the real star of Sabbath has always been Iommi’s guitar. Here Iommi lets it all hang out, displaying all the attributes that have made him an icon – the riffs, the guitar tone, the jazzy, tangential solos.
This album does sometimes feel like a shadow of Sabbath past – it takes a good few minutes to really warm up, some of the lyrics are appallingly trite, and the whole thing is probably 10 minutes too long. But I don’t think anyone will care.
13 is out now through Vertigo/Universal Records.