Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Black Sabbath - 13 (2013)

Well, let's just say that it's not a total bust. In fact, it's really not that bad at all and it pretty much sounds like exactly what it is... an updated version of a band that started over 40 years ago. Of course, that's where the problem lies... the updated sound. No, the musicianship is surprisingly on the money (though there is no shortage of "filler" type riffs. Not sure how much of that is a conscious endeavor, but it is what it is), it's the production that I find to be clinically overbearing. Particularly in the drum sound. The drums of course are the weakest link here, not because the dude sucks or anything like that, but there is just something just a little too straightforward and generic going on behind the kit. I don't know if it's a matter of "playing it safe" or what, but I definitely miss the frenetic style of Mr. Ward. Don't get me wrong though, Brad Wilk does a decent enough job, but I feel that if you're going to simply "play along" by employing simplistic and straightforward beats, the drum sound shouldn't sound as loud as it does in the mix. Whatever. Let us proceed...

The riffage is a mixed bag of 'cool' and 'ok'. There's really nothing terribly mind-blowing going on here. Had this come out 20 or 30 years ago it may have made that much more of an impression. These are certainly not the band's best songs nor do they have what it takes to compete with the likes of their last two studio releases together, 'Technical Ecstasy' and 'Never Say Die', both of which are widely considered to be lowpoints in the band's career (personally, I don't know what the fuck these people are talking about as I have always found them both to be solid Black Sabbath albums). On the other hand, the album is not a bad one either. I must say though, I would have much rather have heard Iommi and co. continue along the path blazed by the band's final release with Dio, Heaven & Hell's 'The Devil You Know', as the riffs on that album are quite good and undeniably heavy. Much heavier than what's going on here.

Ozzy's voice is... well... it's Ozzy! At times I can't shake the notion that a great deal of his performance is doctored up in the studio which gives it an overall "dead" and clinical sheen which ultimately renders the delivery a bit soulless. This is not the Ozzy of '69-'78 era Sabbath. Hell, this isn't even the Ozzy of the '80's, who was still a rather lively sounding beast. No, this guy sounds a bit tired, and even, dare I say... uninterested. Making matters worse are Ozzy's inclusion of the tried and true mantra of "alright... okay", which can at times sound downright annoying and out of place, especially when delivered in such a deadpan manner. It's like snorting a thick rail of speed and then attending a gathering where everyone's off doing the "Thorazine shuffle". Something's out of place.

Despite these criticisms, the album is certainly not a letdown, by any means. I'm not sure how much of it has to do with the fact that perhaps I wasn't expecting much to begin with as opposed to the band really "nailing" it, or more accurately "coming close" to nailing it. I think had the band went in for a more "earthier" sound and maybe gave ol' Oz a couple of zaps of cocaine before hitting the mic, this would've been much more on the level of the "triumphant return" that everyone was hoping for. Unfortunately, it sounds like the band obsessed a bit too much with the studio knobs and getting that colossal gloss that they couldn't possibly have attained last time around, over 30 years ago. When will people learn that the bands and producers of ages past had it right to begin with? When will they realize that there is such a thing as studio overkill? As it is, it's decent, it's certainly not a "failure", but it's not going to be something that gets a whopping amount of playtime around these parts, either. Welcome back.

1 comment:

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