This image shows the cover of the latest Black Sabbath album "13".
...A couple of days early, perhaps. Still, this writer views Friday the 13th as a fine time to consider "13"-era Black Sabbath.
"13," released earlier this year, is latest album from the heavy metalists. It features three-quarters of the classic 1970s line-up: Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass) and Ozzy Osbourne (vocals/being Ozzy). Original drummer Bill Ward is missed. Still, fans take what they can get from a quote-unquote Legacy Act.
Cut to the chase, Goshen News blogger — how does it sound? OK, "13" is stronger than simply solid and way better than anyone has a right to expect. The Rick Rubin-produced disc finds Sabbath at roughly 80 percent its peak-era strength. "13" is no "Vol. 4," but it's deserving of more than a polite listen.
Iommi's riffs pummel and grind, and the solos are better-composed than the flailing that marked some of the early material — I'm talking to you, "Sweet Leaf." Butler's lyrics stick close to Sabbathy themes of doubt, dread, metaphysics, and human folly and failing. "You don't want to be a robot ghost," Ozzy sings in "End of the Beginning." Hey, does anybody? This is important stuff.
Sabbath circa "13" 2013 was in fine form during a gig last month in Noblesville (the venue eternally "Deer Creek" to those of us long in the tooth). What I'll most remember is the warm, joyous crowd vibe. The set list was heavy on the obvious picks, but included enough deep cuts ("Into the Void," "Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes") to keep things interesting. Plus, the Sabs played fully a third of the new album to an audience receptive to new material. The Rolling Stones are sick with envy. Or should be.
Black Sabbath has been around 40-plus years. These days, they win just by showing up. In Noblesville, they did considerably more than that. No mean feat, considering the guitar player is battling lymphoma.
Enjoy heavy music? Thank Black Sabbath for charting the course — along with Led Zeppelin, Cream and Hendrix, with a nod to "You Really Got Me" (Kinks) and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (the aforementioned Stones).
Musical worth can be argued, and "Who's better?" is a debate I choose to avoid like a wasting disease. But come on...when it comes to dark and heavy, Sabbath laid the foundation. The group's influence is undeniable. And to hear/see Sabbath not phoning it in decades after some British lads formed a band is a rare treat.