A reunion album from the founders of heavy metal could have sunk under its own weight. But Black Sabbath's "13", its first album with Ozzy Osbourne since 1978's "Never Say Die!", is surprisingly relevant even by modern metal standards.
The album is not quite a full reunion of the original lineup, as Rage Against the Machine's Brad Wilk replaces drummer Bill Ward. But the other three founding members—Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, and bassist Geezer Butler—jell in the studio as though they were never apart, melding menacing riffs with Ozzy's sinister sneer.
The album creaks its way to a slow start with the heavy and sluggish "End of the Beginning". But the band quickly gains momentum with the doom of lead single "God Is Dead?", the haunting "Loner", and the heavy blues of "Damaged Soul".
The group peaks on the catchy "Live Forever", with Iommi's and Butler's guitar and bass lines rumbling thunderously as Osbourne howls above the din. He seems at once human and godlike as he both embraces and rejects his own mortality. The song roars like a statement on the band's reunion ("I don't want to live forever, but I don't want to die").
Black Sabbath probably will never eclipse the magic of its early recordings, but the heavy riffs, ominous tone, and memorable songs on "13" make it more than just a footnote in the band's illustrious career.
-- Catherine P. Lewis