Vertigo Records, 2013
This is a much ballyhooed and greatly anticipated release. Originally touted as a reunion of the four original members of Black Sabbath, the final product has ¾ of the line-up. Purists will cry foul, but drummer Bill Ward was at odds with the contract he was presented with, (I will refrain from any comments about the Devil being in the details), so Brad Wilk of Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine takes his place at the coveted drum stool for this release.
The last time this line up produced a full length release of original material was 1978, the tepid Never Say Die! LP. But things have changed. No longer at each others throats the band has been working together amicably since the late 90’s, but what of the new material? It sounds like it was written in between Master of Reality and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Go ahead and read that again. I’ll wait.
“God is Dead?” is just under nine minutes long with great heaping slabs of crushing sound to remind you who started it all. Great changes throughout and with lyrics like “The blood runs free, the rain turns red/ Give me the wine, you keep the bread,” you’re reminded that Sabbath were mischievous alter boys all along.
“Zeitgeist” is a great left turn which directly references “Planet Caravan” from Paranoid. Trippy, psychedelic, quiet and completely out of left field, it nearly steals the show.
“Age of Reason,” and “Live Forever,” are also stand out tracks.
Throughout the performances are spirited and head strong. The song writing does it’s best to rival the legendary songs in the bands song book, but this is a tall order. Wilk is a more than capable drummer, but there are moments in the songs when Bill Wards jazzy flourishes which made him so unique are sorely missed. One can almost hear him going for the odd, head scratching phrase, that he manages to make fit.
There’s a really nice detail at the end of the last track. As it fades, you can hear the rainfall and tolling bell from the beginning of the bands eponymous first album. Side one, track one. Acknowledging how far they’ve come. The possibility this may be the last release they work on together; their legacy wrapped up neatly; or whatever else you’d like to read into it is probably o-k. Maybe they just thought it’d sound cool. Time has neither slowed nor mellowed these Iron Men, thankfully.