The big question, END OF THE BEGINNING OR THE BEGINNING OF THE END?
End Of Beginning - (4 out of 5) - track opens with a classic Heavy as F*ck Iommi riff and sets the stage for this dark and haunting epic. Ozzy hasn't lost a step as he reincarnates the mad man we all know and love. The strain and slight warble of a journeyman stripped of all the effects that fans have been accustomed to since his solo Ozzmosis back in the 90's. Originally leaked on youtube, this was the track that set my mind at ease about this long awaited album. Geezer and Wilk are indeed a strong unit that flow under the assault of Iommi and Ozzy.
God Is Dead? - (3 out of 5) - I admit the track is still growing on me. This being the first single off the album, I've probably listened to it the most. In it's entirety it touches all the bases of what I was expecting. Ozzy is his quintessential "lunatic trapped in his own head" self on this one. While the song is what I expected, full of doom, gloom and maintains its Sabbath character. I felt that the song may have been too deliberate. Plus the lyrics "Give me the wine, you keep the bread" really gets under my skin.
Loner - (3.8 out of 5) - a real 70's style rocker. The main character of the song feels very much like the subject of Iron Man. Not so much the musicianship but definitely the lyrics. A threatening and singular figure to the outside world. Tony throws in some really nice bong water soaked shag carpet licks towards the latter part of the track. It makes one wonder how many Iommi riffs we have yet to hear blasted through our stereo cabinets in mom's old basement.
Zeitgeist - (5 out of 5) - This is my favorite track on the entire album. Hand drums, acoustic guitars and the classic distorted vocals of Planet Caravan make this more of a sequel than an homage to the aforementioned classic. It is the one track that could honestly have fit on any of their earlier work without a hitch. A psychedelic film of despair and solitude covers the entire track.
Age of Reason - (5 out of 5) - the entire band hits it's stride with this one. With swinging drums, bass and more Iommi riffage than you can shake an old man's gloomy cane at. This is indeed Black Sabbath of the new millennium. Everything I could hope for and more.
Live Forever - (4 out of 5) - great follow up to the track before it. Ozzy sounds great and the lyrics are pretty honest coming from men in their later years who indeed have confronted their own mortality(drug overdoses, health scares and ultimately Iommi's Cancer diagnosis) It's a contemplative song with some great transitions. Of the many songs on the album this track stands on its' own as it carries an upbeat tempo that harkens back to the masterpiece "Hole in the Sky".
Damaged Soul - (5 out of 5) - This is straight up Blues from Hell. The groove of the band is exceptional and you can feel all the members losing themselves in the music. No longer a band out to prove that they can stand the test of time. Ozzy pulls out the harmonica on this one and reminds us of where the band started. Dirty old Birmingham Blues never sounded better.
Dear Father - (3.5 out of 5) - Plenty of riffs, bass and swinging drums. The vocals are plodding and the lyrics speak about the hypocrisy of religion and molestation. The chorus sounds more like one you'd find on one of Ozzy's Solo Albums. The song closes with a throw back to the band's beginning. A real call back to the opening track of this cd. Is 13 the Beginning of the End for the greatest Heavy Metal Band that ever existed or is this just the End of the Beginning of what's yet to come?
DELUXE EDITION ADDITIONAL SONGS
Piece of Mind - (4 out of 5) - Another strong intro riff. Ozzy finds a really good rhythm in his delivery on this one. The song pace is slower and more straight forward. As the song transitions it fits more of a Ozzy solo template. This type of song allows Ozzy to deliver his lines with more purpose.
Medthadenmic - (4 out of 5) - Every time I hear this I'm kinda thrown off by the opening riff. A repetitious grinding guitar riff Iommi uses throughout the song. Ozzy himself has penned this song's lyrics and his delivery is reminiscent of his mid eighties hey day. The steady patter and swing of the drums later on in the song bring this track back around to a fast paced juggernaut. This is definitely written by a man who's as close to the subject of drugs and addiction as anyone on the planet.
Pariah - (4 out 5) - Slow intro leading into a real classic sounding Rock and Roll swing with a touch of dare I say Rage Against the Machine slowed down a half step. Another track that harkens back to Sabbath's signature sound with a gritty rock feel. The imagery hits upon drugs, the antichrist and even one verse is a call back to "Suicide Solution". The chorus is pretty simple and catchy. I'm glad that it was included in the three song deluxe version. All of these songs have a place but I think they work better on their own rather than in the mix of the much heavier songs.
OK, that's my take. What's your take?