If its first single is any indication, we should all approach the forthcoming Black Sabbath sort-of-reunion album, 13, with caution - noses wrinkled, poking and prodding at it from a safe distance.
Really, there's no reason to believe it'll be any good. For one, it's not even a "real" reunion - Osbourne, Iommi, Butler, yes, but no Bill Ward. So maybe it's not surprising that the percussion on the record's first single, the just-released God Is Dead?, sound like they were cranked out of a drum machine.
At almost nine minutes, God Is Dead? aspires to the grandeur of Into The Void or Warning. But it doesn't seem epic or imposing as much as just long. Ozzy's vocals are fine - though in the post-Sabbath way where he sounds incurably flat - and both Butler's crunchy bass busywork and Iommi's solos are basically satisfying. It sounds like a Sabbath song, and that's probably good enough.
It's weird, though. Not really the song itself - though it is hard to know whether they're saying God's dead, or isn't, or just posing the question - but the idea of ¾ of Black Sabbath recording a new Black Sabbath song in 2013. Considering the legions of bands influenced by them, and sub-sub-genres of stoner/doom/funeral metal Sabbath worshippers they birthed, it's hard to get a bead on a new Sabbath song.
For years, the thing separating Sabbath songs from songs that sound like Sabbath songs were that we knew all the Sabbath songs. Now Sabbath just sounds like any Sabbath-influenced metal band (Candlemass, mostly, but some Zeeb Parkes vocals) covering a Black Sabbath song. It's like wax museum versions of the band (see: above photo) came to life and wrote a new song. It's strange.
Maybe 13 will pan out. It'd be nice if it did. Or maybe we're better off ignoring this uncomfortable Xerox Sabbath altogether, instead drinking in the hazy memories of hacking through skull bong-loads while Master Of Reality filled the room. And then some.