Black Sabbath's 13 is a Masterpiece. Now Where's Our Dallas Show?

For more than three decades fans have been waiting for a Black Sabbath album with the original founder, the Lord of Darkness himself, whose distinctive growl along with Toni Iommi's pulse-grinding rhythms influenced generations of metal heads to pick up an ax and replicate the metal purity that reverberated from songs such as "Paranoid," "War Pigs" and, of course, "Black Sabbath." It's been three days since the release of Sabbath's 19th studio album 13, and its climb up the Billboard 200 charts threatens to topple Queens of the Stone Age's sixth studio album Like Clockwork from its perch and send Draft House by Robin Thicke into the grave.

And how could anyone doubt 13 would be anything else but a masterpiece? It's three of the four original members - vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler - together again in the studio for the first time since 1978's Never Say Die! to rekindle the magic that sparked in six of the 13 Ozzfests. Granted, it would have been nice to see drummer Bill Ward round up the original cast, but with producer Rick Rubin, who worked with the likes of Johnny Cash, Metallica and System of A Down, on board to help craft a sound that echoes some of Sabbath's old dark '70s vibes, what more could a Sabbath fan ask for?

How about a non-metaphysical reason for naming the album 13? "Originally, the record company wanted us to do 13 songs so that we'd have a choice," explained Butler in a recent interview. "We'd get to 10 and we'd go 'OK, that's it, we're not writing any more." But the record company wanted three more. "So it was like, let's call the album '13' just to piss them off." The band eventually added three more songs to the mix, raising the total to 16 tracks. It's one of the most anticipated metal albums of this century.

Opening with "End of the Beginning," a track that resonates a tone similar to "Black Sabbath," Iommi plays a grueling riff that nearly lasts three minutes before Ozzy's vocals erupt and take fans into a fantastical world much darker than Neverland. Butler and drummer Brad Wilk, who assumes Ward's vacancy, drive the follow-up song "God is Dead?" into a heavy, creepy tone that spews energetic licks from Iommi's shredding. "Damaged Soul," "Dear Father" and "Loner" resonate Iommi's big riffs from his old school Sabbath days, while the ballad "Zeitgeist" introduces a Middle-Eastern percussion, wind instruments and Ozzy's voice distorted, which is like plugging an acoustic guitar into a distortion peddle.

Music critics across the web are giving the new album high marks, with some of them claiming, fans won't be able to "squelch a nostalgic smile." And while it may not be shear metal perfection, it's close enough to perfect for this old metal head.

Black Sabbath will appear in Houston on Thursday, July 25, to kick off their 20-city North American concert tour in support of their new album. (Let's just hope they announce a Dallas date soon.)

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