Black Sabbath – “God Is Dead?”

By Michael Nelson / April 18, 2013

The best metal album of 2012 was Pallbearer’s fantastic Sorrow And Extinction, an album heavily indebted to Ozzy-era Black Sabbath. Yes, of course, all metal is heavily indebted to Ozzy-era Black Sabbath — they’re the primogenitors of the whole thing — but Sorrow was especially so, due to the combination of doomy, downtuned, beautifully powerful guitars and the vocals of Brett Campbell, whose delivery and timbre bore many important similarities to Ozzy’s — and Ozzy remains the most effective metal vocalist of all time. Along with being a remarkable record in its own right, Sorrow served as a serendipitous companion to news of a new album from a reunited Sabbath. Hey, why not? After all, Ozzy’s voice has aged terrifically well, and there’s no reason Tony Iommi can’t continue to write crushing riffs, right? Put the two of them, plus original bassist Geezer Butler and Rage Against The Machine drummer Brad Wilk, in a studio with Rick Rubin, and the odds seem pretty OK that something of value will be recorded. Today, we’ve got the first track to be released from that album, 13 (as in 2013; it’s the band’s 19th LP overall and their ninth with Ozzy, their first together after a 35-year split). And “God Is Dead?” is just about as good as you could possibly expect from three dudes in their mid-60s. Actually, it’s much better than that. The nearly 10-minute track has like half a dozen (or more) towering, ominous riffs from Iommi, some great bass runs from Butler, and a classic-era performance from Ozzy, whose voice really is ageless. Listen.