13 (despite the title) is the nineteenth and final studio album by English heavy metal band Black Sabbath. The album was released on 10 June 2013 in Europe and 11 June 2013 in North America, via Vertigo Records and Republic Records in the US, and via Vertigo Records worldwide. It is the only studio album released by Black Sabbath since Forbidden (1995), and was their first studio recording with original singer Ozzy Osbourne and bassist Geezer Butler since the live album Reunion (1998), which contained two new studio tracks. It was also the first studio album with Osbourne since Never Say Die! (1978), and with Butler since Cross Purposes (1994), the first since Never Say Die! not to feature longtime keyboardist Geoff Nicholls, and the first since The Eternal Idol (1987) on the Vertigo label (outside the US and Canada).
Black Sabbath's original line-up first began work on a new studio album in 2001 with producer Rick Rubin. The album's development was delayed in over a ten-year period, as Osbourne resumed his solo career while the rest of the band members went on to pursue other projects, including GZR and Heaven & Hell. When Black Sabbath announced the end of their hiatus on 11 November 2011, the band announced that they would restart work on a new album with Rubin. In addition to original members Osbourne, Butler and guitarist Tony Iommi, they were joined at the recording sessions by drummer Brad Wilk, of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, following original drummer Bill Ward's decision to not participate in the reunion, due to a "contractual dispute". The album became available for streaming on iTunes on 3 June 2013.
Black Sabbath released their eighteenth studio album, titled Forbidden, in 1995, and it picked up mixed to negative reviews by critics. The following several months left the group at a crossroads. After a series of reunion tours from 1997 to 1999, which included mostly shows at Ozzfest, the original line-up of Black Sabbath began work on a new album with producer Rick Rubin in the spring of 2001; however, the sessions were halted when Ozzy Osbourne was called away to finish tracks for his solo album Down to Earth, which was released in October of that year. Tony Iommi recalls, "It just came to an end. We didn't go any further, and it's a shame because [the songs] were really good". Iommi commented on the difficulty getting all of the band members together to work on material:
It's quite different recording now. We've all done so much in between. In [the early] days there was no mobile phone ringing every five seconds. When we first started, we had nothing. We all worked for the same thing. Now everybody has done so many other things. It's great fun and we all have a good chat, but it's just different, trying to put an album together.
After one more reunion tour in mid-2001, where they again headlined Ozzfest, Black Sabbath went back on hiatus. In March 2002, Osbourne's Emmy winning reality TV show The Osbournes debuted on MTV, and quickly became a worldwide hit. The show introduced Osbourne to a broader audience, and to capitalise, Sanctuary Records (who own Black Sabbath's back catalogue) released the live album Past Lives, which featured concert material recorded in the 1970s, including the previously unofficial Live at Last album. The band remained on hiatus until mid-2004, when they returned to headline Ozzfest 2004 and 2005. In November 2005, Black Sabbath were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame, and in March 2006, after eleven years of eligibility, the band were inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
While Osbourne was working on his new solo album in 2006, Rhino Records released Black Sabbath: The Dio Years, a compilation of songs culled from the four Black Sabbath releases featuring Ronnie James Dio. For the release, Iommi, Geezer Butler, Dio and Vinny Appice reunited to write and record three new songs as Black Sabbath. The Dio Years was released on 3 April 2007, reaching No. 54 on the Billboard 200, while the single "The Devil Cried" reached No. 37 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Pleased with the results, Iommi and Dio decided to reunite the Heaven and Hell era line-up for a world tour. Because the line-up of Osbourne, Butler, Iommi and Bill Ward were still officially called Black Sabbath, the new line-up opted to call themselves Heaven & Hell, after the album of the same name, to avoid confusion. Ward was initially set to participate, but dropped out before the tour began due to musical differences with "a couple of the band members" as well as a "contractual dispute". He was replaced by former drummer Vinny Appice, effectively reuniting the line-up that had featured on the Mob Rules and Dehumanizer albums. After releasing their only studio album The Devil You Know in 2009, Dio died after a battle against stomach cancer on 16 May 2010, and following a tribute concert with former Black Sabbath vocalist Glenn Hughes, Heaven & Hell disbanded.
On 11 November 2011, Black Sabbath hosted a private announcement ceremony at the Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood, California. Hosted by former Black Flag vocalist Henry Rollins, the event featured all four original Black Sabbath band members. At the event, Black Sabbath announced they would be officially reuniting, following months of rumours. The reunion was said to feature an appearance at the 2012 Download Festival, and a newly recorded studio album by Rubin expected to be released in late 2012. When Rollins asked the band why they chose to reunite now, Iommi responded "It's now or never. We get along great. Everything's really good." Butler also commented that the new material sounds like the "old Sabbath style and sound." Osbourne said he was "blown away", and "I don't understand why it's happening. I mean, 45 years down the road and we've got a really great album to put out." On 18 November 2011, Black Sabbath announced that they would be touring Europe in May and June 2012.
On 9 January 2012, it was announced Iommi had been diagnosed with the early stages of lymphoma, which was not expected to impede the group's activity. Because of his cancer diagnosis, work sessions for 13, which were supposed to take place in Los Angeles, California, were moved to Iommi's home in England. On 2 February 2012, Ward publicly announced that he would not participate in the Black Sabbath reunion unless he was given a "signable contract." The following day, the other group members announced they had "no choice but to continue recording without him," but also said "our door is always open" for Ward to return to the band. In February 2012, the band announced that they would not continue the world tour but would play the Download festival in June 2012. Instead of Black Sabbath, the tour would feature Osbourne and a revolving line-up of guest musicians, billed as "Ozzy and Friends". On 11 April, Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell announced that Black Sabbath would perform at Lollapalooza 2012. Farrell said this would be Black Sabbath's only American concert in 2012.
On 15 May 2012, Ward posted on his website that "after a final effort to participate in the upcoming Sabbath shows a failure to agree has continued" and that he would not be participating in the reunion shows, but would "remain with an open mind and a position of willingness to negotiate 'signable' terms with Sabbath's representatives in the future." On 18 May 2012, Ward was cropped out of photos on blacksabbath.com. On 19 May 2012, Butler released a statement expressing sadness at Ward's decision. He further unveiled that drummer Tommy Clufetos was rehearsing with them in England.
On 2 June 2012, Osbourne told NME that Black Sabbath had written "about 15 songs so far". He also said that 2013 was a good clue as to what the album would be called. The band returned to the studio to continue work on the album on 23 August 2012. An interview that October confirmed the title of one of the new songs, "God Is Dead?". On 12 January 2013, Black Sabbath announced that the album would be called 13 and was expected to be released in June. It was also announced that drummer Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave joined in during the recording sessions to complete the drum tracks for the album.
In a January 2013 interview at NAMM, which took place at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, Butler stated that 13 was not the final title of the album and it would possibly be changed; however, this turned out not to be the case. The band released a brief documentary on their time in the studio via YouTube in February 2013. In it, the group stated that they felt excited to work with producer Rubin and emphasized their desire for a "raw" sound.
On 4 April 2013, Black Sabbath unveiled the cover artwork for 13. The artwork was created by Nick Dart and Neil Bowen of Zip Design in London. Zip commissioned sculptor Spencer Jenkins to create an 8-foot-tall "13" from wicker, which was then set on fire in the Buckinghamshire countryside. The flames were visible for miles. The image was shot by photographer Jonathan Knowles. A behind-the-scenes video, also shot by Jonathan Knowles's team, was released by Zip Design, showing the numbers' construction.
Prior to the album's release, Black Sabbath embarked on their first tour of Australia (initially kicking off in New Zealand) since 1974 in April and May 2013. They also headlined Ozzfest Japan on 12 May 2013. These dates had been arranged to allow Iommi to return to the UK for lymphoma treatment once every six weeks. From late July to early September 2013, Black Sabbath embarked on their first North American tour in eight years. After that, they toured Latin America in October, followed by Europe in November and December.
The first single, "God Is Dead?", was released to radio on 18 April 2013, and as a digital download and on YouTube on 19 April. Black Sabbath appeared on the season 13 finale of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, in which they performed another new song, "End of the Beginning". The song also plays during the end credits of the 2013 comedy film This Is the End, although it is not listed on the film's official soundtrack. The album became available for streaming on iTunes on 3 June 2013.
13 has received mostly positive reviews. On Metacritic, it has a score of 72 out of 100, based on 32 reviews. Fred Thomas of AllMusic praised 13, calling it "unexpectedly brilliant, apocalyptic, and essential for any die-hard metal fan". Geoff Barton of Metal Hammer observed how the heavy metal genre had developed ever since the band originally started it, and concluded that the classic line-up of the band has proven their relevance in modern-day music.
However, 13 has been criticised for having compromised sound quality, due to an overly compressed dynamic range, during a process called peak limiting, which leads to audible distortion. Jon Hadusek of Consequence of Sound said of the production, "Rubin...deserves disparagement for the way he mixed the audio levels, which are crushed by distortion and compression. Otherwise well-recorded songs are blemished, an affliction all too pervasive in the modern music industry". Ben Ratliff of The New York Times also disliked the album's mastering, saying, "The new Black Sabbath album was produced by Rick Rubin, who some believe to be a prime offender in the recent history of highly compressed and loudly mastered music — a major cause of ear fatigue...13 is mastered loudly, too; Mr. Iommi's guitar tone planes outward, leaving very little space, and the drums stay high and present in the mix. Your ears aren't given room to breathe".
The album's lead single "God Is Dead?" won Black Sabbath their first Grammy Award in 14 years for Best Metal Performance in 2014. That single came out on 19 April 2013.
13 was released on 10 June 2013. It reached No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart after its first week of sales. It is the band's first album to top the UK chart since Paranoid (1970). With a gap of nearly 43 years, this beats the previous record held by Bob Dylan, who released his first chart topping album, Together Through Life (2009), since New Morning (1970). Osbourne was said to be "in shock" at the album's success, remarking that the band has "never had a record climb the charts so fast" before. The album also reached No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 charts, selling 155,000 copies in the first week. Osbourne said, "There have been so many amazing highlights in our long career. To finally have our first #1 album in the U.S. is another incredible milestone for Black Sabbath."
In its second week of release, the album fell to No. 5 in the US, selling 46,000, totalling 201,000 copies, and in its third week, 13 sold over 26,000 bringing its total sales to 227,000 copies in the US. As of April 2014, 13 has sold over 360,000 copies in the United States. The album also debuted at No. 1 on the Canadian Albums Chart with 25,000 units sold. As of July 2014, the album has surpassed over 1 million copies sold worldwide.
Aforementioned lead single "God Is Dead?" received a great deal of airplay both in Canada and in the United States. For example, the track hit the #26 spot on the Billboard top rock songs chart. The band additionally released a related music video for the single.
All lyrics written by Geezer Butler except "Methademic" by Ozzy Osbourne; all music composed by Tony Iommi, Osbourne and Butler.Black Sabbath
Ozzy Osbourne – vocals, harmonica
Tony Iommi – electric and acoustic guitars
Geezer Butler – bass guitar
Brad Wilk – drums, percussion
Rick Rubin – production
Greg Fidelman – engineering
Mike Exeter – additional engineering
Dana Nielsen – additional engineering
Andrew Scheps – mixing
Stephen Marcussen – mastering
Stewart Whitmore – mastering