At this point in his career, Ozzy Osbourne is a living parody of Ozzy Osbourne, and his groundbreaking days with Black Sabbath are long gone…or so everyone thought. Enter Rick Rubin, an upcoming new Black Sabbath album (13), and Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave’s drummer Brad Wilk and suddenly it’s 1970 again. Seriously folks, “God Is Dead?” is something that many of us original Black Sabbath fans never, ever thought we would hear: a Black Sabbath song with Ozzy on vocals that is actually worth hearing and truly ranks alongside the greatness of Black Sabbath’s early work.
Many metal heads, grungers, and nu-metalists (especially those of my generation who often believe recorded rock music was invented in 1989) often overlook the fact that if there was no Black Sabbath then there there would be no Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Disturbed, Metallica, TooL, or any of the host of heavy guitar rock bands. In fact, much of grunge (once it went mainstream) was simply a reinterpretation of Black Sabbath’s early 1970s work.
Another way to look at the above assertion is that perhaps bands like Alice In Chains and Soundgarden came into existence because something was needed to fill the gap in rock music that existed due to the slow demise and eventual dissipation of the type of heavy rock that Black Sabbath helped to create. This happened, obviously, after Ozzy and Sabbath went their separate ways. Either way and no matter how you look at it, unless the rest of 13 is just horrible (and I find that hard to believe), then Black Sabbath is back, and back in a big way. This is nothing short of amazing after 35 years and more drug abuse than you can shake a stick at by Ozzy alone.
“God Is Dead?”, to totally indulge in a cliche, is classic Black Sabbath. Immediately upon hearing this new single from the band I was immediately transported back to the first time that I heard “Black Sabbath” off of their self titled first album Black Sabbath. “God Is Dead?” is that type of heavy, foreboding, and thick metal. It isn’t, like most of the best of Black Sabbath’s music isn’t, silly, trite or in any way comprised of the type of parody inducing heavy metal tropes that we saw so often from the hair metal bands of the 1980s. Spouting introspective lyrics that display an aversion to a sympathy for the devil by way of a warning against the evils present in the hearts of mankind as well as a search for hope in a spiritually barren world, Ozzy asks the question “God is dead?” in the hopes that the answer is a profound no. It’s the same theme that we often found in Black Sabbath’s earliest work.
Musically, Tonni Iommi hasn’t lost a single step over the years and his playing sounds as fresh and relevant as it did way back in 1970. With Geezer back as well, Brad Wilk on the skins, and Rick Rubin behind the sound boards, this just might be the best that Black Sabbath has ever sounded. I for one cannot wait to hear the rest of the album when it is released June 11th.