“God Is Dead?” single
With only six weeks left until the new album 13 is released, the corporate gods have deemed it suitable for you to hear the first new (orginial line-up) Black Sabbath song since 1998. The results are promising; which means that life is getting even more post-modern than it already is.
On paper, a Black Sabbath reunion should NOT work. If you read Dan Ozzi’s essay on unecessary band reunions, then you know this to be true. Sabbath released it’s first album over 30 years ago. The band members bickered back then and they still bicker now. Plus, the spouse of one the members exerts an unnatural and unwanted influence over the band. This shouldn’t work, but here we are.
The lead single “God is Dead?” is a nine-minute-long epic jam that wouldn’t sound out of place on Master of Reality or Volume 4. The modern porduction is the only thing betraying the classic Sabbath sound. “God is Dead?” has all the hallmarks of Sabbath’s classics. Creepy, noodly verse riff from Tony Iommi? Check. The Earth-shattering yet shockingly nimble basswork of Geezer Butler driving the song forward? Check. Ozzy singing along to the riff, as always? Check. The innovative, hip-hop tinged drumming of Brad Wilk? Chec… Say what?
Oh yeah, you read that right. Bill Ward is having a contract dispute with a certain band manger/reality TV star/talk show host, so Brad Wilk from Rage Against the Machine is filling in for him. Wilk played on the album and will be touring with Sabbath this summer, so don’t expect the full original line-up.
For as much as Rick Rubin’s name gets thrown around in reference to 13, I fail to see what he brings to the table other than the highly-overrated “star power” of his celebrity. Butler’s bass and Wilk’s drums sound terrific but why in the name of God did he layer 70 of Iommi’s guitar tracks on top of each other? It gives the song that Pro-Tools, mass production sheen that all modern metal has and it sounds like dookie. Iommi’s guitar should sound dirtier, not cleaner.
This may be a moot point anyway considering how Rick Rubin produces an album. Go back through your records and pull everything “produced” by Rubin. Look in the liner notes for the name of the first or lead engineer. That’s who really produced the record. Andy Wallace did the heavy lifting for Reign in Blood. Brendan O’Brien is the reason Danzig II sounds so awesome. With Rubin, you’re hiring his name and his team, not any abilites that he may or may not have. That said, he did manage to get Ozzy to sound coherent. I wonder what kind of NASA computer it took to make that happen.
In short, “God is Dead?” is a surprise because it beat the odds and didn’t suck. This sort of cynical cash-grab almost always sucks but Sabbath pulled off the impossible by sticking to its tried-and-true formula: let Iommi and Butler write everything, keep Ozzy from overdosing, and be sure somebody is back there to play drums.
It’s just like the old days.