Album revew – Black Sabbath: 13

More heavy metal talk from me, eh? I can’t help it. You can never really escape from the stuff you like as a kid.

The last time Black Sabbath released an album with Ozzy Osbourne I wasn’t even conceived. I can’t say that I’m a veteran fan either as I pieced together their work here and there because of the artists they influenced. Indeed, though, Black Sabbath are seen as the first heavy metal band, contemporarily you could better class them as a rock band, a label guitarist Tony Iommi would be happier with. Though they conjured up fire and brimstone, the blues DNA wasn’t washed-out. They’ve been compared to Cream, show shades of Hendrix, and actually have closer peerage to grunge. Anyway, enough musicology, is this new album any good?

Though some sort of financial dispute meant that the only original member lacking is drummer Bill Ward, it is rewarding. Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine (I met him once, by the way, in ’96) does a good job of aping Ward, and if you said to someone that the whole original band recorded this, they would have to have some sort of supernatural insight to see through your bluff.

The only downside which is actually a plus is that a lot of songs seem familiar, or at least riffs, beats and vocal melodies remind you of some older material. So, though it’s not an evolution, you don’t really want that either. This is safely what Black Sabbath were and are; it’s sort of like a modern greatest hits of new songs – if that makes sense. And Rick Rubin does a good job of compromising between modernity and old-style production.

I’d actually recommend getting the deluxe edition solely for Methademic. I can see why that isn’t part of the main album as maybe its tempo is quite a bit out of the sludge.

Isolation, religion, floating through space – all those themes are there. Ozzy’s voice sounds good and though the 8 core songs are lengthy, as a whole 13 actually pulls off as a very worthy album. It ends with the thunder and bells that we hear open the song Black Sabbath from their self-titled 1970 debut, so that possibly is some attempt to make it a prequel to that album, maybe?

I actually really like the whole album so I’m not going to pick out any highlights. Essentially, if you like Sabbath – indeed any dark rock – you’ll love it.


Album review – Megadeth: Super Collider

I’ve been a Megadeth fan for at least two decades now, so that makes me an old-timer. I first heard them at the beginning of their commercial period (99 Ways To Die from The Beavis & Butt-Head Experience and Youthanasia) and eventually I trawled their back catalogue and, bar some releases, I’ve followed all of the way. I’ve not seen them live (yet), unless you include a semi-live “Big 4 of Thrash” cinema screening.

Just to give a bit of history, if you don’t know much about Megadeth, you must’ve at least heard of Metallica who are seen as ambassadors of heavy metal. Megadeth’s lead singer and guitarist was briefly in Metallica as a lead player and fired not long before they recorded their debut album, for persistent aggressive behaviour (fuelled mostly by alcohol). Mustaine, though, being a very talented musician and writer (indeed there are Metallica songs which credit him still), quickly picked himself up and formed rivals Megadeth. Though they didn’t quite achieve the commercial acclaim of Metallica, in a broad historical sense, Megadeth have the better catalogue overall; it is much larger and with fewer misses. Some people don’t like Mustaine’s snarling singing style, but I think it suits their music.

Super Collider is sort of a return to the style I first caught them at. My ear is much more thirsty for stuff like 2009’s modern-classic Endgame, but this isn’t a bad album. Certainly more focussed than Thirteen anyway, and though it’s largely a moderate rock-metal album, it has a certain attitude, and no ballads.

Opener Kingmaker sounds a lot like Black Sabbath’s Children of the Grave – something I’m definitely not alone in noticing – with a similar vocal rhythm and wailing guitar stop. Elsewhere is one of the most surprisingly well-done crossovers I’ve ever heard: bluegrass heavy metal via The Blackest Crow. That song sounds quite creepy; an audio track for a Stephen King novel in a way. Forget To Remember has a very nice groove to it.

Lyrically, the album treads familiar but welcome ground in terms of politics and society. Mustaine’s very good at mining up pictures of paranoia and underdog-ism.

Megadeth, a bit like Metallica, seem to enjoy swerving between melodic and purely rhythmic, and in this case they’ve gone for more of the former this time. Not a bad move after dropping Endgame a few years back, but I hope their next album is the breakneck stuff fans often want to hear; this is just a good break from that and I’m sure these songs will sound good live. Super Collider itself is a good stadium song.

I don’t criticise Mustaine’s softer ventures as they come off much less cheesier than Metallica’s – and I love both bands.

Open letter to DEFRA

To whom it may concern,

I’m writing in regards to the proposed badger cull in order to curb TB in UK cattle. I believe that this is unnecessary for a unique reason.

To begin with, cows are not indigenous animals to Europe, particularly Northern Europe, and this is one of the reasons why they are susceptible to a range of health threats as they are not in their ideal climate – usually Africa or the Middle East.
A study from a decade ago shows that vitamin D could help to fight TB in cattle, and just like in humans, this is produced when exposed to the sun. The problem UK cattle have is that this climate cannot give them enough, and on top of that they are usually confined. So, not only does close confinement ease spread of infection, it also deters them from producing the substance that can help them fight any infection.

It is important to note that TB is an airborne bacterium and can travel very well without the help of badgers. Indeed, badgers would be unlikely to carry it too if they didn’t feel threatened during the day to rest under sunlight.
So, I feel that a badger cull is not only a waste of time, but genocidal for no reason. I propose that UK cattle are kept unconfined – and if confined to have UVB lights installed – and perhaps supplemented with vitamin D. I am willing to bet that a trial run of this would not only be more economical but appease animal rights activists, and bring permanent benefits.

I am not sure if this is the appropriate place to air my concern or if I as one person can have any impact, but it would be appreciated if this can be forwarded to the correct department.

I emailed this. There’s a line in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest that goes something like “well, I tried goddamnit. At least I did that.”, and it’s in situations like these that R.P. McMurphy inspires me.