455: Airbourne #3

Today's comic was originally going to be about Black Sabbath's new album, 13, but I figured Airbourne was a much funnier band to talk about.  Airbourne's third album, Black Dog Barking, was released last month, and it is exactly the same as their first two in every way.  And that means two things:  1) It's awesome.  2) It's literally exactly the same as their first two in every way. The songwriting is the same, the style is the same, the instrument tones are the same, (and the production is a tiny bit different), and you know what?  That is perfectly ok with me.  Sometimes more of the same is exactly what an audience craves.  We want more of the same awesome, simple music that made us fall in love with this band in the first place.  AC/DC has used this exact same tactic for the past 40 years, and they're the biggest rock band on Earth for it.  (And it's just one of the many reasons why Airbourne are compared to them so often.)  Airbourne knows their style of music, they know their audience, and they know how to write consistently awesome rock songs, without fail.  I honestly wouldn't even want them to experiment that much - there are plenty of other bands I can go to for that.  But there's only one band that can be my surrogate AC/DC for a new generation, and these guys excel at that role perfectly.  If you like Airbourne's first two albums, go and pick this one up.  I guarantee you'll like it exactly the same amount as those ones.  Originality: 1/10.  Pure Awesomeness: 8/10.

And now time to talk about Black Sabbath's 13, their first new studio album in 18 years, and the first one with Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, and Geezer Butler working together since 1978 (fucking 35 years ago).  The album and its tour were supposed to be a reunion for all four founding members of the band, but due to contract and money disputes, founding drummer Bill Ward refused to work together with the band.  Many people argued that it wasn't a true reunion without Ward, while others wondered if they could really sound like the original Black Sabbath without him.  Well the answer to that second question is:  Yes. Yes they totally can.  If the goal of this new album was to sound like a classic Sabbath album from the 70s, then they fucking succeeded.  The Ozzy era of Sabbath had a very unique identity to it, one that was different from any other music the members made in the decades afterwards.  It was different from Black Sabbath's later years, it was different from Ozzy's solo material, it was different from Tony Iommi's solo material.  And it makes me very happy to know that, even after 35 years apart, these guys are able to come back together and recreate that original sound almost perfectly.  The songs on 13 are definitely trying to sound like songs from Paranoid and Black Sabbath's eponymous debut album.  Most of them start out with a slow, evil, doomy riff for the first few minutes, before switching into an upbeat heavy metal section at the end.  And when I say "most of the songs" use that formula, I mean most of them use that exact formula.  Like, 5 or 6 out of the 8 songs on the album use it.  And some of the songs sound directly influenced by famous old Sabbath songs, as if they went "Ok, now we need a song that sounds like THIS old song, and another one that sounds like THAT old song."  But each song is still unique, each of them switch back and forth between multiple different rhythms and tempos, just like on their early albums, and each one is awesome as hell.  It is an excellent modern update to their style from the 70s - reminiscent of their early work, while still sounding fresh enough to fit in with contemporary heavy metal bands.

As you can expect from any Rick Rubin-produced album, the production and mixing on 13 is pristine.  The mixing is fucking deep, so fans of heavy bass will be very pleased.  That being said, I was a little disappointed that bassist Geezer Butler didn't get a more prominent role in their songs.  He never got a solo, or a bass riff, or anything where he was playing by himself - he was always just playing rhythm to the guitars.  That was something that early Sabbath did a lot, which was mostly absent from this album: Geezer Butler's bass getting to shine on its own.  Tony Iommi's guitar, on the other hand, takes center stage through most of the album.  It even sounds more important that Ozzy's singing a lot of the time.  You could almost call this album "Tony Iommi, featuring members of Black Sabbath."  But Ozzy's vocals still get to play a prominent enough role, and they still fit the songs as well as they ever did, so fans of his will definitely get everything they were hoping for.  All in all, if this was a brand new album by a brand new band, it would already be getting high marks from me just for the sheer heavy metalness of its songs, but since it's a Black Sabbath reunion album that actually SOUNDS like Black Sabbath, it makes it feel even better.  13 gets an 8/10 from me, with a special award for sounding so reminiscent of their early days.  Well done, Sabbath.

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