Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard that Black Sabbath recently released their long awaited comeback album, 13. It's their first with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals since 1978's Never Say Die, and riding high at No. 1 on the UK Charts, their first No. 1 hit since 1970's Paranoid. So: comeback successful, right?
Well, pretty much. The record itself is better written and performed than anyone could have possibly expected from Sabbath at this stage in their career. Their songs still have a lot of the power they once had, and even reality TV hasn't diminished the effectiveness of Ozzy's evil wail. There's really just one big problem with this record: producer Rick Rubin.
Rubin has been in the news a lot lately for his work on Kanye West's new record Yeezus, and he has quite the esteemed reputation in that field. He is, after all, the same guy who produced classic records from the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Run-DMC, the recently reunited Geto Boys, and a little track called ""99 Problems." He's also been an acclaimed metal producer in the past, producing iconic records by Slayer, Danzig, System of a Down, and Rage Against the Machine.
Rubin is even a master of orchestrating comebacks, which Rocks Off praised him for when Sabbath announced they were working with him. But at the same time, he's also taken a ton of heat over the years for some particular production choices, especially ones related to the loudness war. Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of Rubin's most acclaimed records and a huge comeback for the band, has also been deemed "unlistenable" by some publications due to Rubin's production, which maxed out the volume on all the instruments into the red.
That's like the Stooges' Raw Power, a legendarily poorly mixed record, on steroids.
Well, it seems in the case of Sabbath, Rubin is up to all his old tricks again. He's orchestrated yet another massive comeback and also marred yet another great record with the same old production traits that have practically ruined so many. Let's compare it to his last big metal comeback, for instance: Metallica's Death Magnetic.