RIYL: Dio, Motorhead, Judas Priest
It’s sad that when Ozzy’s popularity in the public consciousness was probably at an all-time peak with the success of “The Osbournes” in the early ’00s his music was at a creative nadir. His 2001 effort, Down to Earth, was absolutely forgettable and his 2007 album Black Rain was a boring mess. Metal heads had to wonder, did life as a TV dad mellow out everyone’s favorite prince of darkness?
Not anymore. Ozzy is back with a vengeance on Scream, his first consistent, energetic and flat-out great release since No More Tears. With Gus G. from Firewind replacing the stalwart Zakk Wylde on guitars, Ozzy sounds more energized and ready to rock than he has in decades. Whether he’s calling for you to pound your fist and scream your brains out in the aptly titled “Let Me Hear You Scream” or proclaiming his own epic awesomeness in “Fearless” or “I Want It More,” Ozzy’s trademark howl and delivery sound as good (if a little lower in key) than ever. He’s even managed to bring back some of his sinister creepiness on tracks like “I Want It More” and “Crucify,” a shocking feat considering that most Americans’ iconic image of Ozzy is no longer him biting the head off a bat but instead having a hard time getting his TV’s remote control to properly work.
The fact that Scream is so damn metal is even more impressive when you stop and listen to the lyrics to some of the tracks. For every tailor-made for stadium moshing track like “Let Me Hear You Scream,” there seems to be another that takes the time to be a bit more introspective and insular. “Latimer’s Mercy” is another in a long line of Ozzy songs about the dangers of drug addiction, while others like “Time” and “Life Won’t Wait,” the sole ballad on the album, show that Ozzy’s beginning to ponder his own mortality, a topic sadly made all the more relevant with Ronnie James Dio’s passing earlier this year. It’s not a somber sobfest though, because even at the album’s most serious, Gus G. is still there shredding out one excellent riff after another. It’s like a spoonful of metal to help the medicine go down. It also doesn’t hurt that he gives a couple of excellent solos throughout the album as well.
There’s a brief one-minute coda on Scream entitled “I Love You All” where Ozzy thanks the listener for all their years of support. It sounds like the 61-year-old god of all things evil, epic and metal is about the hang up the devil horns for good soon. Hopefully he can crank out a few more albums like this before he goes, but it would be a hell of a way to go out. (Epic 2010)