14 June 2010
by Tom Dare
It’s unlikely to have escaped the attention of even passing fans of heavy music that that Ozzy Osbourne changed guitarists a few months ago. After his split with Zakk Wylde and the appointment of Firewind’s wizard of widdle, Gus G, there were a few eyebrows raised. Would a practitioner of power metal – however accomplished – fit in with the Prince Of Fucking Darkness’ style? Scream, the first album to feature the new line-up, does not answer this question.
With the exception of the solos – which are unsurprisingly excellent – Gus has clearly had little stylistic influence on the music. The writing credits on the album go to Ozzy, keyboard player Adam Wakeman and producer Kevin Churko. Anyone worried about what writing contribution Gus would make will have to wait until the next record – there’s not so much as the slightest hint of Firewind about Scream. To a certain extent, there is still a strong whiff of the old axeman floating about at times – most noticeably in the main riffs of ‘Let It Die’, ‘Soul Sucker’ and ‘Diggin’ Me Down’ – which nicely assuages anyone missing Zakk.
Above and beyond discussion of the guitarists comes the strength of the songs. Out of the first five tracks, four of them could be comfortably dropped straight into the live show and would not sound out of place next to ‘Bark At The Moon’ or ‘Mr. Crowley’, such is their quality. ‘Let It Die’ swaggers into being before ‘Let Me Hear You Scream’ tears through the speakers to lead you on a careering charge through town. The doom-laden bombast of ‘Soul Sucker’ gives way to ‘Life Won’t Wait’ which, despite sounding like a song that went missing from the recording of Foo Fighter’s The Colour And The Shape, survives the initial feel that it is out of place to develop into a relaxed change of pace that balances the first half of the album nicely. At that point it would be forgivable to expect things to slack off, only for ‘Diggin’ Me Down’ to come in.
Opening with an acoustic intro, yet another shoulder-rolling riff bludgeons through before Ozzy brings yet more aggression to the attack, and is the obvious apex of the album. Heavy, riff-laden and with a more interesting composition than is initially apparent, this is a real feather in the cap of Ozzy’s already-excellent catalogue.
There second half of the album is perhaps less strikingly top-drawer. There are still good songs, most notably the driving ‘Fearless’, but given the scorching opening they tend to slip from the memory slightly quicker. There are some slightly out-of-place moments, not least ‘I Want More’, which sounds like a thrashier version of Audioslave’s ‘Cochise’ with a chorus that is bizarrely reminiscent of Be Here Now-era Oasis. Yes, Oasis, and the album that even Noel Gallagher has said is shit. The song itself is not terrible, but the components feel a little out of synch and the tone is not in keeping with the rest of the album.
Yes, the lyrics may be a little clunky at times, but Ozzy has never been renowned for great poetry – remember this is the man who rhymed “masses” with “masses” on the Black Sabbath classic ‘War Pigs’. Articulate lyrics and profound concepts are not really par the course for Ozzy, and the few moments of genuine clumsiness pass relatively quickly.
Watch the video to ‘Let Me Hear You Scream’ by Ozzy Osbourne:
Many thought Ozzy was no longer capable of a record like this, but whatever brought about Scream, it has worked. Some of the riffing is huge, the pace varied and balanced and the songwriting far more interesting and adventurous than it has been on an Ozzy album for a while. The man himself appears in fine form, with a stronger vocal tone than you generally expect. Scream may not rank alongside the genuine classic in the realm of Blizzard Of Ozz or Diary Of A Madman, but it is comfortably the strongest album to carry his name since Ozzmosis. With several songs that will stand up well in a live environment alongside such giant songs as ‘Crazy Train’, the only people who should be disappointed by this record are Firewind fans.
Sounds like: it’s The Prince Of Fucking Darkness, you should know by now
Top tracks: Let It Die, Let Me Hear You Scream, Diggin’ Me Down
Ozzy Osbourne – Scream tracklisting:
Let It Die
Let Me Hear You Scream
Life Won’t Wait
Diggin’ Me Down
I Want More
I Love You All