The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

Ozzy osbourne
SCREAM

 

 

It’s been a while since the release of an Ozzy Osbourne album has engendered (and deserved) the excitement and anticipation of his earlier releases – about twenty years in fact, since his last classic album “No More Tears”. 2008’s “Black Rain” was a reasonable album, but no more than that, hamstrung by industrial touches, processed vocals and an overall tiredness and lack of strong songs.

 

Fast forward to the now and there is a buzz worked up around the Ozzman’s latest offering “Scream”. Firstly, long time guitarist and collaborator Zakk Wylde is out, replaced by the relatively unknown Greek axe slinger Gus G. Secondly, when the original album title “Soul Sucka” was announced, fans reacted in outcry and the title was hastily rethought. Thirdly, the track ‘Let Me Hear You Scream’ was released as a teaser a few weeks ago to drum up some excitement in advance of the album hitting.

 

So what’s the verdict? Well do you want the good news or the bad news first?

 

On the plus side, Gus G brings a real hunger and fire with his playing, and the soloing on “Scream” harkens back to the golden era of Randy Rhoads, Jake E Lee & the early days of Zakk Wylde – soaring solos full of piercing notes that scream out of the speakers, played with real vigour and passion.

 

While I won’t hear a bad word said about Wylde, it is undeniable that he immersed himself more and more in his personal style and sound and the brutality of that sound wasn’t necessarily always best for Ozzy’s more recent album. Ozzy himself has bemoaned that his music sounded “more like Black Label and less like me”. The guitars & the overall sound on “Scream” is creative and exciting – producer Kevin Churko has mostly dispensed with the all-pervasive industrial finishes he applied to “Black Rain”, and moulds some great sounding tunes here.

 

Ozzy’s voice sounds energetic and he really is singing with passion – but once again Churko has overegged the pudding with far too much processing and effects applied to the great man’s voice. Yeah, I understand that Ozzy is getting on a bit, and his voice may not be perfect – but isn’t that what we love about him, Keef Richards, Lemmy and so on? I don’t think it’s libellious to suggest that I’m not the only one who’d like to hear Ozzy sing without the aid of Autotune or whatever machine they have pumped his voice through on this album.

 

The songs themselves stand up very well, for the most part. The first single ‘Let Me Hear You Scream’ will be a great concert opener, despite Ozzy relying too heavily on shouting through the latter half (and at other points on the album). ‘Let It Die’ rocks hard, ‘Soul Sucka’ gets a little dirgey and perhaps tries too hard to strike a chord with younger fans but still features a fiery and tearing solo Gus can be particularly proud of, and ‘Life Won’t Wait’ is a heavy ballad with strong melody lines.

 

‘Digging Me Down’ is lyrically more adventurous than Ozzy has been for some years, asking Jesus how he would recognise him if he appeared is a nice twist, and the song features some intense – almost thrashy – riffing to great effect. ‘Crucify’ is okay but pales in between the former song and ‘Fearless’ which is a stomper, though once again relying too heavily on shouting in the chorus.

 

Ozzy has never hidden his adoration of The Beatles, and ‘Time’ features a very Beatlesesque vocal melody, another cool set of intelligent lyrics, and Churko plays George Martin, applying some tasteful backing vocals and quirky effects throughout. I don’t know how this will go down live, but on record it’s a highlight in a ‘Road To Nowhere’ kind of way.

 

The closing triumvirate of tracks don’t fare so well though. ‘I Want More’ is a standard rocker which overstays it’s welcome; ‘Latimer’s Mercy’ has a fascinating lyric about a father who euthanized his daughter rather than allowing her to continue to suffer in constant pain from a nasty strain of cerebral palsy, but the song drags on and on without any light or shade, going nowhere very fast. Album closer ‘I Love You All’ is a very short little homage to his family/fans, again tarred by the Beatles brush (and that damned vocal processing). It’s cute but it’s over before it even begins, so there isn’t a lot of substance to it.

 

There’s some experimentation on “Scream” which works exceptionally well in places, and falls flat in others. Ozzy is big business, of course, and you have to wonder what he’d come up with if he didn’t have the weight of record company, brand name and his very vocal family’s expectations to contend with.

 

In short, there’s plenty here to please the long term Ozzy fan, but still plenty to rue the
absence of. In the twilight of his career he was never likely to produce another truly indispensible record, but what he has done is take a couple of steps back towards the basic sound he invented when he went solo all those years ago.


Shane Rockpit

 

Thankyou to SONY for the CD