Ozzy Osbourne - Scream
Produced by Kevin Churko & Ozzy Osbourne
New Ozzy Osbourne albums are always met with substantial skepticism from the metal community; many listeners persistent in their claims that he will never produce anything of the calibre of his Black Sabbath work or his first two solo albums, almost to the point of even trying being viewed as an exercise in futility.
And as is so often the case with such skepticism (Metallica are constantly plagued by it as well), sometimes it's right and sometimes it's wrong. While it had its unquestionably strong moments (I Don't Wanna Stop, Not Going Away), last album Black Rain also had its weak ones which left the naysayers feeling validated enough to voice concerns over Scream, particularly with the much-publicised change of guitarist.
For the first time since 1995's Ozzmosis Ozzy is without guitar hero Zakk Wylde, replacing him with Firewind's Gus G., to very little effect. Much of the pre-release talk has been about the potential new sound Gus (who will probably be hailed as another Ozzy "discovery" by people who don't know he's been around, and been highly respected, for over ten years) might give Ozzy's material, but the result offers no drastic change of direction in that sense. Gus more or less played along to already-written songs, adding his own flair here and there, ultimately sound like Wylde for the most part.
In fact, the overwhelming feeling of this album is just how mean and heavy it is. Some of the tracks here are probably the heaviest of any Ozzy solo material, and the complete lack of ballads trying to recapture the success of Goodbye To Romance and Mama, I'm Coming Home, never Ozzy's strongest moments, is both refreshing and highlights the differences that do exist in this record compared to the last few albums. Osbourne has tried to make a purely metal album and in doing so has brought in some new influences and styles to his usual sound and song structures that keep the songs far more interesting than those on Black Rain, which suffered from more than its fair share of by-the-numbers fillers.
Some tracks are typical Ozzy. First single Let Me Hear You Scream, which is actually one of the least interesting tracks here, and Crucify being the most obvious. But many of the others show that this is not a standard Ozzy record. His vocals immediately sound a lot less processed than they did on Black Rain and the almost spoken verses to Let It Die and Soul Sucker's talk-box chorus lines and devastating riff come in the first three tracks, bracketing the single, and are two of Ozzy's best songs for years. Diggin' Me Down borrows heavily from Dream Theater's As I Am building from a beautiful acoustic intro to a massively heavy, squealing riff, but the vocal lines are classic Ozzy. Overlooking this similarity (or not recognising it) reveals another very strong, very heavy, and different-sounding track.
Time is the closest things get to the attempts at melodic radio songs from the last couple of albums (Lay Your World On Me, Dreamer, Here For You), but it's just that bit heavier, and a much stronger song, that it doesn't feel like the low-point previous tracks have done on other albums. And the sinister Latimer's Mercy, the album's last full song, is packed with Zakk-ish riffs and an Alice Cooper feel, returning to the mean bite of Soul Sucker earlier on.
It's not all perfect. I Love You All is a short, soft interlude much like You Know... (Part 1) from Down To Earth and really should have one final proper song following it as it leaves the album ending with rather a whimper. I Want It More would benefit from a slightly more coherent chorus to match its pacey riffs, and Life Won't Wait feels ever-so-slightly out of place between the ultra-heavy, mean Diggin' Me Down and Soul Sucker.
All of these are minor issues though. In truth Scream, packed with riffs, solos and choruses like any Ozzy album, is easily Ozzy's best album since Ozzmosis, maybe since No More Tears, given its higher level of variety and cleverer song structures when compared to Ozzmosis. Ozzy's live vocal ability still remains in question, but he can undoubtedly still deliver in the studio.
“ mean and heavy ”
Tracklist: Let It Die / Let Me Hear Your Scream / Soul Sucker / Life Won't Wait / Diggin' Me Down / Crucify / Fearless / Time / I Want It More / Latimer's Mercy / I Love You All
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