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Ozzy Osbourne has had one helluva career. He is one of the world's most recognized front men and yet in the end he isn't even that great of a singer. His charm (and series after series of amazing backing musicians) has allowed his career to prosper long after it could have ended.
Black Rain is both good and bad in different aspects. This album tries very hard to be one of Ozzy's best (at least of the latter part of his career). Unfortunately, there are plenty of hits and misses present on the album.
Having Zakk Wylde as your main song writer and guitarist sounds like a brilliant idea. He is one of the last truly brilliant guitar players and he does strut some of his greatness on Black Rain. The riffs are heavy and the solos are both technical and emotional but what Black Rain suffers from is Zakk's writing. With Black Label Society, Zakk has really hit a sound that he seems to enjoy and that sound has leaked its way into the music on Black Rain. There is definitely a modern southern swag to the mix. When I think of Ozzy I don't think of southern rock - the man is British, so the combination is a little bitter for my taste buds. Zakk's guitar work is very good but he has tried to water down the southern aspect of it and now the album has a watered down BLS feel to it.
The bass and drum work is good - its simple and straightforward - something that many musicians have lost in metal. You play for the music and not for your own glory. This music is pretty mainstream radio friendly so anything with massive bass drum work or complex bass guitar playing isn't going to fly so well. The rhythm section does what it needs to keep the music going in a forward motion. Especially when Zakk goes off with his guitar work - the drums and bass really keep the music grounded.
The album suffers from Ozzy's age. His voice just is not what it used to be. One can still tell that this is Ozzy singing and that it's still remarkable catchy. But one can tell that his voice has been fed through a computer. This is both a blessing and a curse. Its a blessing because at least he does sound fairly good still but its also a curse because one can tell that its been touched up and it loses that great "live" sound that many metal acts strive for.
I think it should be noted that the lyrical content on this album is quite good. Sometimes with Ozzy it's hit or miss but even the ballads (although cliche at times) are fairly well written lyrically. Even the single, I Don't Wanna Stop - has some pretty funny lines if one has followed Ozzy's life.
Overall this is a decent album but a little too simple and southern for my tastes. The heavy influx of BLS sound is something that really doesn't sit well with me, even though it is not horrible. I wish Zakk could write something even more diverse from his own material for Ozzy. Fans of newer Ozzy and Black Label Society are going to love Black Rain.
Songs to check out: Not Going Away, I Don't wanna Stop, Trap Door.