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For an alternative title, I would like to present ‘The Ozzy Problem.’ Is there any figure in metal so universally praised and equally hated as Ozzy Osbourne? He’s praised somewhat indirectly for his invaluable contributions to the first six Black Sabbath albums, and a lot of people really dig his early solo stuff, but he’s also really hated for the fact that he had a reality show about his family on TV and also for the numerous acts of douchebaggery that he has committed ever since. Goddammit, you horse’s ass, THE NAME OF BLACK SABBATH WILL NEVER BE YOURS!
Ahem. Like I was saying. He has a new solo album out. And it’s called Scream…which I am sure many people will want to, after hearing this pile of computerized vocal effects and downtuned guitar chugging. But I’m here to offer a more balanced perspective, as well as an answer to the question of, why hasn’t he died yet? You might be saying that’s bullshit. You might be asking, if a team of crack-commando scientists couldn’t do it, how could one music reviewer from Florida possibly find the answer? Well, I did. It took me hours and hours of poring over evidence compiled from years of listening and observing, but I finally did it. Are you ready? I’ll give you an extra line to prepare, for those who are faint-hearted among you. Be warned. This might be shocking.
If you remember the jokes about Fidel Castro living so long because he had clones over there in Cuba ready for when he died to take over for him…well, that’s true about Ozzy. It really is! You see, Ozzy in the 80s knew his life would go downhill soon, what with the increasing amount with which he needed to take drugs. He knew he would become a vegetable. So as he got richer and richer, his wife Sharon started to realize this, too – fearing, no doubt, for her thinning wallet if this ever did come to pass. So they hired a team of renegade scientists to come up with a formula to keep him alive. However, the only conceivable way to do this was to create a new duplicate Osbourne each time the original one decomposed too far, using the flesh and bones of selected fans at his concerts to construct a new body each time. This was covered up every time, and all accusations denied.
So he lives on, creating mediocre works like this one, while countless promising young people are sacrificed for his benefit!
I will now review this piece, for the good of mankind altogether. I must reveal the truth. Scream is a confused work, an album with the notion that it is doing something new and different from the works of previous albums, which featured the super-downtuned and simplistic American stylings of Zakk Wylde. It tries to accomplish this originality by bringing in Firewind shredder Gus G…who does not do anything any differently. Yes, this guitarist famous for shredding solos and classic metal riffs does little to distinguish himself from Wylde’s shadow here, honestly begging the question of why the hell even bother changing guitarists if they’re both going to be playing the same kind of stuff. Weird.
The songwriting here is a little more varied from what I vaguely remember of the previous Ozzy studio album Black Rain, with a few nods to old school Sabbath in the surprisingly progressive structure of “Life Won’t Wait,” which has bleak acoustic guitars that build up into an atmospheric crescendo, and the dreary epic “Diggin’ Me Down,” which has a few really rocking moments after the initial slow build up. A lot of songs are shorter and more pugilistic, as was expected in the first place…”Let Me Hear You Scream” being the penultimate one, with groovy guitars and a big shout along chorus for all the mall kiddies to sing along with. It is as catchy as any given cancer you could think of. After the first four songs, though, there is little to really break up the monotony in both songwriting and mood.
I really do think the main problem with this is the emotional mood and texture. It’s just too pessimistic and dark, but it doesn’t even seem to know what it’s pessimistic and dark about. These songs are layered with a thick coating of overly sentimental sorrow, but there isn’t much direction to it; the songs do not really seem to know where they’re going. I like some of the chord progressions in the more detailed songs (“Life Won’t Wait” being the best one by far), but there aren’t enough of those, and a lot of the rest of the songs are indistinguishable from one another. “Fearless” kicks up a little dust, but snoozers like “Time” and the grueling “Latimer’s Mercy” drag the album right back down.
And that brings us to the Ozzman himself. The keeper of the graves, the master of brooding, the one we all fear at night…pfft, who the hell am I even kidding? His nasal whine has degenerated into a hoarse, overly loud croak, aided mostly by computers. Think of it like Darth Vader from Star Wars, if Darth Vader was a wacky 70s drug addict who turned into a robotic, near-catatonic zombie instead of what he really was. Ozzy here is a shadow of himself, trying his best, but seemingly unable to do anything without the aid of his trusty vocal special effects panel. And it’s annoying. Really annoying at times, even. I think the worst offenders are that vocoder thing at the beginning of “Soul Sucker” and his strained squealing on “Let Me Hear You Scream,” but even then, pick any song and you’re liable to find some other candidate.
Ozzman, I’m afraid to tell you…your age is showing. And has been for years now.
So that’s Scream. It’s mostly weird and annoying, with the occasional good part here and there. It’s not one of the worst of the year, but it sure as hell isn’t one of the best, either. It’s mostly just kind of there; without really doing much to offend or please anyone in any way. The murky fog of morose depression that is caked all over this really makes it hard to enjoy, and the vocals pretty much put the final nail in that coffin.
But please, Ozzy, just retire. There’s no shame in that. And to the readers, I urge you to call 1-800-699-4357 if you know anyone who has been to an Ozzy Osbourne concert and who may not have returned from it. This is an epidemic that must stop, I believe, for the good of all mankind in general.