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As if Chris Cornell's "Scream" wasn't enough to make us forget about the great album that Tony Martin put out with the same name, the Osbournes and their merry band of yes-men decided to also use the title after the infamous "Soul Sucka" idea fell through. This album is also noteworthy for being the first to feature Rob Zombie/Ted Nugent drummer Tommy Clufetos and Firewind/Dream Evil guitarist Gus G., the latter of whom replacing longtime collaborator Zakk Wylde. But as the old saying goes: The more things change, the more they stay the same...
While this album was hyped as taking Ozzy into a more Sabbath-like direction, it's fairly safe to say that the sound on here is more or less the same as that of 2007's "Black Rain." Granted most of the songs on here are fairly ballad-like and focus on slower tempos but the sludgy riffs and processed vocals from the last few albums are still around and used extensively. There are also a few more complex numbers than usual but most songs typically stick with the expectedly accessible hooks and choruses.
As expected, the band performance is somewhat disjointed though it's not for the reason that the Zakk fanboys may expect. On a technical level, Gus does a pretty good job with what he's been given though he never really puts his personal power metal stamp on anything here. I'm going to guess that this has a lot to do with him not having written anything on this album and thus being forced into a sessional role for the time being. Hopefully this changes on future efforts; "Down To Earth" similarly faltered when Zakk was left out of that album's writing sessions. In the meantime, Ozzy himself continues to struggle through the effects that have completely taken over his voice and the rhythm section doesn't really stand out too often. Another talented lineup overall though still a little sad when you take past ensembles into consideration...
But for what it's worth, the first three songs do start the album off on a fairly decent note. "Let It Die" and "Soul Sucker" are both particularly memorable tracks due to the former's verse/chorus contrasts and the latter's use of talk box during the main riff (Are you sure Zakk is gone? They're still milking his trademarks for all they're worth!) and "Let Me Hear You Scream" is a fairly catchy track in spite of it feeling rather forced at times. After that, nothing stands out quite as much though songs like "Diggin' Me Down" and "Latimer's Mercy" attempt to go into more adventurous territory. Unfortunately it's never fully realized and "I Love You All" seems to only add insult to injury in spite of it being an affectionate note to the man's legion of fans. I can't help but think Saxon did that sort of thing better with "Denim And Leather" but that's just me...
Sadly the lyrics aren't much better and you can tell just by the titles that these are some of the most generic that Ozzy has ever sung. At this point, the tried and true themes of personal introspection and enjoying yourself have really worn thin and end up sounding more preachy than fun. There are some signs of promise in the ethical dilemma of "Latimer's Mercy" and the religious themes on "Diggin' Me Down" and "Crucify," but it feels like it may be too little, too late. And didn't Ozzy just co-write a song on Slash's solo album called "Crucify The Dead?" That and some of the other titles like "Time" just scream (no pun intended) laziness to me!
I'm rather sorry to say this, but this is one of the weakest albums of Ozzy's career and may only be above "Down To Earth" in the overall hierarchy. The musicians are still plagued by modern influences, the songwriting is still written and executed in a rather mechanical fashion, the production is sterile, and the band doesn't feel as unified as it could be. At this point, the only thing that could save Ozzy and his crew from the creatively bankrupt path that they are going down would be if the band got rid of the outside collaborators and just wrote all the music by themselves. After all, that is why "Blizzard Of Ozz" and "Diary Of A Madman" are still such terrific albums: They were BAND efforts! If anything, it'd have some damn interesting results when looking at the band member's backgrounds...
Whatever the case, here's hoping that Black Label Society's "Order Of The Black" is stronger than this collection. Especially since the rejected songs that Zakk wrote during the "Down To Earth" sessions became the foundation for the surprisingly solid "1919 Eternal..."
My Current Favorites:
"Let It Die," "Let Me Hear You Scream," "Soul Sucker," and "Diggin' Me Down,"