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Be Careful... This Bites - 65%

DawnoftheShred, November 18th, 2006

In 1982, Ozzy Osbourne’s career was effectively over. With the death of guitar prodigy Randy Rhoads, Ozzy was basically sunk: not only was Randy his principal songwriter, but he was the only member with his feet firmly planted in artistry, elevating Ozzy’s solo material out of the mundane pop metal realm and into the sublime. But Ozzy vowed to carry on anyway (everyone needs money you know), found a replacement guitarist, and kept on rocking. However, his post-Randy material isn’t exactly what you would consider classic heavy metal and Bark at the Moon, his first post-Randy album, isn’t exactly what you’d consider a classic heavy metal album.

The guitarist on Bark at the Moon is Jake E. Lee, a first-rate shredder that ends up looking like a third-rate songwriter when compared to the man whose shoes he was hired to fill. Lee is an admirable soloist (he plays more than his fair share of memorable leads), but his rhythm work is lackluster. This must certainly have been noticed by Ozzy, as how else can you explain the increased role of synthesizers on this album? Indeed, on no other album in his entire career was his music as entirely dependent on keyboards as this one. At times the bass and guitars mesh well with them, producing above average results (“You’re No Different,” “Waiting for Darkness”). Unfortunately they usually don’t, leaving the songs sounding dated and cheesy (to be fair, it was the 80’s).

In fact, it is the heavy synth sound that has ruined this album for me (I used to regard it higher). Even if you really dig the synth-laden pop sound of the 80’s, you might find the super loud keyboard hook in “Slow Down” a bit distracting. “Centre of Eternity” desperately tries to resurrect the mystique of a track like “Mr. Crowley,” but it ends up being far more annoying than mesmerizing due to an overabundance of effects. “So Tired,” the token ballad, suffers the most from this oversaturation and ends up sounding completely phony. “Changes” it is not. And even when the band try to steer back towards a more guitar-oriented sound (“Now You See It,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebel”), they eventually bail, bringing the synths back for absolutely no viable reason but to damage otherwise decent songs.

No one sounds so tired as Ozzy himself, taking a backseat to the warring instruments and offering little of his trademark melodies (bonus track “Spiders” is one of the only songs I thought was really catchy). But even the flawed, struggling lineup he reeled together on this album managed to achieve a moment of clarity. I’m speaking of course about the title track, which is a total 80’s metal classic. It’s got the riffs, it’s got the leads, it’s got the words, and it’s got the balls. One of the few post-Randy songs I’ve really been all about, and to date it’s better than anything Dio’s solo project ever mustered.

But does one major leaguer and a few semi-pros warrant a purchase? Sample a few of these tracks (particularly “Bark at the Moon”) and decide for yourself.