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Available for birthday parties, not christenings - 80%

gasmask_colostomy, February 3rd, 2015

Ozzy Osbourne's mental development stalled somewhere between the ages of 10 and 13, though he has a predisposition towards the most adult things on Earth. I'm not exactly sure how he's still alive (nor is Ozzy), but he likes his drugs and his nudity and his big crosses and that's very clear on pretty much every one of his songs. He sings about things he's comfortable with - mostly religion, excess, love, and something incredibly vague about war or politics - and that's it, don't ask for anything else. His music tends not to be too complex and doesn't require a depthy investigation to extract the hidden meaning, but focuses on the things that a pre-teen would find cool. Remember, this is the man who used to take his pet shoe for walks just before he joined Black Sabbath and helped invent heavy metal.

The good thing about the simplicity of an Ozzy album is that there is always something to like. There are usually at least two or three really catchy, energetic songs and 'No Rest for the Wicked' is no exception to the rule. There have been - more often on the post-80s Ozzy albums - a couple of absolute turds as well. On this front, 'No Rest' pleasingly fails to deliver. 'Fire in the Sky' is a little tedious and 'Crazy Babies' is certainly questionable, but nothing is an outright failure. The nonsensical lyrics of the latter is probably a concession to Ozzy's permanently childlike state and it's better to let him have his way sometimes than induce a tantrum that would probably involve a few kilograms of cocaine.

Err, also...Zakk Wylde is here. I'm not the biggest Randy Rhoads fan in the world, but I understand that Ozzy had something special before he died and some of the neoclassical innovation went out the window with his passing. Wylde has a style that's technically exciting and loads every song with a thousand pinches and harmonics and squiggly bits that I don't know all the names of, but that's exactly what the 12 year olds are hankering for, so it's a big success in that sense. Nothing is laboured or agonized over, there's a lot of colour and variety in the soloing, and everything is sort of cool, even if it won't change your life. I really love the slower, mean main riff of 'Breakin' All the Rules' and the hurried change-around licks on 'Devil's Daughter (Holy War)': they give a little bit of flair and bad-assery to an otherwise slightly safe sound.

Ozzy himself isn't on great form, but he does alright, shining through on the upbeat 'Tattooed Dancer' - particularly the "My soul's on fire!" line that follows the chorus - and the lyrics to 'Bloodbath in Paradise' are delivered surprisingly well, with both atmosphere and power. I'm a little nonplussed by 'Miracle Man' lyrically, nor do I understand why it was chosen as a single, because there are three or four songs that I prefer over it, including the sometimes-a-bonus-track-sometimes-not 'Hero' that moves slowly for a couple of reflective minutes before spiralling off on a great instrumental part. I haven't payed much attention to the rhythm section since I bought this album: the drums have a floppy, loose tone that is too close to 80s arena rock for this faster-paced sound, while the bass doesn't turn up anything much worth listening to.

There's a special kind of mediocrity that sounds like success and I think Ozzy has just about nailed it on 'No Rest for the Wicked'. Not much is challenging or truly innovative, but the songs are catchy and upbeat, so you'll keep playing them for a while, though not forever. Maybe this would be a pop album if there wasn't a wailing guitar on every song and a distinctive, unusual voice to mark it out as something different. My favourites are 'Breakin' All the Rules' and 'Bloodbath in Paradise', but Ozzy has a higher than average number of strong songs on this album.