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Reveling in the reductive. - 15%

hells_unicorn, December 30th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Epic Records

Getting old is never a fun thing, especially when one's profession is immediately associated with a youthful exuberance, yet many old timers have weathered their golden years with a degree of grace and poise that makes their latter day output respectable, if not matching their iconic work. Sadly this is not the case with one of heavy metal's forefathers, namely the prince of darkness himself, who has found him spending much of the 2010s either riding off the coattails of his distant past or wallowing in a dreadful modern-steeped musical quagmire that has dogged him fairly consistently since the turn of the millennium. Following a rather brief and regrettably lackluster reunion with his old mates in Black Sabbath, culminating in the worst album in said band's otherwise mostly consistent legacy, coupled with the return of longtime shredder Zakk Wylde into the mix, it could well have been stipulated that Ozzy was going to revert back to the groovy modernity that was Black Rain. In some respects, this turned out to be the basic modus operandi behind his latest musical offering Straight To Hell, but the qualitative character of this song is a veritable nosedive from the aforementioned mediocrity to something that takes the cringe factor to a whole new level.

This song is essentially the culmination of Epic Records doing what they've shown a stunning flair in accomplishing, namely turning a metal outfit into something tame and devoid of any discernible impact, let alone ferocity. The inclusion of an assortment of pop and rock session musicians from the likes of Guns 'N' Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Post Malone (the world was a better place during the "pre-Malone" days) as opposed to Ozzy's permanent band brings about the obvious implications of this being an inorganic super-band affair, and while the results of such projects are not necessarily poor all the time, the hypnotic semi-rocking rut that this song is perpetually stuck in leaves a great deal to be desired. Per usual since the days of Down To Earth, the Ozzman's vocals are extremely processed and robotic to the point of sounding like old audio samples being recycled into a new song, and one can't help but wonder if the awkward ad lib phrase "Alright Now!" was an attempt to bring some Sabbath nostalgia into what is otherwise a banal, overly compressed heap of modern commercial pop/rock pandering behind a cliche veneer of a vintage shock-rock icon appearing ready to decapitate a snake with his teeth.

Everything about this reeks of an aging rocker who probably should have followed through on hanging it up in 1992 trying desperately to keep his face in the spotlight, with zero accounting for either musical or artistic credibility. Ozzy's professed opposition to being labeled as a metal singer not withstanding, this is the result of putting four musicians who have little to no connection with metal into said genre and expecting them to both come out with something compelling and also breathe some needed life into a near dead recording career. Chad Smith's beats are about what one might expect from a funk/pop flunky trying to imitate Bill Ward, Duff McKagan performs adequately but still feels quite out of place, Andrew Watt's riff work is vapid and his guitar tone sounds almost like a fuzzy little toy, and blues/rock icon Slash lays down some of the most indistinct leads he's ever committed to audio recording. About the only thing that really works for this song is the choir samples being employed, though they have the obvious effect of giving this song a slight soul/hip-hop vibe that clashes quite a bit with its cliche dark lyrical imagery. The prognosis has been terminal since way before this was haphazardly thrown together, and those clinging to hope for better material would do well to place their faith in Tony Iommi putting out another work before hanging it up.