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Ozzy Osbourne - "Scream" (CD)

Ozzy Osbourne - "Scream" CD cover image

"Scream" track listing:

1. Let It Die
2. Let Me Hear You Scream
3. Soul Sucker
4. Life Won't Wait
5. Diggin' Me Down
6. Crucify
7. Fearless
8. Time
9. I Want It More
10. Latimer's Mercy
11. I Love You All

Reviewed by on June 12, 2010

"'Diggin' Me Down,' with its Sabbath-meets-Metallica riffing, shows more musical ambition than anything Ozzy's done since 'No More Tears.'"

A friend of mine once told me that Ozzy Osbourne's genius isn't that he's splendid musician or songwriter, but that he surrounds himself with people who are. That definitely seems to be the case with "Scream," in which Ozzy has surrounded himself with the best bunch of players and songwriters since the halcyon days of "No More Tears" nearly two decades ago.

"Scream" is the first album of original material from Ozzy in more than 20 years to feature a guitarist other than Zakk Wylde. As much of a fan of Zakk as I am, I have to say that the last couple Ozzy albums definitely were showing signs of fatigue, with Zakk dividing his time between Ozzy and his own band, Black Label Society.

Making his debut on "Scream" is 29-year-old Greek ax-slinger Gus G who brings an energy to his solos that, frankly, is reminiscent of a young Zakk Wylde or Randy Rhoads. In fact, I found myself wondering what the disc would've sounded like had Gus G had more input into the songwriting process, rather than simply playing over largely finished tracks composed by Ozzy and producer Kevin Churko.

I was a little nervous about Churko returning to the producer's chair, given that he produced the tired-sounding "Black Rain," adding industrial touches that would've been more at home on a Rob Zombie record. This time, Churko and Osbourne stick to more or less to conventional metal sounds, adding keyboard flourishes and some unique backing vocals and effects.

Ozzy has described the disc as a cross between the sounds of Black Sabbath and those of much of his solo career. The album definitely has thick, heavy riffing a la Sabbath, but there are also moments in which things surprisingly reach near-thrash intensity, which is a new development.

The disc begins with "Let It Die," with Tommy Clufetos' more adventurous drumming style really standing out compared with the likes of Lee Kerslake, the late Randy Castillo or even the more recent Mike Bordin. Things slow up to a sludgy mid-tempo stomp, with some heavily processed vocals from Ozzy. Things aren't quite as bad as they were on the almost robotic-sounding "Black Rain," but it's still noticeable. The song has a couple speed changes, which work surprisingly well, and Gus G's guitar work has energy to spare.

Next up is the single, "Let Me Hear You Scream," which we've all heard a thousand times by now. It's a great little bopper that features plenty of great guitar fills. I'm curious how fans are going to react to this one in a live setting.

After that, we slow down considerably for the sludgy "Soul Sucker." Maybe it's just the bad memory of when this album was going to be called "Soul Sucka," but this is definitely my least favorite track on the album — at least in the beginning. A little over halfway through, the thing speeds up with a thrashy chugging guitar riff and a fantastic Gus G solo, before, unfortunately, slowing down again.

"Life Won't Wait" has a gentle opening that reminds me quite a bit of Sabbath contemporaries Led Zeppelin. The loud chorus is a little jarring, but the song is definitely one of the better Ozzy ballads in recent memory.

"Diggin' Me Down," with its Sabbath-meets-Metallica riffing, shows more musical ambition than anything Ozzy's done since "No More Tears." The acoustic opening of this six-minute track is reminiscent of "Diary Of A Madman," and nearly every bit as good. And the lyrics (no matter who wrote them), in which Ozzy seems to be trying to bring on the Second Coming by calling Jesus out, are some of the best of Ozzy's solo career. If you never thought he'd create another epic on the scale of "Revelation (Mother Earth)" or "Diary," you'll be proven pleasantly wrong.

"Crucify" takes on politicians who "swear on the Bible while I'm feeding you lies." It's an OK track, though it can't help but suffer when compared with "Diggin' Me Down." I will say that Blasko lays down a good bass line on this one, though. "Fearless" ratchets up the tempo, with a chorus that's a little over the top.

"Time" begins with vocals that almost remind me of the Beach Boys, over gentle guitar and keyboards. It's a gentler song a little reminiscent of "Road To Nowhere" in terms of subject matter. "I Want It More" begins with keyboards, that soon give way to a thick guitar groove and another seemingly thrash-inspired riff that almost reminds me of Pantera. Good stuff.

Less impressive is "Latimer's Mercy," which has an interesting backstory (it's about a real-life father who killed his child rather than have her continue to suffer from a particularly brutal form of cerebral palsy that left her in constant pain). Unfortunately, the song never really goes anywhere musically, which is also true of the pleasant, but short "I Love You All," which finishes the disc.

It's obvious that a lot of thought went into putting this album together — and into making it better than the last couple of Ozzy albums. In fact, in some ways, the album feels a little too well-put-together. There's an over-processed feel to some of the tracks that removes a considerable amount of warmth from them ("Life Won't Wait" could've soared much higher with simple acoustic guitars, for example). Also, Ozzy's vocals are often over-produced, and there's an occasional over-emphasis on shouting.

No, "Scream" isn't another "Blizzard Of Ozz," or even "No More Tears," but it definitely exceeds the last few Ozzy albums in terms of quality, energy and experimentation. Is it the magical elixir that will erase the last decade or so of fame-fueled silliness that has damaged Ozzy's reputation among metal fans? No, but it's a more than solid first step on the road to redemption.

Highs: "Diggin' Me Down," "Let Me Hear You Scream" and "Time"

Lows: "I Love You All" and "Latimer's Mercy"

Bottom line: Ozzy's best album since "No More Tears."

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)