Friday, May 25, 2007

Review: Ozzy Osbourne - Black Rain

Label: Epic

Released: May 22, 2007

You'd think that 16 years of half-hearted recordings would destroy Ozzy's career. If that isn't enough, surely the overexposure from his asinine reality show would do it. No? How about one of the worst covers albums ever recorded? Somehow Ozzy seems to survive all of this, like a heavy metal Rasputin.

I think "Not Going Away" is probably a threat more than a promise, because if its generic heavy groove is all Ozzy has to offer, I can't imagine who wants to listen anymore (even though I'm well aware that there are legions who will gladly eat this crap right out of his hand). "I Don't Wanna Stop" is a riffy affair that might be decent if it wasn't the same old thing I've heard so many times before. It makes an attempt at being a bit trippy just before the solo, but that ends up being so listless that it loses its intended effect before it gets anywhere. The title track sees Ozzy going with the medium-paced hard rock approach. To make it interesting, he throws in some electronic effects that hint at some industrial influence. It fails miserably. Over the years, Ozzy has been able to pull off some fine ballads, but that power seems to have left him along with his voice. Aside from some subtley nice guitar work from Zakk Wylde, "Lay Your World on Me" is likely the worst ballad he's ever recorded. It gets worse from there as "The Almighty Dollar" kicks in with a generic, funky bass line. The song tries to survive on Ozzy's voice (or the processing that has become his voice) and has very little real structure. "Silver" kicks off with an energetic riff that seems promising. While it's nothing particularly new, the song has a mild hook, decent use of keyboards to bolster Ozzy's voice and a driving chorus. It's not great, but at least it's listenable. Is the next track actually decent or have I just lowered my standards over the course of the album? "Civilize the Universe" lacks the driving chorus of "Silver," but it also has a fair hook and the processing on the vocals actually fits in with overall trippiness of the track. I wouldn't say it's particularly good, but at least "Here for You" isn't as bad as "Lay Your World on Me." The strings in the background aren't very original and neither is the guitar solo. "Countdown's Begun" is nothing new either. I'd only like it if it was the countdown to the end of Ozzy's career. Unfortunately, I don't think that's the case. I'm glad the last track is called "Trap Door," because I definitely want out. There's a bit of the heavy, processed riffy sound of Prong or maybe White Zombie that crops up throughout Black Rain, but it's always done in third-rate fashion and "Trap Door" is a great example of that even though it's actually one of the album’s stronger tracks.

Black Rain is another dull release from Ozzy. It's self-consciously heavy at times and generally formulaic, indicating that Ozzy has little or nothing left in the tank. His vocals are consistently over-processed and it makes his performance very disingenuous. If he can't even come close to what he could in his prime, he needs to either find a new direction or hang it up. As it stands, he's just embarrassing himself. Unfortunately, something tells me that Ozzy will survive even this and continue to destroy any credibility he has left...probably to the tune of millions in album sales. Sad.

Rating: 3/10

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Blogger Jeff said...

I know I'm one of the few but I've found Ozzy to be overrated. I don't really understand why he is looked at with God like status amongst metal heads. His voice becomes very jarring to my ears after I listen to two songs. I can't deny how great some songs are but I can only listen in small doses and mostly that is only Sabbath material. I don't think his role in Sabbath was of some divine being, I just don't understand the huss over Ozzy.

12:29 PM  
Blogger taotechuck said...

I enjoyed Ozzy's first two solo albums, but in retrospect, I have to wonder if it's just because I was young and naive. Are Blizzard and Diary any less formulaic than the stuff that followed? It's virtually impossible for me to say, as I have such strong fondness for those two albums. But I wonder: are they good, or are they just generic albums that I heard at the right time in my life?

1:20 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

At the beginning of this year I looked ahead at some of the releases coming out in 2007 and made predictions. I figured Fu manchu's new one would be good and it was. Then I figured the new Megadeth would be poor, but I was wrong because it's good. I originally thought the new Ozzy would stink, but I think the surprise of Megadeth last week made me a little hopeful. However it appears that Ozzy continues his streak of clunkers. As for the rest of the year, I think Dream Theater's new one will be well played, but I am not sure if they can ever get back to the level they were between 1992-1995. Also I don't need to be Nostradomus to predict that the next Judas Priest album might be a disaster.

5:29 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

I have always liked Ozzy, but he has not put out anything really worth listening to since No More Tears. One thing that usually is the case is that Ozzy has a good band. He or whoever (probably Sharon) makes the decisions about who plays in his band does a good job. At this stage in his career Ozzy is like those old atheletes who just don't know when to give up. As with most bands that I liked in the 80's, I don't really expect much from them now. I loved Def Leppard in the 80's, but they are not very good now and I think the same is probably true for Ozzy. I often wonder why people go to see the bands that they liked when they were younger, when the band does not continue to put out good music. Does it make the listener feel young? To me it is a sad attempt to hold on to one's youth. I loved Ozzy then, but really could do without any new music from him.

10:40 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Jeff - Ozzy does have a unique voice, so if it grates on you, I'm sure any of his stuff is hard to take.

Chuck - I think the appeal to earlier albums is more than just nostalgia. When Ozzy went solo, he really bridged the gap between the darker metal of the early 70s and the Van Halen-inspired upbeat metal. As Bill over at Rock of Ages points out in his Blizzard of Ozz review, Ozzy really went in his own direction when he went solo. I once read that he chose Randy Rhoades, because he was the only guitarist that auditioned and didn't just rip off Tony Iommi. I really do think that Ozzy set a standard with his early solo stuff. Had the hair bands of the 80s lived up to that, I don't think you and I would spend as much time making fun of them as we do.

Mark - Other than the Dream Theater album, I would have agreed with your predictions (I've never liked DT as you well know). The Megadeth album was a pleasant surprise, but it doesn't raise my hopes for any of the others (particularly that JP release).

Linda - I agree with you about artists (and athletes) not knowing when to hang it up. Ozzy definitely fits into this category. I also don't understand seeing bands from the past that are way past their prime. There's a definite market for it though. Plenty of the old hair metal bands from the 80s are still touring (with one or two members in many cases) and amking money without providing anything worthwhile. It's amazing what people will nostalgia. In some ways, seeing this stuff is more like seeing a cover band than it is like seeing a band in their prime.

11:59 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

It's just a shame how many bands that were around in the 80's just struggle to put out anything good now. Looking at the past few years it's just a handful that have been good. I am not saying this to slag hair metal, but the better releases have been the heavier bands. Like Maiden, Motorhead, Celtic Frost, Slayer and a few others.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I saw the new Ozzy video last night and that's all I've heard of the new album. I think it was merely okay, nothing great. I took note of how Ozzy is practically the same greasy-haired goon he was in Sabbath instead of the poofy-haired lunatic of solo heyday. The difference now is he's wearing a peace sign on his neck instead of a gothic cross. Normally I'd say that's a wonderful message, but given what we all know about Ozzy and how much Sharon how manipulated him and his career--to the point of success, admittedly--you wonder if the gesture is generic or real.

There was a funny interlude after the video from Zakk Wylde with Zakk telling a story about how Ozzy was lying down watching the History Channel as he's a WWII buff and Zakk kissed him on the head and said "What's up, boss?" like The Godfather and using the same shaky, stuttering voice, Zakk said Ozzy was like "Who the hell are you?"

Read into it what you will. Sharon will put his ass in a wheelchair in front of the mic before she'll let him retire.

9:55 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Mark - The heavier bands in the 80s were also the ones who were doing something new in the 80s. Hair metal was never all that original. Speedmetal was. I think that's why some of the heavy bands have continued to put out decent stuff while the hair metal bands just try to find some way to make money.

Ray - I agree with you about Sharon. When the announcement was made that Ozzfest was free this year, my first reaction wasn't, "Cool!" It was, "I wonder how Sharon will make money off of this."

12:33 AM  

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