Let’s face it now: before you even hear the record, the big deal is that Zakk Wylde is not part of it. For more than a decade, Wylde played guitar on Ozzy’s records, making him the longest-tenured axeman of his solo career. You also kind of got the perception that Wylde was almost part of Ozzy’s family — or, at least, Ozzy’s biggest fan. While all of that was great, and he’s a pretty damn fine guitarist (and that’s probably an understatement), by the time Black Rain rolled around in 2007, it was getting mighty difficult to tell the difference between Ozzy and Black Label Society albums.
Of course, it’s easy to look back and say this now, especially after you listen to Scream. Ozzy has employed Firewind guitarist Gus G. as Wylde’s replacement, and it makes all the difference in the fucking world. Despite the fact that one of the first guitar licks on the album contains the same signature sound that Wylde has on every song, the addition of a power metal guitarist gives Scream a totally different feel than the previous five albums. The riffs are immense — ginormous, even. The songs aren’t quite as straightforward as before (no worries, it’s still crisp and radio-friendly) and Ozzy sounds invigorated for the first time in a while. This is most evident in the next-to-last track on the record, “Latimer’s Mercy,” where the power metal riffs shine through, the keys provide a total epic feel and Ozzy actually wrote some lyrics that weren’t just telling people to get up and rock. This very well may be his best track since “Perry Mason.”
The album cover with Ozzy planting a flag on top of a mountain really fits with this record, as it surely feels like he’s reaching a new peak. I wasn’t a big fan of the first single, “Let Me Hear You Scream,” when I first heard it on the radio, but its over-the-top epic feel fits well within the context of the album. “Life Won’t Wait” is really a key track for me on this, though, as it starts with an acoustic passage with a rhythm reminiscent of “Mama, I’m Coming Home” and turns into this super-melodic rock song. It’s the first semi-ballad of Ozzy’s that’s been worth a damn in recent memory.
The only problem I have with the album is “Crucify,” which almost sounds unfinished. I have a feeling this one was written for the radio, as it’s the one track on the album that sounds very typical of his hits over the last few years.
The change in sound makes all the difference, as the album sounds quite relevant and is much better than you should expect from Ozzy at this point in his storied career. Rock on, Ozzy. You still fuckin’ rule.