Is anyone but me fascinated that Ozzy Fucking Osbourne is still making records? Maybe I shouldnâ€™t be, though, as after reading his autobiography, itâ€™s clear that heâ€™s going to make music right up until his liver disintegrates into a pile of dust. The bastard just doesnâ€™t quit. And thatâ€™s perfectly fine with me.
Letâ€™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 Ozzyâ€™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 Ozzyâ€™s family — or, at least, Ozzyâ€™s biggest fan. While all of that was great, and heâ€™s a pretty damn fine guitarist (and thatâ€™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, itâ€™s easy to look back and say this now, especially after you listen to Scream. Ozzy has employed Firewind guitarist Gus G. as Wyldeâ€™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 arenâ€™t quite as straightforward as before (no worries, itâ€™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, â€œLatimerâ€™s Mercy,â€ where the power metal riffs shine through, the keys provide a total epic feel and Ozzy actually wrote some lyrics that werenâ€™t just telling people to get up and rock. This very well may be his best track since â€œPerry Mason.â€
The album cover with Ozzy planting a flag on top of a mountain really fits with this record, as it surely feels like heâ€™s reaching a new peak. I wasnâ€™t a big fan of the first single, â€œLet Me Hear You Scream,â€ when I first heard it on the radio, but its over-the-top epic feel fits well within the context of the album. â€œLife Wonâ€™t Waitâ€ is really a key track for me on this, though, as it starts with an acoustic passage with a rhythm reminiscent of â€œMama, Iâ€™m Coming Homeâ€ and turns into this super-melodic rock song. Itâ€™s the first semi-ballad of Ozzyâ€™s thatâ€™s been worth a damn in recent memory.
The only problem I have with the album is â€œCrucify,â€ which almost sounds unfinished. I have a feeling this one was written for the radio, as itâ€™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 fuckinâ€™ rule.
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