Initial Musings on Ozzy's Scream
At this stage in the game, what can one truly expect from Ozzy? The man has conquered mountains. He was the mouthpiece of Black Sabbath, and like, let's say Madonna, has continually re-invented himself to fit with the times, even when he was the one who inspired these (metal) times. (We'll forget the reality television and the hair metal aesthetics of The Ultimate Sin). He is the blueprint. There's really no need for Ozzy to make records anymore, to audition new guitarists, or launch another summer of Ozzfest speculations --- but like all great artists there's no compromise, there's no time to sit and wait to die, even when we don't honestly need another mediocre Ozzy record we should feel honored that Ozzy continues to thrive (survive) amidst changing trends and old-old-age.
I normally would be comfortable in just knowing that there was a new Ozzy record for the masses to consume (but are they buying it?). I would already know what it sounded like, I just enjoyed the security of the fact that it exists. It's an exercise I've likely committed to since No More Tears. There's no reason to own anything that came between then and now, it was all really the same -- especially if you've heard a Zakk Wylde solo or two.
Scream arrives, Gus G. (Greek Guitar God I hear?), formerly of Firewind, plays Ozzy's latest foil, and "Let Me Hear You Scream" starts dominating rock radio. It's summer, It's Ozzy, and there's really nothing better than speeding down State Route 202 with something of this ilk blaring. Of course it's nostalgia fueling my love for Scream right now, and who knows what that verdict will be come September, but there is plenty here that twists Ozzy's perspective towards a different light. A common theme on Scream seems to be in Ozzy becoming comfortable with death and not wasting the precious "Time" he has left -- plenty of Jesus reference, but just as much evil in the vocals. What's incredible is the epic nature of each song. This is not just filler, there are some truly massive songs here, accented by the new direction provided by Gus G. Just take a listen to "Diggin' Me Down," a six-minute suite that combines Randy Rhodes-esque nods to classical acoustic madrigals, subterranean doom-riffs, and technical ecstasy befitting a Malmsteen wankfest. Maybe it's Gus that steals the show? Maybe it's the songwriting team that bolsters our faithful leader into a fantastic new, yet '80s flooded, path in his career? The aforementioned and lighter-waiting ballad "Time" is evidence of this push -- a song that may have well been penned by Linda Perry and produced by George Martin. This could be bigger than "Mama I'm Coming Home," it has that power. Armed with an orchestra, pseudo-Beatles/Beach Boys melody, and the slickest solo put on an Ozzy record in years, "Time" is the hook that has me listening to Scream much more than any hyped-hipster-runoff in the last few weeks. Could just be my hankering for nostalgia, or old-age, or I'd rather like to think it's Ozzy being a better Ozzy for all of us to savor.