Saturday, May 19, 2007

"Ozzy Osbourne - Black Rain" Review

Not counting various cover albums, best-of's, box sets, and live albums, this is the Ozzman's first CD in six years. His band is still mostly the same (since Rob Trujillo left for Metallica, ex-Rob Zombie bassist Blasko has joined up), with ex-Faith No More's Mike Bordin on drums and the Ozz's longtime sideman, guitarist Zakk Wylde. The result is that the album still sounds a lot like previous ones, with Zakk's use of fat guitar tones and pinch harmonics still a main focus. Of course after a lot of Ozzy CD's and Black Label Sociey CD's, Zakk's style feels a bit tired at times. Bordin gives a nice, pounding rhythm and Blasko is solid. The album sounds modern, but Ozzy's voice, which despite his age is in fine shape, gives it a oddly timeless feel.

Clearly, his age is on his mind, and with retirement talk mulling, Ozzy intends "Black Rain" as a bit of a "never say die" salvo, coming right out of the gate with "Not Going Away" and "I Don't Wanna Stop." The second is also the album's first single, which is a fine choice, the catchy call-to-arms chorus is great for MTV airplay but it has enough headbanging guitar to keep metal fans happy. The CD's happy rush gets bogged down a bit on track 3, the title track, which is moody but not much else. Then comes the ballad ("Lay Your World on Me"), which is like pretty much every Ozzy ballad: incredibly cheesy and pretty terrible. There's more headbanging, doomy stuff later, and some parts geniuinely groove - but truly, the CD is at it's best when it keeps the tempo up and just rocks. "Silver" is a good example, building tension effectively and adding some exciting parts and some really nice Zakk Wylde playing. "Here For You" is a more than competent ballad, even if it's bogged down by extreme amounts of cheese and "Countdown's Begun" has a catchy keyboard riff even if not much else. Album closer "Trap Door" has a rousing middle part, a cool riff or two, and a nice guitar melody on the chorus, but it's bogged down a bit by way too many vocal effects and Rob Zombie-isms.

From a musical standpoint, the CD is another solid collection of modern heavy metal tunes executed proffessionally. Lyrically, it's nothing new: songs about how crazy he is and how much he rocks and woefully cheesy ballads - it's the same thing he's been working since his solo debut. The kink being pushed is a little political topics, but that is nothing new either ("Crazy Train" anyone?). And ultimately, the main problem is how familiar it all sounds: it's the same vocal effects Ozzy always uses, it's the same scale Zakk always uses, it's all not that different. Even the things that are new to Ozzy have been overdone to death by industrial rock acts like Rob Zombie and Prong (and this was in the late 90's, when the style was popular!). At times it's sludgy and doomy, which is cool considering Ozz's Sabbath past, but it's not that novel. It's okay coming out of the speakers, even though it has filler and those nearly unlistenable ballads, it plays well and Ozzy sounds good, his whine still is endearing and it has enough decent riffs to headbang to, but it's mostly forgettable. "I Don't Wanna Stop" is the clear standout, which is nice for Ozzy since it's the first single. It's probably not enough to warrant a purchase from casual fans, but Ozzheads will love the single and won't be too disappointed at all with the rest of the songs.