Track By Track Review: Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man
Ozzy Osbourne might have been going through a tough time with his health, but the Prince Of Darkness makes a return today with his first new solo album in a decade. That’s reason enough to celebrate in and of itself, but does Ordinary Man reach extraordinary heights? Let’s delve in and find out…
Straight To Hell
Straight To Hell opens on a heavenly choral effect, before the rolling riff kicks in and Ozzy declares, ‘All right now’ just as he did on Black Sabbath’s Sweet Leaf all those years ago. The riffs are pure solo-era Oz though; lighter and sharper than Sabbath as they cut around the jerky vocal lines of the verses (and with a blazing solo from Slash). Oz has always been adept at crafting vocal melodies that act as hooks right through the song, and the ones on this tale of drug thraldom are hugely ear-arresting. ‘I’ll make you scream / I’ll make you defecate,’ he promises at one point. It might not be poetry but Ozzy has been there, done that and worn the vomit-stained shirt, so if he says that’s how it goes down, who are we to argue?
All My Life
The second track does have a more poetic bent, as Ozzy views his life through the eyes of his childhood self and finds that he doesn’t like what he sees. Musically, it’s suitably wistful and lilting, but with a big ’80s hair metal chorus and bubbling bass from Duff McKagan that wells up at regular intervals.
There’s another knowing nod to the past as Goodbye stomps in on a measured Iron Man beat and a voiceover asks, ‘Do you have any memories?’ There’s something of a backward-looking theme so far, at least as far as the lyrics go, wallowing in darkness and a sense of loss. There’s a barely suppressed sense of energy to the song though, especially when it shifts gears from blues-soaked semi-doom to frenetic grooving passages before ending in a welter of crashing drums and wailing guitars.
‘I was unprepared for fame, then everybody knew my name,’ sings Ozzy as he looks back on the most extraordinary of lives. This is the one that features a duet with Elton John and it is – as you’d not only expect but fervently hope – a big, bombastic, piano-led power ballad. There are more choral backing vocals and Slash makes a reappearance for an epic solo that’s in the same postcode as his November Rain sequence. And as for Ozzy’s insistence that ‘I don’t want to die an ordinary man,’ there really is no chance of that.
Under The Graveyard
This one’s a multi-faceted piece, with atmospheric jangling and another gloomy lyric. ‘Death doesn’t answer when I cry for help,’ the singer declares, presumably looking back at the health struggles of the past few years. There are more optimistic bursts though and, again, the music sparkles even in its darkness. There are atmospheric jangles of semi-acoustic guitar that build into a crushing Sabbathian rumble, but there’s also the willingness to try something new in the form of the unconventionally poppy pre-chorus. This seems like the influence of producer and guitarist Andrew Watt at play, which is probably a good thing, but you can’t help wondering what Zakk Wylde might have done with the solo.
No, it’s not an Alice In Wonderland parable or a statement on how modern consumption is ravaging the planet. It’s about “that German bloke who put out an advert for someone to come and eat him”, Ozzy told Kerrang! recently. Fittingly it’s a bit of filler as the Oz serves up literal lyrics in a compact but not especially remarkable slab of hard rock. It’s okay but Rammstein’s Mein Teil remains the connoisseur’s choice in this area.
Today Is The End
There are more eerie chiming guitars, recalling Diary Of A Madman or Killer Of Giants and there’s another big departure when it comes to the chorus. It sounds like Ozzy Osbourne gone pop-punk, which does take some getting used to, but it also mostly works, ending on a dynamic mesh of alt.rock guitars.
Scary Little Green Men
‘How long have they been living in my head?’ Oz ponders on a song that is hopefully slightly less literal than Eat Me. It’s preposterously hooky as it works its way up and down the gears, but this one is also a bit of extra-terrestrial fun – especially with the Mars Attacks!-style breakdown. Jason Momoa’s in the video as well, playing a massively ripped Oz, obviously…
Holy For Tonight
Holy For Tonight brings things back down to Earth with a far more sombre mood. There are glorious melodies, harmonies and lush strings in a song that ostensibly appears to be a meditation on a death row inmate’s last night. Imagine Iron Maiden’s Hallowed Be Thy Name reimagined by the Beatles with modern production techniques and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
It's A Raid
This whole project stemmed from Ozzy’s guest appearance on Post Malone’s Take What You Want, which Watt was also involved with. This is another collaboration between the three and it’s gloriously rampant, starting with a wailing siren and punky rush of guitars. It’s a stop-start injection of pure rock’n’roll chaos that you could equally imagine Green Day and The Wildhearts having a stab at. It’s also utterly magnificent and as Ozzy screams, ‘Fuck you all!’ it almost brings things to a perfect conclusion.
Take What You Want
Except that the album actually ends with Take What You Want. Where It’s A Raid is a glorious melange of noise, this is very much a Post Malone track featuring a guest appearance from Ozzy (and Travis Scott). It did see Oz in the U.S. Top 10 for the first time in more than three decades, and provided the impetus for this whole album. In that respect it’s an important piece but its inclusion here feels something of an anti-climax. Overall, though, the album sees Ozzy rediscovering his fire and passion for making music, and that’s certainly something worth celebrating.
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