This is the first album since 1988′s “No Rest For The Wicked” that doesn’t have Zakk Wylde on guitar & there was plenty of conjecture in the media on how this would impact the Ozzman’s future sound. Wylde’s replacement is one Gus G. (Dream Evil, Firewind) who unfortunately came in AFTER the songwriting process so we still don’t really get a feel for what kind of chemistry he & Ozzy will have.
Also missing is former Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin, who’s been replaced by veteran stickmeister Tommy Clufetos (Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, Rob Zombie). Think Rob Zombie’s getting tired of Ozzy hijacking his band members yet? Zombie lost bassist Blasko to Ozzy for ‘Black Rain’ and was rumored to be in danger of losing guitarist John 5 before it was announced that Gus got the job. C’mon Ozzy, recruit your own guys – mmmk?
Anyhow, like ‘Black Rain’, music writing duties were shared with producer Kevin Churko and on occasion keyboardist Adam Wakeman. Churko’s son Kane even gets into the act for one song – ‘Crucify’, which unfortunately is one of the weakest on the disc, in my opinion.
Overall this is a dark album – yeah, even for Ozzy. Where his earlier works were almost as satirical as they were macabre, ‘Scream’ is more like a collaboration between Ozzy & Marilyn Manson; brooding & heavy, touching on cynical religious views instead of ‘save the world’ soliloquies, it pretty much punches you in the face, let’s you catch your breath, then bitch slaps you for good measure. I read somewhere that Ozzy likens the album to his Black Sabbath days, and really – I can hear that. It’s MUCH heavier than Sabbath, but it definitely echos some ‘Children of the Grave’ goodness in songs like ‘Diggin’ Me Down’ or ‘Let It Die’ (both of which could’ve been singles except for their 6 minute run-times).
What I don’t think is that this is as formula Ozzy as perhaps we’ve seen in the past; maybe it’s the world class talent supporting him but the songs aren’t as predictable this go round, you’re never quite sure of where things are headed. Sure, there’s the obligatory ballads (the mediocre ‘Life Won’t Wait’ and the radio-friendly ‘Time’) but other songs are so bombastic, so full of crunch, you’ll find yourself staring at the speakers with a big ‘WTF’ on your face. The intro to ‘Fearless’ made me think I’d hit the wrong band in my player, for example!
I’m sure there will be plenty of nay-sayers but honestly, I like the new stuff – better than Black Rain & frankly, better than the last few albums. While I don’t think there’s another ‘Crazy Train’ or ‘No More Tears’ on this disc, there’s plenty of songs worth listening to more than a few times – songs that will translate well to a live performance even if they’re not as mainstream accessible.
In my opinion, Ozzy’s still going strong, adapting his sound & lyrics to remain relevant without becoming cliche. I think the new blood is revitalizing his work & I look forward to hearing more ‘true’ collaboration between himself & Gus.
Welcome back, yon Prince of Darkness! We’ve missed you!!