Ozzy Osbourne – Black Rain [Epic]

First off, I should start by saying I’m reviewing the ‘free Ozzfest’ ticket version of this CD. And by that I mean that I paid $18.99 for a CD in bare-bones packaging so as to get a code to use for 2 free Ozzfest tickets (jokingly referred to as ‘freefest’ but somehow I’m not seeing the free part of this yet). While in truth, one could get codes absolutely free of charge via the official Ozzfest site (among other places) and redeem said code on June 12th for the show of choice, by purchasing Ozzy’s new disc you get a ‘reserved’ code that can be redeemed on Jun. 8th. The smart gambler bets on most, if not all, tickets being distributed before June 12th, so wait at your own risk! I chose not to risk it, obviously.

As I said, the packaging is pretty sparse. It’s basically a cardboard gatefold sleeve with minimal graphics, a tracklist and very little else. Oh, and a coupon with the aforementioned ticket code. yippee. After the ticket rush is over, a lusher version will undoubtably be available.

Press releases to this disc herald it as the true successor to 1991’s No More Tears, which may be good or bad depending on your viewpoint. Personally, I was hoping for a successor to Blizzard of Ozz instead.

Ozzy is joined on the songs once again by the formidable Zakk Wylde on guitar & ex-Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin as well as adding ex-Rob Zombie bassist Blasko. The new songs are as crunchy and heavy as could be hoped, many sounding like leftover rifts from Zakk’s Black Label Society sessions. It’s Ozzy’s own vocal stylings which tend to water down the mix but hey, at his age I respect the guy for still adding some decibels to his output.

As with many Ozzy recordings, the appeal runs the gamut from definitely crank-worthy (“Not Going Away” and radio heavy “I Don’t Wanna Stop”) to not bad (“Trap Door”) to so-so filler material (“11 Silver” & “Black Rain”). Nothing is truly bad of the set, but very little stands out as legends-in-making. I do applaude the attempts to go in a more experimental direction with the longer, funkier “The Almighty Dollar”, the comparatively lethargic “Countdown’s Begun” (which does sport a nicely blistering guitar solo) and the faux-industrial “Civilize the Universe”. There are also two ballads on the bill, “Lay Your World on Me” & “Here For You”, both very reminiscent of earlier Ozzy snifflers.

Lyrically, many subjects are tackled again by his Ozziness that he has covered in the past such as war (“Black Rain”), environmental concerns (“The Almighty Dollar” ironically enough) and good old fashioned defiance (“I Don’t Wanna Stop”). Sadly, the concerns he voices are just as topical today as when he first broached them in Black Sabbath.

All in all, this is a decent effort by a true pioneer of the genre. Ozzy cannot be accused of laying on any well-deserved laurels, either for his musical output or for clever concert ticket marketing strategies. It shouldn’t disappoint loyalists but it’s doubtful many of these songs will be played live in 5 years. God willing, Ozzy will still be though!

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