What happened? At one point, he was an adorable, self-proclaimed “Prince of Darkness” shuffling around his home for public consumption, releasing forgettable solo albums that took the bite out of any horrorshow he conjured up in earlier days. Then next, he’s a puppet to his wife’s celebrity and a slave to her authority, shuffling around in a goddamn variety show while firing longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde, giving him the pink slip during an interview in a magazine.
Scream is Ozzy Osbourne‘s 10th album and the first with thirty-year old guitarist, Gus G. It has a thoroughly modern sound with lots of compression and heavily processed vocals that usually find Osbourne yelling some anthemic phrase like “Scream!” or “I’m Fearless!” or “Let It Die!” or “Soul Sucka!”
In fact, the album was almost named “Soul Sucka” before fans provided enough feedback to Ozzy….er, Sharon…that an Ozzy album with the title of Soul Sucka would be just as prophetic as a Black Sabbath album named Never Say Die!
There’s also a few mid-tempo tracks with positive messages to ensure they are played on rock radio next to the latest Nickleback songs.
Of course it sucks, and of course I’m bitter that the people holding Ozzy’s strings right now are dismantling his legacy piece by piece, making him as irrelevant as Kiss and Alice Cooper. What’s more frustrating is that the slow decline is logging a few decades now, but the descent is seemingly in freefall with Scream, a patchwork of technology and provocative one-liners.
“How will I know you, Mr. Jesus Christ?” he asks on “Diggin’ Me Down.” “Have you already been here once or twice,” seemingly referring to Christ’s visit to the Native Americans. Yes, Osbourne’s barrage of attacks against Christianity is so worn now that he is setting his sights on the Book of Mormon.
Thirty-year-old guitar wunderkind Gus G. provides Scream with plenty of bite and screaming whammy bar dives, but he provides no real identity to what kind of guitarist he is. Not that I’m a Zakk Wylde fan as the redundant guitarist was present for Osbourne’s previous low points, but at least he developed a persona that fans could attach to and associate with. There are also reports that the album—including the guitar parts—were already in place before Gus G. signed his contract with Ozzy Osbourne LLC. Even so, I’ll bet the thirty-year old guitarist already has a signature series guitar for sale from whatever company he’s using.
All of this talk about guitarists may mean nothing to the average Ozzy fan, but it should, as his entire career is dependant on the strength of what guitar player he’s working with. On Scream, he’s working with a very capable axeman who no one would be able to identify without the help of the liner notes.
The bulk of Scream‘s failure has nothing to do with his guitarist, however, and everything to do with the man himself and producer Kevin Churko, whose fingerprints are all over this release that it will be impossible for Ozzy to re-create these songs live without the aid of an IT department.
One good thing that I can say about Scream is that it is the most consistent album he’s done in twenty years. Even though the material is an embarrassing attempt at gaining favor with the active rock outlets, it plays like a straight line in consistency even with none of the songs jumping out for inclusion in a “classic Ozzy” playlist.
The other positive thing about Scream? This one wasn’t produced by Timbaland.