• Lucas Liner

[Album Review] Ozzy Osbourne Proves He's Far from an 'Ordinary Man' with Long-Awaited Comeback Album

Updated: Mar 29

Ozzy Osbourne is a name that conjures up one of the most universally positive reactions in all of rock and roll. The Godfather of Heavy Metal has spent over five decades, half a damn century, as the wide-eyed, unstoppable, “no seriously, how the fuck is he still alive” ambassador of heavy music. After ten years, which included a final album and tour for Black Sabbath, a number of television and film projects with his son Jack, and a number of health concerns, the Birmingham native finally graced the world with his twelfth solo record, Ordinary Man.

The new disc is produced by Andrew Watt, who Osbourne met after a chance meeting and collaboration with rapper Post Malone. Watt also plays guitar and keyboards on the album, and the rhythm section comprises bassist Duff McKagan (Guns 'N' Roses, Duff McKagan’s Loaded) and drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers). Guest musicians include Slash, Tom Morello, Kelly Osbourne, Charlie Puth, Elton John, and the aforementioned Post Malone.

“Straight to Hell” opens with a choir, before Watt’s octave-jumping main riff kicks in and sets the song in motion. It’s a balls-out rocker buffed by a Slash guitar solo, in all of its wah-tastic glory. And as I said before in my prior coverage of the track, the line in the first verse about making the subject defecate is still one of my favorite lines. “All My Life” sounds like a modern-day “Mama, I’m Comin’ Home,” using the quiet verse, loud chorus dynamic with a monster riff in the latter. It’s the first of many deeply contemplative songs, while not being too much of a downer to not demand a replay or two.

“Goodbye” throws it back to “Iron Man” with its intro section, before a reverb-heavy arpeggio supplements a marching beat and Ozzy’s lyrical vocal style. The song as a whole sounds like Master of Reality-era Sabbath, a welcome revisiting of what brought Osbourne to the dance in the first place. The middle section is fuzzy and furious, and the guitar solo laid down by Watt is a fun listen. “Ordinary Man” comes in with a piano, as Osbourne reflects on his life and infamy. Elton John’s verse and requisite ivory-tickling add a classic rock feel to this ballad. A backing orchestra and choir adds to the epic feel from two epic figures of the last several generations of rock.

“Under the Graveyard” eases in with an acoustic guitar riff and a stark declaration: “I woke up and I hate myself.” The song is one uneasy revelation after another, as the chorus kicks in with a monster power chord. The fuzzy, overdriven guitars once again echo the sounds of Sabbath from long ago, perfect for what was a first taste of the album back in November.

“Eat Me” features a harmonica intro and one of the strongest main riffs of Osbourne’s catalog, much less this particular album. It’s a toe-tapping, head-nodding track, with the uttering of the title perfectly positioned for a call-and-response come concert time. The bass guitar’s sections thumping out the main riff alone add a heavy kind of levity to the number.

“Today is the End” lets up off the gas for a bit, while still giving an excellent chorus and a trilling guitar solo from Watt. The breakdown section gives another sludgy riff, just in case you thought this song went a touch too soft for Ozzy standard. “Scary Little Green Men” goes for another arpeggio, as Osbourne sings about the paranoia surrounding potential otherworldly beings. The chorus is another rocker, as his vocal melody goes into his higher range. The lyrics warn about what one wishes for (“Everybody wants them, until they meet them”), and while a sci-fi theme isn’t exactly new territory for the Prince of Darkness, that doesn’t make it unwelcome.

“Holy for Tonight” is the saddest track by a mile, as Osbourne contemplates what awaits him at the end of his life. He atones for all of the wild things he has done in his seven-plus decades on this mortal coil, but he wants to be remembered as a good person when it all comes to an end. No doubt that when we do eventually lose Ozzy, it will be a devastating blow to the rock and metal community at large, but it’s fair to say that damn near everyone in said community has and will hold Ozzy in the highest regard.

“It’s a Raid” taps Post Malone to share vocal duties on a track that is as punk rock as either man has done, especially Osbourne. It was a shock to hear at first, but in a way that elicited a smirk rather than a wayward eyebrow. Feel free to have your personal reservations about Post Malone and his music, but he has proven rock chops (see his live covers of songs by Rage Against the Machine, for example), and they’re further polished on this wake-up call of a track.

As a special bonus, Post Malone and Ozzy’s first collaboration, “Take What You Want,” is included, also featuring Travis Barker. As a laid-back, chill-hop song with a few notes of rock sensibility, it’s surprisingly palatable. As to be expected by this point, the chorus is an earworm, set to be stuck in your mind long after the last listen. It’s a monster collaboration, given the names attached, and it soars in light of that fact.

It’s strange to not see a big-name virtuoso guitar player associated with Osbourne’s solo music, be it Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee, Gus G, or Zakk Wylde. That being said, it puts a little more focus on the composition, without the explicitly flashy six-string tricks. It is as raw of a record as Ozzy has ever done in both lyrical and musical content, and given the staying power he’s had in the game, that’s nothing short of an achievement. After a decade of waiting, Osbourne’s latest disc is a massive triumph. The man himself has resigned himself to working on a new album in lieu of touring, due to recent health issues, so we can all hope that the next slab of metal courtesy of the O.G. metalhead won’t be that far off. Conversely, if this album winds up being Ozzy’s last will and testament to the metal world, we can safely say he went out on his own terms, and with a bang, at that.

Ordinary Man is available now via Epic Records.


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