Some of us thought we’ve seen the last of him back in 2010 with Scream. Some of us thought his next album would be softer than ever before. Some even thought his reality TV show ‘The Osbournes’ would make a comeback. Now all of us have become somewhat hedonistic while listening to Ozzy Osbourne’s new album Ordinary Man.
Never being shy of name dropping, the Prince of Darkness brought aboard Slash, Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), and Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses) for the recording of his latest release, which was produced by Andrew Watt. Keep in mind, this man hasn’t dropped an album in over a decade and to be quite frank, the last one was on the disappointing side. Ordinary Man, however, very much echoes old-school Ozzy sound throughout, emphasized by heavy guitar riffs, drawn-out vocals, and dark humor.
In a true Ozzy style, the release was celebrated with a world-wide tattoo event, inflaming the rock spectacle. But the party also came along with the whispers of whether this would become the last crusade. After all, the album often finds him playing around with the thought of leaving. ‘Ordinary Man’, recorded with Sir Elton John, is basically about a man who’s “been a bad guy, been higher than the blue sky”, quite literally, and still fears to be forgotten. The two musicians work together without any vocal constraints, delivering an interesting mix of dense guitar, solid drum, delicate orchestra, and pliable piano to stimulate the spirit of contemplation. Then Osbourne changes altitudes with ‘All My Life’, chanting: “you’ll never erase me, I’m back on the road again”. The track also hits a new degree of depth, as it moves through several stages of his life. Lyrically, it is a dialogue between Ozzy and the life he’s lived, one where the addressee transitions from a child to a drink.
With this album, the Madman gives us a glimpse inside his mind. The frequent juxtaposition of heaven and hell drenches the album in a satanic touch but in a cute way. Reflecting heavily in ‘Holy For Tonight’, the contradiction is fed further as the angelic sound of the choir interchanges with Slash tearing it up on the guitar. There seems to be a reoccurring metaphorical theme of immortality, with the potential to turn out a lie. Osbourne doesn’t dwell on this anxiety for too long, as he quickly jumps back to reality. After all, he is the ant-snorting, bat-eating (or maybe dove), nude-fighting fable, which, in the world of Ozzy Osbourne, is the equivalent of ‘the man, the myth, the legend’. To prove the point, just give a listen to ‘Eat Me’, a muse for which was the real-life German cannibal.
Each composition keeps the listener in anticipation of the progression, as Ozzy has never been one for a stable arrangement. With the constant change in tempo from fast to slow, tracks like ‘Goodbye’ are a sonic rollercoaster with a slightly morbid tone. But don’t be fooled, this song is nothing but the singer saying fuck you in a very Ozzy fashion.
It would not be a true Osbourne album without a touch of narcissism, which he acknowledges very eloquently. ‘Straight To Hell’ is basically the musician saying, ‘I can make you do whatever I want, and you will do it’. That is the power of a true legend. If you listen closely enough, there are notes of humor in songs like ‘Scary Little Green Man’, the inspiration for which was drawn from a TV show about aliens. The intense use of back vocals makes it sound ironically serious, while in reality, the whole experience is a joy ride through the imagination. It is almost like the Great Ozz is here to read us a story.
Osbourne seems to be embracing the new generation of rock stars with open arms. In Ordinary Man the arms are wide open for Post Malone and Travis Scott. The beauty of all the icons featured on the album is that they are still heard unmistakably, rather than in the shadow of Ozzy’s dynamic sound. To no surprise Slash’s incredible skills are like lighting in almost every track, while Chad Smith is explosive on ‘Eat Me’ and ‘Scary Little Green Man’. It’s a pretty easy task to picture such a mix of people enjoying an afternoon tea while discussing the elegant tales of their epochal lives. But seeing Ozzy Osbourne’s name alongside Post Malone does leave a degree of doubt, on paper that is. What should have been James Cameron meets Quentin Tarantino of music, turned out incredibly natural. ‘It’s a Raid’ might very well be the most post-hardcore sound on the album. The melodic chaos is an actual musical raid in the ears of the listener, leaving us wanting a visual experience to go along with it.
Many believe that Ordinary Man might be Ozzy Osbourne’s last rodeo (even though we hope for the opposite), if this is to be true the ride will be one to remember. Starting from all the names on the release and closing with the ecstasy of sounds, everything about it screams Ozzy. Coming from someone who is doing this ‘for fun’, the album is full of contemplation which is often followed by the quirky lines of a true Englishman like ‘do they sell tea in heaven?’. This album is Ozzy Osbourne hosting us to his finest entertainment and at the end of the day, it’s a hell of a good listen too.