Reviewed: April 2020
Released: 2020, Epic Records
Reviewer: Jack Merry
Ozzy Osbourne is anything but an ordinary man, despite what the title of his latest effort would have you believe. He’s lived an extraordinary life since bursting onto the music scene with Black Sabbath, jumping from one extreme to another.
The Prince of Darkness released his last studio album, Scream, ten years ago, and it’s a record I always found myself going back to whilst eagerly anticipating his next effort.
Spurred on by a collaboration with US rapper Post Malone on his track ‘Take What You Want’, a move that took every single person on Earth by surprise, Ozzy enjoyed being back in the studio so much that sessions for his new album Ordinary Man began pretty quickly.
Produced by Andrew Watt (California Breed) and featuring some rock royalty in the form of Slash and Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses) and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Ordinary Man went from conception to completion in just four weeks. This gives the majority of the songs a garage-band type feel, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s brash, it’s loud and it’s in-your-face. Just as rock n’ roll should be.
Album opener ‘Straight to Hell’ is a very strong return with choral chants easing us in before the stomping frenetic guitar riffs crashes in, and it’s not long until Ozzy’s unique voice enters the song. “You’re flying higher than a kite tonight, you’ve took the hit and now you feel alright,” he sings, intertwined with powerful guitar punches and a laugh straight from the Vincent Price horror handbook.
‘All My Life’ sees Ozzy looking back on his own childhood and teenage years in a deeply personal and melodic track that switches effortlessly between heartfelt ballad and fist-pumping hard rock. I wasn’t completely sold on a new Ozzy studio effort without his trusty sidekick Zakk Wylde riffing and wailing all over the album at first, but producer Watt does a superb job here all things considered. He largely serves the songs, while also laying down some impressive guitar solos where needed.
‘Goodbye’ and lead single ‘Under the Graveyard’ see the Prince of Darkness facing his own mortality in brutally honest fashion. “Sitting here in purgatory, not afraid to burn in hell” he boldly claims on ‘Goodbye’, whilst coming to the stark realization that “we’re all rotting bones” and that “everything you are, can’t take it when you go” on ‘Under The Graveyard.’ The latter has some gorgeous melodies (you can tell Watt is a pop producer) as a delightfully fuzzy guitar section explodes over a hard rock riff. With all of Ozzy’s health issues and tour postponements making headlines for the last couple of years, ‘Under the Graveyard’ hits hard with its subject matter.
‘Eat Me’ is based on the true story of Armin Meiwes, who put an ad in an online forum asking for someone to come and eat him alive. Someone responded to his post and the rest is history. It’s an intriguing yet disturbing story, worth a Google if you haven’t heard about it. I’m actually surprised it’s taken Ozzy this long to write a song about him, but it’s worth the wait, as the song rocks. Combining some Sabbath-inspired sludge with pop-rock sensibilities, ‘Eat Me’ is a grinding and irresistible track as it grooves and gets itself lodged inside my head for days, even weeks at a time.
Some of Ozzy Osbourne’s best material has been his ballads. To name just a couple, ‘Dreamer’ from Down to Earth and ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’ from No More Tears prove this beyond any doubt, and I’m delighted to announce he has another one to add to that list. Title track ‘Ordinary Man’ featuring the one and only Elton John is one of the best songs Ozzy has ever written, and I’m completely confident saying that. No stranger to extreme living himself, Elton John delivers his lines with such conviction and lays down some beautiful piano parts.
Having watched the superb biopic ‘Rocketman’ not long before reviewing this album, I get it. Elton John being here, on this song, makes absolute sense. Slash also drops another excellent melodic guitar solo and it all clicks together. “Yes I’ve been a bad guy, been higher than the blue sky, and the truth is I don’t wanna die an ordinary man.” They’ve got nothing to worry about, there’s no chance of that.
‘Scary Little Green Men’ is a fun track about alien abduction and men on the moon, one of the most lighthearted Ozzy has put out, with some great hooks and guitar work. Jason Momoa even gets to dress up as Ozzy in the official music video that I’ll share below. ‘It’s a Raid’ is a solid punk track let down by some awful, overly distorted production. The subject of the track is based on Ozzy’s own experience calling the cops on himself during cocaine induced paranoia while on a drug binge at his own house. Post Malone guests on the track, and does his part pretty well, but as I mentioned, the production makes the track near-unlistenable. Perhaps it was a conscious choice, to simulate the rush from cocaine?
Ordinary Man is a solid release, and one that Ozzy Osbourne and co should be extremely proud of. There’s plenty to love here, from nods to early Sabbath (‘Goodbye’ opens similarly to ‘Iron Man,’ whilst ‘Eat Me’ is reminiscent of ‘The Wizard’ with it’s blues harmonica), well-crafted rock songs that will be stuck in your head and great guitar work. I’m sure purists will lament the lack of Zakk Wylde on a new studio effort, but the album came together so quickly there was no time. Maybe Wylde will be back, maybe there will be another record down the line, maybe his No More Tours 2 tour will actually go ahead once Covid-19 goes away, but one thing is for certain: Ozzy Osbourne will absolutely not be dying an ordinary man.
1. Straight to Hell
2. All My Life
4. Ordinary Man (feat. Elton John)
5. Under the Graveyard
6. Eat Me
7. Today is the End
8. Scary Little Green Men
9. Holy for Tonight
10. It’s a Raid (feat. Post Malone)
11. Take What You Want (feat. Travis Scott and Post Malone) (Bonus Track)
Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
Andrew Watt – Guitars
Chad Smith – Drums
Duff McKagan – Bass
Slash – Guitars (track 1 and 4)
Elton John – Piano and vocals (track 4)
‘Ordinary Man’ is available now via Epic Records on all streaming services and online stores.