Ozzy Osbourne, referred to as the Prince Of Darkness, is the lead singer of Black Sabbath, the band that gave us the first true heavy metal album almost 60 years ago. As a solo artist, Ozzy is back with album #12, Ordinary Man, out as of February 21, 2020 via Epic Records, and it may be his best work since 1995’s Ozzmosis. Unlike certain records in the past, Ordinary Man isn’t grasping for nostalgia. Alongside a good share of ballads and slower tracks, the backing is significantly heavier than what Ozzy’s had in years.
The record ensembles an all-star feature list from Slash (Slash feat. Myles Kennedy/The Conspirators/Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver) on lead guitar, Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver) on bass and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) on drums. Adding in a few vocal cameos from the likes of Elton John and Post Malone and you’ve surpassed a star-studded super group backing up The Godfather of Heavy Metal.
“Straight to Hell” caught my attention as a pre-released single but takes on new life as an album opener. The chants in the beginning are a great way to set the tone. When Ozzy finally comes in a cappella in the verse, I get chills. The line “I’ll make you scream, I’ll make you defecate,” is something that ONLY The Madman can pull off without being the most corny thing I’ve ever heard. The song has some classic Ozzy elements but is a lot heavier than anything he’s put out in a while.
“All My Life” is, at times, soft and melodic then hits you out of nowhere with grinding, grungy bass and guitar riffs in unison, a staple of all of the bands Slash and McKagan have shared. It also features maybe the most “Slash” guitar solo on the album. He can shred and it really shines here. “Goodbye” is my favorite type of Ozzy song, with a new twist. It’s slow and menacing with vocals that are eerie and dissonant. The difference here is the sheer heaviness of the backing band. Sometimes slower tracks don’t come across as heavy, but I felt this song in my chest. At the midway point it takes off and becomes a different song entirely. The transition is seamless. The track ends in an explosion, is heavy and intense and houses some of the most musically-sound work on the record.
“Ordinary Man” is one of the strongest collaborations I’ve heard in years. Ozzy brought his old friend, Elton John, on to play piano and add vocals to the title track. This is the closest to an “old school Ozzy” ballad we get on the album, at least in its entirety. The chorus is amazing and gets stuck in my head for days at a time. It’s such a reflection of the end of Ozzy’s life and career and makes you wonder whether it was inspired by his recent health problems or just getting to the end of his career. “Under the Graveyard” was the first song I heard from the album and has strong melodies and harmonic vocals. The drums stand out and really push the haunting, larger-than-life chorus over the top.
“Eat Me” starts with a bass solo, so you know it grabbed my attention. The style is more upbeat and fun, something unique to hear Ozzy do. It’s not the most technical song on the record, but it adds a lot of diversity and a lighter approach. “Today is the End” is the song that showcases Ozzy’s talent the most. This dude has pipes, even at 71. His voice is unique, he is a larger-than-life character and his vocals shine through on this track more than they have in years.
“Scary Little Green Men” has alternating verses between isolated drums/vocals and clean guitar/vocals. The end brings all of these segments together for a really big last run. It’s a unique approach stylistically and is unlike anything I’ve heard. “Holy for Tonight” gives us the big Ozzy ballad that he has become known for over the years. This song has a nice build up and serves well to wind down the album.
The final two tracks feature Post Malone, the first being “It’s a Raid,” and is my favorite song on the record. It is fast and furious and something you don’t really associate with Ozzy. The growth on this album from someone who’s been doing this for 50 years is inspiring. The song is fun, heavy and catchy as hell and transitions into the final track, “Take What You Want.” Technically released as a Post Malone single featuring Ozzy, they decided to include it on the record and I’m glad they did. It’s a good song with crossover appeal and great vocal execution.
Ozzy Osbourne is one of my favorite artists, and after 50 years it’s great to see him evolve in the genre he helped put on the map. Ordinary Man has a lot of reflective elements, and with his recent health complications leading to the cancelation of his farewell tour (hysterically titled “No More Tours,” a play on his 1991 record No More Tears), you have to wonder if this may be the farewell album from the former Black Sabbath frontman. If it is, Ozzy ended on a high note.