Ozzy Osbourne’s thirty-year solo career has always been a hit-and-miss affair. Take away his first two albums and the opening pair of the Zakk Wylde era and you’re left with maybe one full CD of good songs. Scream, his tenth studio release and only the third in a decade (not counting the surprisingly passable Undercover), probably brings that tally up to another half a disc’s worth. Having read a bunch of reviews long before I actually got to hear this in its entirety, I’d already dismissed this as less than worthless, but if you can get over the fact that Ozzy’s vocals are now more processed than ever and that it doesn’t sound that different from anything he’s done since 1990, then without it being anything more than average it’s fair to say I found it better than it had been painted.
Scream is the first Osbourne album in 22 years not to feature Zakk Wylde, whose role is taken here by Greek facemelter Gus G — a dude who was only 7 years old when Zakk took over from Jake E. Lee. At first, the difference is almost unnoticeable thanks to the familiar-sounding sludgy riffs and guitar tone. But Gus is a more lyrical and diverse player than Wylde, and if there’s anyone who shines here, it’s him. He solos with colour and flair without overpowering the song (what there is of it) or falling back on the endless repetition of pinch harmonics. He also adds a hauntingly Rhoads-like intro to “Diggin’ Me Down”, which is far and away the album highlight. Most of the rest are patently generic Ozzy Osbourne songs without much to distinguish them from any of the others he’s pumped out over the last few albums, except for being somewhat better than most. “Let Me Hear You Scream” has a truly immense singalong chorus and “Let it Die” steals a little bit from Black Sabbath and to these ears a tiny bit from Rob Zombie, but that could be the spectacular amount of processing on Ozzy’s voice that makes him sound barely human. “Life Won’t Wait” is his standard ballad, but not really one of his better ones (are there any?) and “Latimer’s Mercy” is a stand-out late in the piece.
As usual, Scream is Ozzy doing enough, and that’s it. It’s probably better than the last three Zakk Wylde albums, but that isn’t saying a lot.