One of the most iconic and polarizing figures in music and cultural history, Ozzy Osbourne, is back with a brand new album of original material in the form of Patient number 9. The album, Osbourne’s second in just under three years, follows the 2020s ordinary mana record that had been quietly accepted by the public as the legend’s final offering.
This does not mean, however, that receiving ordinary man was muted, quite the contrary. Ozzy’s first full-length album in a decade earned the metal master his eighth top-ten solo record, as well as a top-3 debut on the Billboard 200 chart.
Still, there was an unspoken understanding between Ozzy Osbourne and fans that his time in the mortal realm was quickly evaporating. There was apparently a purpose to every project he’d been involved with in recent years; from the reunion album Black Sabbath 13, released in 2013 and billed as the band’s latest offering, to ordinary man itself, peppered with hints of the afterlife and the promise of an inevitable end.
“Today I woke up and I hate myself,” reads the opening lines of “Under the Graveyard.” “Death does not answer when I call for help. No high could save me from the depths of Hell.
It’s not exactly the ideal subject for the first single from an album if you’re the person responsible for marketing said album, but categorically it fits quite closely with the thematic arc of Ozzy Osbourne’s catalog over the half-century that included his legendary career.
Whereas ordinary man played as a meticulously crafted and respectful – if sometimes overproduced – send-off for a rock veteran, Patient number 9 revives an unpredictable and genuinely unsettling quality of Osbourne’s artistry that vividly colored his early work – both solo and as a member of Black Sabbath.
The cartoon madness that rocked MTV audiences throughout the music video for “Bark of the Moon,” the occult inclinations of “Mr. Crowley” and the title track of Black Sabbath’s debut album terrified young listeners tearing the needles from their turntables; the presentation of aesthetics that leads one to wonder if it’s all really an act or if the man is rightfully out of hell, or at the very least certified insane according to real-world standards; these elements are all present for the first time in decades with Patient number 9and they serve to make the record Ozzy’s most compelling release since 1991’s No More Tears.
Much of the album’s perceptible dimension comes from Ozzy Osbourne’s approach to heavily death-focused concepts. This is not a pity party. There’s acceptance, anger, confusion and the downright demented embrace of what is – or maybe isn’t? – come.
Ozzy Osbourne walks a very delicate line throughout, exploring themes fraught with substantial consequences, but whose proverbial offerings have been entirely plundered by decades of genre evolution that have left countless songwriters seeking the reward of a similar macabre and macabre lyricism.
It’s an impressive feat of balance – exploring ideas that have been exploited over and over again, but finding interesting ways to present said ideas in new and interesting ways without losing the familiarity of the idea. initial itself. It’s an approach from which rock – and the blues before it – grew.
The quality is further underscored by the bevy of six-string snipers brought in to augment Ozzy Osbourne’s already stacked backing band – which includes Metallica bassist and Ozzy alumnus Robert Trujillo, drummer for the Reds. Hot Chili Peppers Chad Smith and even the late great Taylor Hawkins. from Foo Fighters, to name a few.
On the guitar side,Patient number 9 boasts appearances from ax legends like Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, as well as proven collaborators like Zakk Wylde and Tony Iommi.
However, the collaborations never feel contrived, as can often be the case with such megastar couples. Iommi and Wylde seem more at ease than ever, providing the Prince of Darkness with a bespoke sonic backdrop for his musings on misery, mortality, and everything in between.
Jeff Beck’s collaborations are almost shockingly effective, the blitzkrieg of harmonics being whipped into a frenzy accentuating Ozzy Osbourne’s manic turns of phrase perfectly.
But perhaps the album’s biggest surprise in terms of features comes from Eric Clapton’s work on “One of These Days,” a track that finds the serious bluesman as engaged as he’s been since his Cream days.
“It’s one of those days when I don’t believe in Jesus,” sneers Ozzy Osbourne in the song’s key lyrics, which, while quite heartbreaking, also happen to be one of the classic’s most evocative examples. “oh I sure am having a bad day” lyric trope.
“Have I lost my mind? Killing myself but I never die,” the song’s second verse continues, continuing the conceptual theme of Ozzy Osbourne’s album not as a dainty, aged statesman, but as an inevitable entity incapable of being completely killed.
Ozzy Osbourne seems to have found an empathetic collaborator in the return of producer Andrew Watt – who seems genuinely invested in not just capitalizing on the name and legacy of The Prince of Darkness, but in forging a new musical path for the rock legend. .
“Mr. Darkness” plays like a heavy metal reimagining of Eminem’s “Stan,” with Osbourne obsessively searching for a match with the mysterious figure from whom the song takes its name – in all likelihood the allegorical personification of death itself.
“God Only Knows” brings Jane’s Addiction guitarist and former Red Hot Chili Pepper Dave Navarro on board for a slow-burning arena anthem that, in a way, is reminiscent of the Elton John-assisted title track from the 2020s. ordinary man.
Wylde-assisted “Evil Shuffle” echoes the paranoid-era sabbath with its “War Pigs” style breaks in instrumentation and swing tempo. While the title of the song might sound rather on the nose, it works, and for most of the same reasons cuts like “NIB” and “The Writ” did all those years ago.
To that end, perhaps the most welcome aspect of the album is the return of the B-Movie Horror aesthetic present in much of Osbourne’s most popular material.
Once the proverbial doors were blown off their hinges by the early days of Black Sabbath, swarms of budding young musicians formed bands in which they would attempt – often successfully, it should be noted – to make music even scarier than that of their heroes.
As a result, there were attempts to amp up the “realism” of horror, which of course stripped the concept of what made it initially appealing. It’s the same line of thinking that would drive the overdone, impossibly unnecessary – albeit numerically stunning – 2019 remake of The Lion King; a project that fell remarkably short of the quality of its source material despite having a theoretical advantage thanks to its massive $260 billion budget – not to mention more than 20 years of technological advances that have been made between the theatrical releases of the two movies.
But back to horror-oriented metal of which Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath were arguably the most important founding figures: to call it cheesy wouldn’t be quite accurate. It’s terrifying in the same way evil Dead is terrifying, in that its country side allows for greater suspension of disbelief, and subsequently, greater return on the investment that is the experience of the work itself.
In short, it can be difficult to detach from the physical world in which one exists in the most literal sense, and even more so when the escape is cluttered with incessant reminders of this physical world and, therefore, of the patently clear notion that the exciting world in which we try to get lost is undoubtedly just a bunch of weirdos.
Realism can be important, and it can be quite effective. But trying to manifest a faithful replica of the reality of the world itself through the abstract dimension of artistic expression would undoubtedly be an exercise in futility. But the line between cold, hard reality and fantastic mythological worlds is one that Ozzy Osbourne has deftly walked for many, many years.
Additionally, Ozzy Osbourne has always been willing to tackle new concepts either because of a security in the knowledge that he will be able to bring something unique to the table, or because of a complete and utter disregard for others’ perceptions of his choice – possibly both.
It’s also the discipline to commit to the essentials – the meat and potatoes of the process, so to speak. Credit here should in all likelihood be at least shared with Watt, who is able to muster this corral of combustible musical elements into a unified front, avoiding the frequent pitfall of star-studded affairs in that they can often play more compilations than of singular bodies to work.
Watt managed to accomplish a similar feat with Eddie Vedder’s Earthling earlier this year, and with a similar assemblage of musical forces nonetheless. Watt, along with Vedder himself and Chili Peppers alumnus Josh Klinghoffer, contributed guitar on the record, while Smith was on drums.
Ozzy Osbourne delivers a fantastic vocal performance, despite a diagnosis of Parkinson’s – originally revealed in 2020 – and 73 years of unabashedly intense living. The godfather of heavy metal even blows a bit of harmonica on Iommi’s second feature from the album, “Degradation Rules.”
Patient number 9, Ozzy Osbourne’s 13th album, is a surprise triumph for the metal pioneer. While newer offerings such as ordinary manand its ten-year-old predecessor, Scream, certainly have something to offer, especially for hardcore fans, Patient number 9 is representative of a level of quality rarely achieved by active industry veterans.
As for Ozzy Osbourne himself, his last contact with musical craftsmanship of this magnitude probably occurred during the administration of George HW Bush, and possibly even before.
What Ozzy Osbourne, Watt and company have accomplished with Patient number 9 is truly a marvel to behold, and if – God forbid – this should be the last full offering fans receive from The Prince of Darkness, to be remembered as worthy of one of the most compelling legacies and the most significant in the history of popular music.
Ozzy Osbourne: Patient Number 9 Album Review article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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