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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Ozzy Osbourne bats back
Ozzy Osbourne also sings with Black Sabbath
Down to Earth is Ozzy's first solo album for 7 years
By BBC News Online's Brian Wheeler

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Now that metal once more rules the earth, Ozzy Osbourne, the original antichrist superstar, has returned to claim his crown. Pretenders (ie Marilyn Manson) tremble in awe.

To US metal fans, Ozzy has always been the real deal. There are probably grown men in Arkansas who still believe he is, in fact, the antichrist.

He bit the head off a bat, for Christ's sake.

His annual Ozzfest jamboree has cannily introduced him to a whole new generation of parent-bating white children. His career as a public menace has never been in better shape.

Black Sabbath
Ozzy's songs hark back to Black Sabbath classics
It is all very different from the chat show raconteur Ozzy we get in Britain, who plays the birds, the booze, the benders and the bats for the lark it undoubtedly all was.

As a result, Down to Earth, Ozzy's first solo album in seven years, is a curious beast.

On the cover, Ozzy is doing a Marilyn Manson. A skeletal space-Ozzy is stretched out on a crucifix. He is scary.

And make no mistake, the 11 tracks inside rock. In places it could be any Ozzy/Black Sabbath album from 1970.

But there is something a bit perfunctory about it all.

Ozzy's band seem to be trying to get as close to the riff of Paranoid or Iron Man, or one of the other Sabbath classics from the early 70s, without actually copying it.

It is as if someone - perhaps Ozzy himself after a few sherberts - has taken an injunction out against them.

Of course, it could have been a lot worse. Lesser men would have been tempted to do a Slipknot or, God help us, Cradle of Filth.

This is still proper metal with a proper tune. Unfortunately, for the most part it is the same one.

Ozzy Osbourne
A 50-something antichrist with a mortgage
The modern metal fan may be also be disappointed by the lack of swearing. No parental advisory stickers for Ozz.

But there is a hidden message and it is this: Ozzy is a nice guy.

"I'm not the kind of person that you think I am, I am not the antichrist or the iron man," he wails on the opener, Gets Me Through, a "letter to the fans" number pencilled in as the first single.

There is more middle-aged angst on Running Out of Time, while on Alive, he just sounds amazed to still be here. As well he might.

By the middle, the overproduced, layered vocals, swooping soundscapes and Brummie-inflected delivery start to resemble no-one so much as the Electric Light Orchestra.

Ozzy has made an ELO album.

If only the youth of America had discovered satanic intent in Geoff Lynne's bubble perm, things might have turned out very differently.

As it is, we've got Ozzy - a 50-something antichrist with a mortgage to pay, who is worried that he is getting on a bit.

Will the kids buy that? Let's hope so.

After 30 years, countless Sabbath re-unions and 13 solo albums, Ozzy cannot seriously have expected to be still doing this. Let alone still be alive.

Who would begrudge him one last payday?

Down to Earth is released on Monday 15 October by Epic.

See also:

12 Oct 01 | Reviews
Ozzy Osbourne: Your views
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