Sound — 7
If you pick up a copy of Black Rain and think that you're buying another Blizzard of Ozz style album, then you may be disappointed. In my honest opinion, this album is not traditional Ozzy (IE. Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of a Madman, Randy Rhoads Tribute) but it's still Ozzy, in a more modern sense. The majority of the heavier songs sound like they have more of a "Thunder Underground" or "Gets Me Through" vibe to them than anything else. It's just simple stuff, but extremely heavy and aggressive. Ozzy said this was the first album that he has recorded sober, so that may be the reason for some of the lyrical content, which I'll explain later. Other than that, the biggest disappointment I had was Zakk Wylde's solos. It seems like he's used up all his soloing ideas on previous Ozzy albums and his own Black Label Society records. Don't get me wrong, there's some really good solos on a few songs, like "I Don't Wanna Stop" and "Silver." But on the other songs, I just felt like I had heard it before. The ballads are incredible though, and they have the perfect solos in them for that kind of vibe.
Lyrics — 8
As I stated before, this is the first cd Ozzy has done sober, and it shows in a few songs. I'll run through the tracks and give a basic interpretation of what I think each one means. 01. "Not Going Away" - A pretty good track. My favorite line is "When all your diamonds turn to sand." It's a lyric that I can actually visualize when I hear it. It also has a speedy Zakk Wylde solo, which is actually quite long. I think this song is pretty much a relentless Ozzy singing about how his career isn't over, thus he's "Not Going Away." 02. "I Don't Wanna Stop" - One of my favorites and the first single off Black Rain. "Not Going Away" and "I Don't Wanna Stop" has the same feel to me. It's pretty much Ozzy preaching about how his career isn't over, and how he just doesn't want to stop. The lyrics are pretty heavy in this one. In one part, he says "I'm like a junkie without an addiction," thus reinforcing that he is finally clean and sober. The solo is one of my favorites too. It's classic Zakk Wylde, and really shows that he can dominate the instrument. 03. "Black Rain" - The main track of the album. It's pretty slow, dark, and doomy. The lyrical content is based around war. It has sort of a middle eastern, arabic, egyptian flow to it. It's hard to explain, but once you hear it, you'll understand. This song has some of the best lyrics on the entire cd, so I won't quote any parts of it. If you're looking for another song following the "War Pigs" subject style, look no farther than "Black Rain." 04. "Lay Your World On Me" - Another one of my favorites. It's the first ballad-type song on the cd, and quite frankly, I think it rocks. Some of Ozzy's best laid back songs include "Time After Time", "Dreamer", and "Road To Nowhere", and I think "Lay Your World On Me" should be added to those greats. I believe that this may be a song to his fans, saying that he's there when you need him. A lot of people tend to listen to music when they want to escape the world around them, and I think Ozzy is just saying that it's alright with him if you use him as an exit to get away from your problems. The solo on this one is simple, but still great. Zakk really captures the mood needed, and it reminds me of the beginning of the "No More Tears" solo. 05. "The Almighty Dollar" - Yet another favorite. It deals with the greed issue that the world has (probably mostly aimed at America) and how we might as well just be worshipping money. The breaks in the chorus, in which Ozzy says "God Bless the Almight Dollar", will give you goosebumps. This track reminds me of a Nine Inch Nails song, with the beat and the vocal effects during the verse, and the keyboard near the end reminds me of something I'd hear on Silent Hill. The solo is definitely not Zakk's best, but it works out, and doesn't bring the song down any. 06. "Silver" - A decent track. I'm pretty sure that the lyrics in this song has to do with drug addiction and how he just needs it one more time to keep everything rolling. The solo is the highlight on this song. It's my favorite, and in my opinion, by far the best solo on the entire album. It's a mix of melodic phrases and Zakk Wylde's signature speed. 07. "Civilize the Universe" - Another decent track, but not the best. The lyrics talk about Ozzy's view of the world and how things just keep getting worse. The solo seems rushed in the beginning, and just doesn't seem to serve the song. Overall, this track seems to be a weaker point on the album. 08. "Here For You" - Another Ozzy ballad. This one is a little bit hard for me to interpret. Sections of it make me think that it may be talking about the death of someone, while other parts make me think it's aimed at a certain individual. "Lay Your World On Me" and "Here For You" may be sending the same message out, but it's hard to tell. The solo is great. It's a little short, but it serves the song quite well. 09. "Countdown's Begun" - Mediocre. The beginning of this one will make you think it's another laid back track, but it gets doomy about 30 seconds in. It seems to be another song about war, and the "countdown" may represent the set amount of time until the end of the world. The solo is pretty mellow when it's compared to the subject material of the lyrics. 10. "Trap Door" - Heavy. It's heavy. There isn't much to say other than that. I can't interpret the meaning of the lyrics, but the chorus part "Too late, standing on the trap door" makes me think that maybe it's about being in a situation that you can't get out of. This track doesn't have a solo, or at least I couldn't hear it. There's a lot of heavy Zakk Wylde riffage, and a certain melody he plays during the chorus, but other than that, the only thing I heard that was even close to a solo was a section where Wylde cranks out 3 notes through a wah pedal.
Overall Impression — 7
I don't think this is Ozzy's best album, but I think it's decent considering the times. It's more modern and he makes it work somehow. Ozzy voice isn't the same as it was on Blizzard of Ozz, but of course he's getting older, so that's probably the cause of that. It just seems like he's singing with more bass than when he used to sing higher, but he can still pull it off. Zakk Wylde's solo's are still there, and I think he is best represented on the track "Silver." Other than that, it's still an Ozzy record, just like I heard Zakk Wylde promise in an interview. The main worry I have is the "Trap Door" track. When I didn't hear a solo, I panicked. It makes me speculate on whether or not he may be do a solo-less album in the future. As far as I'm concerned, Ozzy still "has it", but only time will tell if keeps it or not.