Review Summary: Perhaps Ozzy's best 21st century album
Despite yet another six year gap, 2007’s Black Rain essentially doubles down on all the elements from 2001’s Down to Earth. The contemporary influences are still going strong with plenty of thick chugs and simple rhythms to go around. The lyrics are also still focused on those personable themes with some social commentary thrown in and they aren’t trying to hide all the pitch correction and robotic effects on Ozzy’s voice at this point.
Yet somehow… I don’t hate it?
Some of that could be due to my personal nostalgia, but the execution feels much more committed this time around. Kevin Churko’s production has more oomph to it and the musicians feel much more involved with Zakk’s guitar work sounding particularly vibrant. There may still not be anything too flashy happening but the band sounds tight with the most energetic playing on an Ozzy album since No More Tears.
The songwriting also sufficiently owns up to the stadium metal premise. “I Don’t Wanna Stop” is the best song that Rob Zombie never wrote between its hard driving bass line, flowing vocals, bouncy chugs, and even the strings at the midway point giving me Sinister Urge flashbacks. Nothing else ever reaches that high but I do like the trudges on the title track and “Countdown’s Begun” as well as the faster poundings on “11 Silver” and the closing “Trap Door.”
On the flip side, there are about as many blunders as there are winners here. ”Not Going Away” feels like an odd choice for an opener, making sense when you consider the defiant lyrics but feeling like a clunky start musically. “The Almighty Dollar” also feels a little awkward despite the rare bass-driven verses and the ballads definitely touch on the overbearing side of saccharine for my taste. Thankfully these are still a step above the fluff pieces that crippled Down to Earth.
It isn’t too much of an accomplishment for Black Rain to be Ozzy’s best solo album in the 21st century, but it manages to be decent enough in its own right. It’s got the usual hangups with lesser songs and an excessively clean pop presentation, but it benefits from more impactful musicianship. It feels almost like a 2000s update of something like The Ultimate Sin in some ways, using its Black Label Society meets Rob Zombie sound to drive its vapid but entertaining songs. It’s unrealistic to expect Ozzy to deliver an album of No More Tears quality ever again, but I’d probably settle for another Black Rain.