The Prince of Darkness — the king of heavy metal since its conception — Ozzy Osbourne, is back. After a near-decade sabbatical from music, he released “Ordinary Man” in 2020, then immediately announced its successor, “Patient Number 9,” which came out Sept. 9.
A man most of us thought was lost for good to drug addiction has me shocked. Truly shocked.
We’ve all seen the “Someone has been in my room and taken my beers” clip showing Osbourne … round the bend … but I can say confidently that it hasn’t stopped him from making great music with his iconic shrieking vocals.
This hour-long album opens up with its namesake, “Patient Number 9,” a song more than 7 minutes long, featuring Jeff Beck. Setting the Halloween-y tone for the rest of the album, we see Osbourne’s continued trend toward the more popular end of the heavy metal spectrum.
Beck’s two solos show an impressive opening, overshadowing the overly-autotuned and chorus-focused vocals Osbourne gives us.
The next few tracks get continuously better and less pop-derived, seeing features from his former lead guitarist Zakk Wylde, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi and Eric Clapton.
Both “Immortal” and “Parasite” are good, but not great. I won’t remember them as stars of the show. McCready’s solo on the former reminded me of the late Eddie Van Halen and compiled a much more steady track, but mostly felt like filler in the end.
Fortunately, Iommi’s feature on “No Escape From Now” is the overwhelming highlight of the album. What felt like Black Sabbath’s return, this track’s strong guitar-backing had my jaw on the floor and my brain in a puddle for every second until it ended.
It pointed out what the few forgettable misses like “A Thousand Shades” and “Nothing Feels Right” should have been, instead of the pop-derivative, chorally-repetitive crap that felt wildly unlike Osbourne.
Osbourne’s and Iommi’s collaboration on this album just had me wishing they did the entire album together.
“One of Those Days” proved Eric Clapton’s continued worth in the modern age with a weeping solo, though it certainly wasn’t gentle. It included the most profound lyric on the album, “One of those days that I don't believe in Jesus.”
Once you hit “A Thousand Shades,” you start to realize why there are so many features on this album. This track felt like a throwaway they couldn’t afford to let go, adding a big-name guitar to the credits just to save it from the garbage can.
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I can’t say I’m disappointed, however, as Zakk Wylde impresses on the next three tracks, showing what was missing after his hiatus from being Osbourne’s guitar lead.
The most fleshed-out lyrics of the album thus far come from “Mr Darkness,” backed up by another Wylde solo that had me headbanging.
“Evil Shuffle,” Wylde’s third track in that stretch, should have been the single over the previous “Nothing Feels Right.” It samples elements from contemporary pop metal without becoming it, and its interesting, unique lyrics and extra-heavy guitar backing show Osbourne can still impress without bringing in unfamiliar faces for name recognition.
Definitely a favorite of the album.
After the only other Iommi feature on the album, “Degradation Rules,” that felt vocally over-produced and ruined Iommi’s masterful shredding, we see the final three-track stretch of the album.
Those three are also the only three tracks to be without credited features on the album.
“Dead and Gone” is the most impressive track, lyrically speaking. It’s insightful and diverse, though otherwise underwhelming, while “God Only Knows” credits (without a feature) Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction on guitar, though you wouldn’t notice, probably hence the lack of a feature.
The closer, however, “DARKSIDE BLUES,” originally came as a bonus track to 2020’s “Ordinary Man.” This slow, old western-esque, melancholy blues jam was written with positive lyrics and upbeat tones. I’m confused, but I wouldn’t have asked for something different.
Overall, I was beyond pleasantly surprised with how fleshed out this album was. Osbourne’s lyrics never miss, and the lineup felt like a supergroup with credits from everyone already mentioned, the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Chad Smith, Metallica’s Robert Trujillo, Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Duff McKagan and the late, great Taylor Hawkins on drums.
Besides the few overly derivative tracks — which hurt coming from Black Sabbath’s frontman — I found this to be full of hits.
My big critique: this should’ve been one, 90-minute double LP with “Ordinary Man.” An hour-long album needs to be worth the hour, and “Patient Number 9” should’ve been three songs shorter.
Regardless, as we approach the 5oth anniversary of the metal classic, Black Sabbath’s “Vol. 4,” this album reminded me of the glory years of heavy metal, sounding like Sabbath without copying it, getting me viscerally into it for almost every moment.
I’m going to be on the lookout for an American tour announcement because after this, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I missed it.
To compile a rating for the entire album, I gave each track a score out of 10, resulting in a 93/130, or…