Ozzy Osbourne - The Ultimate Sin review
|Album:||The Ultimate Sin|
|Release date:||February 1986|
01. The Ultimate Sin
02. Secret Loser
03. Never Know Why
04. Thank God For The Bomb
06. Lightning Strikes
07. Killer Of Giants
08. Fool Like You
09. Shot In The Dark
The Ultimate Sin is probably the least spoken about album released by Ozzy Osbourne, an album that is oft forgotten about except for one song when discussing the man's back catalogue. While it is not his brightest hour, the album is no write off, resulting in some of the most underrated material in his solo career. Do yourself a favour and give it another spin if you have largely disowned it; there is some solid material here.
For an album that is widely regarded as Ozzy Osbourne's low point, selling out and cashing in on the then pre-dominant glam scene, it fares much better than many of Ozzy's contemporaries in Judas Priest and Celtic Frost when they too flirted with the hair metal sound. Sure, this album isn't some hidden gem, but it isn't the disaster some label it to be; underneath the peroxide hairspray and spandex there is still enough quality that allows the album to hold onto some semblance of his past glories than leap head first into glam.
While few of these songs have gone on to be prominently featured in any discussion of Ozzy Osbourne's greatest hits, don't take this is as a dismissal of all the material on here. Sure, it is a step back from Bark At The Moon and what had come before, but it's not a write off by far. "Shot In The Dark" is probably the one song your eye will be drawn to when this album is brought up and for good reason, but while this is easily one of the brightest moments on the album and deserves its place high up in the echelons of Ozzy's best work, it isn't the sole stand out. The title track and "Secret Loser" are otherwise great tracks that should at least be mentioned in any discussion of Ozzy's best work.
With all that said, however, there is one track that deserves a place ahead "Shot In The Dark" and that would be "Killer Of Giants". An atmospheric and wispy epic that builds from a melancholic acoustic refrain supported well by Moran's keys into a mid-paced epic that stomps as it sways between restrained power and letting itself loose. The song is hindered by the production on the album (more on that later) so it could be so much better than it is here, but it is still one to be reckoned with in its current form.
The one thing you can always give credit to Ozzy (or more likely Sharon) for is that he surrounds himself with a good group of musicians; indeed, given this is an attempt to catch the zeitgeist of the time, the choice of musicians works doubly well as they're adept at writing to capture that audience. Jake E. Lee is able to re-route his guitar parts so that he can appeal to both fans of old and the new fanbase the band are hoping to attract, flashy but with a good amount of bite behind the lipstick. Castillo manages to inject energy and dynamism in a collection of mid-paced songs, giving each track a sense of uniqueness and ensuring they don't blend together. Soussan plays between Lee and Castillo and manages to bridge these two parts together, adding a strong middle to the songs that ensures the music isn't flat behind the flair.
As with any glam record (particularly from those over compensating to try and get in with that audience) there are many moments where the band jump the shark and put out some regrettable material that does not age well. The chorus to "Never Know Why" serves as a road bump that the song hits every few minutes to breas up what is an otherwise good song, the rest of which does have some level of thought put into it, whereas the chorus sounds like a rushed job slapped onto the track to make sure it had something there. "Fool Like You" plays out as if the band regurgitated the most bland glam song after they had spent hours listening to the genre to learn what should be included in such a track; as a result, it sounds like a very pedestrian take on the genre, imitation rather than inspiration.
The production is very much a product of its time, as the guitars are red hot and pushed high in the mix and flashy; while this does give Lee's solos a perfect platform on which to shine, it's very lightweight in the rhythm section as a trade off. Soussan's bass has a good sound to it but for much of the album it is very much in the background; when it is audible, he fills in the space left by the lack of a second guitarist and does so admirably.
The main issue however is with the drums, Castillo is punching these drums hard but there is a lack of power in the mix from them, sounding flat and with any echo muted out so the cymbals crash but do not ring. During "Secret Loser" in particular, his drum rolls sound hollow and almost like they are made of cardboard; had his drums had a better sound, the song would be vastly better than it is.
Ozzy himself is probably the worst aspect of this album; he doesn't do anything particularly bad but he seems like a shell of his former self, singing listlessly and with zero conviction, sounding like he's fulfilling an obligation rather than wanting to be there. Whether it was due to his aversion to the music he was given or (more likely due to) being at one of his reported lowest ebbs chemically, he puts no power into his vocals and as a result the apathy is transferred to you, as you find yourself shrugging your shoulders rather than raising the horns as well. Ozzy has still got his voice and could have put more energy into this but alas he doesn't; he sings empty of emotion and with no connection to the material.
The other thing I take umbrage with on The Ultimate Sin is the cover art, good god is it ugly; I know it was the 80's but come on, even by that low bar it still manages to limbo beneath it. Whereas the previous three record covers looked cheap, at least they had that charm to them, this is just urgh.
The biggest issues with this record are not the songs on the record; for the most part they waver between good and great, save 1 or 2 mis-steps. The biggest issues on The Ultimate Sin are more to do with not doing justice to such strong material. While saying it isn't the worst record by Ozzy doesn't seem to be very high praise, for a record that has for the most part been left to the dust, it is to draw attention to this record without over exaggerating its qualities that I hope to bring to the fore.
||Written on 19.07.2020 by|
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