As if to inflame parental ire while invoking maximum metal imagery, Ozzy Osbourne, metamorphosed into a slimy bat-winged demon, rises from bubbling brimstone goo on the cover of The Ultimate Sin, his latest best-selling album. Despite the fundamentalist-baiting tactics of a packaging scheme that screeches sex, death and damnation (the kids, of course, love this ersatz satanic cartoonery), the innards of The Ultimate Sin reveal the Oz as a loony comic character whose malevolent shtick is but a scrim covering a benevolent and compassionate soul. With the force of his voice and a Gothic-metal sensibility to back him up (Ozzy, it must be remembered, is the original perpetrator of this shit), the Oz is, at core, a clown, and his secret, like that of all the great showbiz bozos before him, is a tight connection to the pathos of the human condition in this case, the heroic confrontation with the terrors of adolescence.
On The Ultimate Sin, Ozzy Osbourne provides his fans with the weaponry to deal with the Armageddon of adult consciousness. Coming of age is a matter of spiritual warfare, the grown-up world is a scary gray swirl, and it's only the very young who have the gift of clear black-and-white vision. Ozzy is able to decipher global politics with a single lucid hook, as in "Thank God for the Bomb," the most ironic plea for peace in the rock lexicon. Against grinding hydrogen guitars and a "Nuke ya nuke ya" chorus, the Oz points to the fact that since the dropping of the big one, there hasn't been an all-out world conflagration.
Psychic warfare between generations is inherent in The Ultimate Sin. On the title track, Ozzy decries the vampirism of intolerance, the fascism in the heart that would rob him of his Ozness. This theme continues on "Never Know Why," wherein Ozzy gives the PMRC and their ilk the business: "You've missed that message that says it all." And the message rings through the boiling megametal mix with the crackling immediacy of a dispatch from the front: "You'll never know why/We rock rock rock." Ozzy tips his hand as to the reason on "Secret Loser," a moody confessional where he reveals his fragility and vulnerability, his coming to grips with the universal demons of isolation and existential horror: "Trapped in a lonely body I'm losin' control/Can't show my emotions and I'm losing my soul/Could it be that I'm obsessed with feeding my disease."
Deep in the young heart is the fear that life is a lengthy proposition, that one is inadequate to the challenges of existence. In his admission of this kind of frailty, Ozzy assumes the mantle of a champion. Kids need this kind of understanding and identification. It gives force and conviction to the trauma and confusion. That's why they rock. (RS 472)
(Posted: Apr 24, 1986)
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