Ozzy Osbourne may be content to cultivate his image as rock's village idiot, but when it comes to heavy metal, he's no dolt. He realizes, for example, that a massive sound isn't enough. The physics of hard rock makes velocity the coefficient of mass in determining a band's impact, and the formula that Osbourne's worked out for Diary of a Madman assures optimum use of both.
As you'd expect, the songs here are little more than riffs with a vocal line pasted on top. They're barely original yet perfectly serviceable, thanks to Osbourne's X factor, guitarist Randy Rhoads. A flashy, powerhouse performer, Rhoads is a junior-league Eddie Van Halen bustling with chops but somewhat short on imagination. Rhoads' limitations never get in the way, though, because they keep his playing as thuddingly direct as the rest of the group's. And in the long run, that's what makes this record satisfying. Since heavy-metal music is so rigidly formalized, the trick is to maintain the conventions without being straitjacketed by them. It's a trick that Osbourne's madmen know by heart.
If only Ozzy Osbourne knew enough to keep his lyrics off the inner sleeve. It's one thing to call an album Diary of a Madman, quite another to reprint the pages. (RS 362)
(Posted: Feb 4, 1982)