Over the past year or so, Ozzy Osbourne has been going through hell. He has overcome a serious staph infection, and now he’s recovering from a fall that has forced him to postpone nearly two years of tour dates. And now that he’s on his journey back, judging from his new single, “Under the Graveyard,” the Prince of Darkness does not sound pleased.
The tune is a heartbreaking elegy for himself — “Death doesn’t answer when I cry for help,” he sings over stark acoustic guitar in the first verse — and the self-pity would make it too sad to listen to if it weren’t for prayers of hope like “I don’t wanna be my enemy” and “I ain’t livin’ this lie no more” jutting out of the shadows like bones in a catacomb.
Then again, doom and gloom is what makes an Ozzy song great, and it’s what makes this one a keeper. The ornately gothic acoustic guitars recall his classic, morose songs “Diary of a Madman” and “Killer of Giants,” while the crushing heavy riffs toward the end of the song evokes the Sabbath swing. But it also sounds wholly new for Ozzy, who (unbelievably?) collaborated with Post Malone producer Andrew Watt on the track and subsequently tried a few new things in the process.
There has never been a turnaround in an Ozzy song before like the track’s “Don’t take care of me/Be scared of me” prechorus, which almost sounds caught between a tango and a Texas shuffle and yet still like a modern pop song — and somehow it fits. Plus, Watt played guitar on the track, and even though he plays pretty standard rock & roll pentatonic spitfire licks in the solo, he uses guitar effects that also sound sort of robotic, giving the tune a postmodern feel for Ozzy. It comes down to combo of Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith in the rhythm section to give the song a live feel, which, when combined with Watt’s experiments, makes the song feel fresh yet not too far afield.
The jury’s still out on the wording of “under the graveyard” — is it sort of like a tar pit where bones have liquefied with time and dripped down beneath the sepulchers? — but the sentiment cuts through. Ozzy’s sick of toughing out his ailments and he’s ready to move on to the next thing. For as much as it all sounds like wallowing, the tune ends with a warning, or possibly words of encouragement, depending on how you look at it: “We all die alone.” It’s Ozzy saying he’s ready to climb out of the grave and join the living, reaper be damned.
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