“I will get back on stage if it f***ing kills me,” bat sommelier of legend Ozzy Osbourne told The Independent recently. Aged 73, and recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Osbourne has rediscovered the determination of the devil. Patient No 9 is his second album in as many years and, like his 2020 comeback album Ordinary Man (released seven years after the Black Sabbath reunion album 13 and a decade on from his previous solo record), it’s a rejuvenated and starry proposition.
While Ordinary Man featured collaborations with Elton John, Post Malone, Tom Morello, Charlie Puth, Travis Scott and most of Guns N’ Roses, Patient No 9 is a roll-call of more hardcore heroes: alongside the returning Roses are Josh Homme, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and various members of Jane’s Addiction, Metallica, Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Foo Fighters’ late drummer Taylor Hawkins makes an appearance too, as does Osbourne’s Black Sabbath demon-in-arms Tony Iommi. The acolytes are gathering in tribute but, considering the contemporary crunch of the album under producer Andrew Watt’s guiding hand, it would be foolhardy indeed to consider Patient No 9 a swansong.
Not that Osbourne himself is brimming with optimism here; from the sound of it his quad biking days are well behind him. “Gone are the yesterdays, tomorrow’s getting cold,” he warbles on the Iommi collaboration “No Escape From Now”. Even though the song’s doom rock dolour eventually bursts into life as Osbourne clambers from the grave in its second half and sets about wreaking undead revenge on his enemies, an anguished fatalism soaks the record. “Mr Darkness” finds him writing a letter to Satan announcing his suicide. “My life has become the setting sun,” he bewails on “God Only Knows”, a canyon metal dirge featuring Dave Navarro that’s as far from a Beach Boys cover as you can get.
His Parkinson’s diagnosis, and the mental ravages of age in general, colour several tracks in particularly tragic tones. The goliath rock title track has him “making friends with strangers inside my head because they seem to know me well” and musing “if there’s a God why’d he let the devil do his work on me?”. On “A Thousand Shades” (of darkness, natch) his memories are “fading like photographs”; album highlight “Nothing Feels Right” finds him being beaten up by his own reflection. He sees little hope for humanity too. “Burning nations” are “dancing in smoke” on the monolithic country rocker “One of Those Days” as Clapton delivers an equally incendiary solo, while “Dead and Gone” notes “a circus of madmen running the show”.
The record is more fun than the lyrics suggest. Watt’s production flirts with Muse’s epic grandeur and the anthemic metal of a Red Rocks Oasis. “Immortal” is a vampiric lark, the open diary of an everyday Nosferatu. And the guest guitarists have the time of their life splurging onto Osbourne’s metallic canvas – Patient No 9 is an air guitarist’s dream. But by the time he’s rhyming “asphyxiation, masturbation, degradation” on the Hawkins co-write “Degradation Rules” – the second Iommi appearance – things are getting a little ridiculous, and at over an hour the record drags. Here’s hoping a triumphant comeback tour inspires a leaner direction for the Prince of Darkness’s late-hour reawakening.