Ozzy Osbourne on the band that blew him away: “The crowds were going absolutely nuts”

It’s no mean feat trying to compete with someone like Ozzy Osbourne. Aside from his turn in the 2000s to being the bumbling father of the Osbourne clan on television, ‘The Prince of Darkness’ still cuts quite the intimidating figure whenever he lurks onto the stage, playing up his role as one of the founders of heavy metal. For all of his credentials as a solo artist, Osbourne knew how to pick great opening acts, and Metallica had gotten him worried when they first got on the road with him.

By the time Osbourne had left Black Sabbath, the world was already a lot different than the one that he had familiarised himself with during the 1970s. After making albums like Master of Reality, Osbourne’s dismissal following Never Say Die meant that he had to start at ground zero in an age when bands like Iron Maiden were kicking things up a notch.

Osbourne may have had an ace in the hole with Randy Rhoads behind the fretboard, but his death after the album Diary of a Madman led to him soldiering on with a revolving cast of musicians behind the fretboard. He may have had his own sound, but whatever Osbourne could do in his solo career, Metallica made things much heavier.

Even though any member of Metallica would claim to be a massive Sabbath fan, their way of embracing genres like punk practically invented the sound of thrash metal. There had been fast Sabbath songs in the past, like ‘Symptom of the Universe’, but tracks like ‘Seek and Destroy’ and ‘Hit the Lights’ were the sound of Metallica taking the Sabbath model and pumping it with adrenaline.

While the first major bands Osbourne took out on tour were hair metal acts like Mötley Crüe, he knew he had to step up his game when he heard them perform for the first time. Instead of the pop-flavoured metal Osbourne was used to, these guys were playing long episodic songs that had one hook every couple of minutes.

When talking to Behind the Music, Osbourne maintained that Metallica was one of the hardest acts he had to follow on tour, saying, “They were really giving me a run for my money, the crowds were going absolutely nuts for them”. As much as the band were flattered, guitarist Kirk Hammett admitted they were slightly intimidated.

Speaking with Gibson, Hammett was almost mortified hearing someone like Osbourne hold them in such high esteem, explaining, “I remember seeing an interview with Ozzy, and he said, ‘When Metallica were on tour, they blew us off every night’, and I was like ‘Sheesh’. That’s quite a lot for someone like Ozzy to say…We would watch Ozzy’s show, and [he] went down like he was the master of the universe”.

Although Osbourne’s 1980s material fit pretty snuggly between traditional heavy metal and hair metal, there’s a good chance that he was taking notes from what Metallica was doing as well. Once the thrash titans went for mainstream success with songs like ‘Enter Sandman’, Osbourne had started getting heavier as well, trading in the licks of Jake E Lee for the ballsy approach of Zakk Wylde.

For as much as Osbourne could have coaxed by playing the same type of music, he never stopped listening when he became famous. He was still willing to learn, and there’s no way a song like ‘No More Tears’ or ‘Miracle Man’ could have happened without a song like ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ coming first.

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