Two of metal's most celebrated singers are now on the road together. Ozzy Osbourne may be the headliner, but Rob Halford has burned a legacy that's just as bright over the past 35 years.
Of course, Osbourne would have earned his status even if the only thing he ever did was front Black Sabbath. But his solo albums since 1980 (including the most recent, Scream), a reality-TV gig, and massive festival shows have cemented his place in music history. Still, Halford's credentials are right up there. A few years after Black Sabbath's debut, he was fronting Judas Priest and quickly became one of metal's best and most distinctive singers. He took an extended break from the band in the '90s to focus on other projects — including Halford, the group he's currently fronting and which recently released Halford IV: Made of Metal.
As we rev up for the pair's concert at the Q this weekend, let's take a look at the two legends and see how they stack up.
Heading Out to the Highway
Osbourne fronted Black Sabbath from their 1968 start in Birmingham, England, until he launched a solo career in 1979. They released eight albums together, 75 percent of which are universally accepted as part of metal's foundation.
Halford joined Judas Priest (also based in Birmingham) around the same time, guiding the band from pioneers of complex and ferocious twin-guitar metal to purveyors of compact and hook-filled rock songs, which made them one of the most popular groups of the early '80s.
You've Got Another
Fed up with his lack of inspiration in the late '70s, Black Sabbath fired Osbourne, who quickly rebounded with hotshot guitarist Randy Rhoads and fired off two bestselling albums of melodic hard rock that made him an even bigger star. Despite some ups and downs over the years, Osbourne has retained much of his popularity, some of which can be attributed to the success of his family's MTV show and his headlining spot on Ozzfest tours. But don't overlook the fact that he's also more than likely to say something totally off the wall during an interview.
Eager to pursue new challenges, Halford left Judas Priest in 1991 and released a pair of aggressive albums with the appropriately named band Fight. He then joined Trent Reznor's record label for the industrial project 2wo. A decade ago, Halford formed his more traditional self-named group, which unleashed Resurrection, a deservedly praised return to his glory days with Judas Priest.
Flying High Again
In 1997, Osbourne rescued Black Sabbath from years of increasingly questionable personnel changes and diminishing album sales by reuniting with the original lineup. The band toured together several times but never released a new album. The recent death of Ronnie James Dio has left Black Sabbath once again without a singer, and calls for another reunion are getting loud. "Only if Geezer stops moaning," said Osbourne, referring to Sabbath's bassist, Geezer Butler.
Halford and Priest picked up where they left off with a 2003 reunion, hitting the road several times and releasing a pair of records, including an audacious and somewhat bizarre double concept album about the 16th century prophet Nostradamus.
Halford has taken over Black Sabbath's microphone for three massively bootlegged concerts over the years. But according to a classically trained voice coach who evaluated the frontmen for the metal blog Invisible Oranges, Osbourne would have a tough time leading Judas Priest. The same coach (who knew nothing about either singer) also said that Osbourne has "no command of vocal technique" but that Halford is "super-talented." Still, Osbourne has Halford beat as a songwriter and in the personality department. Plus, his solo records have more widespread appeal.
So we'll let Osbourne keep his Prince of Darkness crown and give Halford mere Metal God status. Either way, seeing these two legends onstage is an early holiday gift to metal fans.
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