One of the first mature Classic Heavy Metal albums and one which has not lost its importance, prominence or any of its awesomeness over time.
Ozzy Osbourne's second solo album, and the last to feature Randy Rhoads before his fatal plane crash, 'Diary Of A Madman' represents Heavy Metal honed to perfection from its early days on the first Black Sabbath album, before the déjà vu of the nineties set in. Re-released in 2011 as a '30th Anniversary Edition' the album remains a fresh sounding classic.
Opening with relentless pounding drums and Osbourne's inimitable siren-like voice, the album launches confidently full tilt into 'Over The Mountain'. A titanic solo by Rhodes, classical yet face-melting in its intensity, makes this opening track a "once heard never forgotten" moment. 'Flying High Again', taking Osbourne's otherworldly voice and coupling it with Rhoads wizardry, is another stunner. 'You Can't Kill Rock And Roll' has a simple but beautiful start, exemplifying Osbourne's anti-establishment and clear view of all the bullshit in the world. It's the clear view of the working class visionary, retaining some of the trippiness of drug-induced states inherited from Sabbath and the sixties, but sharp as a tack in its logic and execution with just a smattering of Rhoads stardust over the top setting it off perfectly.
'Believer' takes a Sabbath style riff into a higher register and then Rhoads is allowed full rein to ascend and descend as a forerunner and shredder extraordinaire. 'Little Dolls' gives us just a glimpse of Osbourne's admiration for The Beatles with its mid-track harmonies, lovingly disguised in a full Metal jacket. 'Tonight' is a forerunner of the epic eighties power ballad, although with Osbourne's voice, it keeps a haunting quality always putting him the other side of mainstream.
'S.A.T.O.' – said to stand for "Sharon Arden Thelma Osbourne' is about not being able to conceal something any longer and is about endings, a new beginning and rewards waiting on a ship ready to sail... mmm, wonder what that was about? Lost on most people at the time, it was notable for the Rhoads solo completely dominating it mid-track to the end. The piece-de-resistance is the clever appropriation of Carl Orff's 'Carmina Buranda' into possibly the best Heavy Metal song ever made, the title track, with Rhoads involved it becomes every bit as epic as anything Bach wrote.
Tracks like 'Diary Of A Madman' make one realise how underrated and marginalised Metal is as an art form. In many ways, it is the true inheritor of the classical composer in a way in which Pop can never be. Its sheer greatness has often been weirdly used against it as an indication of arrogance and pomposity instead of genius and the apotheosis of man.
Retaining the momentous nature of early Black Sabbath and its monolithic underlying structure, but with the overlay of fast-paced, pedigree classical solos from Rhoads, this album was one of the first mature Classic Heavy Metal albums, one which has not lost its importance, prominence or any of its awesomeness (in the true meaning of the word) over time.