VERSUS: Bark at The Moon vs. To Hell With The Devil

VERSUS: Bark at The Moon vs. To Hell With The Devil

Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal, compare them, and see which one was the better record.

In this edition, we are discussing a matchup that was inspired by a story we covered regarding Stryper and Ozzy Osbourne. It started with a line said by Stryper guitarist and lead vocalist Michael Sweet. Ozzy claimed on his podcast, The Osbournes Podcast, that he isn't afraid to go to Hell. With Sweet asking on social media "Why in the world would anyone wanna go to Hell?". So, I thought of a matchup questioning the afterlife. Two artists that tackle both side of the philosophical coin of good and evil, God and Satan, light and dark. Let's take a look at these two artists and two of their biggest records in this matchup I am calling "The Prince of Darkness in The Bee's Nest".

First up is the self-proclaimed "Prince of Darkness" Ozzy Osbourne with his third album, 1983's Bark at The Moon. This is Ozzy's first studio album following the tragic passing of guitarist Randy Rhoads, who died in a plane crash in 1982. This album featured a more synth-driven sound, along with pop elements on the record. With a new direction, recovering from the Rhoads tragedy and trying to start again, did Osbourne deliver a record that would make the fanbase happy and be a record as good as his ones with Rhoads?

The album opens with the album's title track, and one of Ozzy's best songs in my opinion. With that classic opening riff by new guitarist Jake E. Lee, and Ozzy's reverbed vocals kicking the song off, the song is a banger of a track. And Ozzy delivers his classic laugh after the chorus. I love the driving rhythm section of bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Tommy Aldridge into the bridge. The synth influence of keyboardist Don Airey begins to show in the bridge too. Lee delivers a strong and fast-paced guitar solo over Daisley's pulsing bass before transitioning back into the main riff. A great opening track for the album and is one of my favorite tracks from Ozzy and company. On "You're No Different", the synthesizer influence is very front and center in the opening of the song. A simple, almost drum-machine like drum sound emphasizes the eerie production and feel of the song. A unique, almost like a dark ballad in the verse section with the plinking synths, before the band picks up on the prc-chorus. You can definitely hear the pop sounding, 80's style influence the band was channeling on this track, and overall is an ok track in my opinion, but it is tough to follow the title track.

"Now You See It (Now You Don't)" brings back the heavy and aggressive guitar sound of Lee in the opening. Aldridge's drum hits echo like a cannon, drenched in reverb and boost to emphasis the force in his playing. The main riff throughout the song is such a headbanger, even with the unique almost video game sounding synths in the second verse section. The synths are present in the song, but not as strong and dominant as the previous track, more accenting the guitars and more filling the space of the mix which adds fullness to the song. The song almost gives off a King Diamond sound in the guitar tone and sound.

"Rock 'N' Roll Rebel" has that classic arena-rock sounding opening guitar sound. Thumping bass by Daisley, shredding by Lee and a rhythmic pulse by Aldridge's drums, the song starts off strong. Ozzy delivers his trademark laugh again during the song, and to be honest, I'm a sucker every time I hear it and will pop every time for it. Lee delivers a short, but fretboard hopping guitar solo before the bridge, before going into a more slowed down, but more emotional sounding guitar solo again. His accenting of Aldridge's drums just adds a unique variation of heaviness and musicianship to the song. On "Centre of Eternity", the opening of church bell and ominous chanting creates an ominous soundscape in the feeling of the song. A pipe-organ piece comes in after the choir, reminding me of "Mr. Crowley" off of Blizzard of Ozz, before the song kicks the door in and we are off to the races. I love Ozzy's vocals, drenched in reverb, chorus and a weird distortion effect on the chorus, adding to the interstellar, almost space like feel in the chorus. Lee's palm muted heavy riffage on the song is strong in the song, creating that slow headbang feel to the song that would sound great live. Synths again, don't take over the song, and just add accenting features and effects to the song, which works.

"So Tired" slows the album down. With a orchestra like sound behind Aldridge's toned down drums, Ozzy comes in with the vocals, delivering a sorrowful and heartbroken feeling. Definitely hearing the pop influence and 80's ballad of the song, it works, similar to "Mama, I'm Coming Home". And orchestra and symphonic elements goes so well with metal, especially in emotional songs like this and it is done very well with Ozzy's wailing vocals behind him. With "Slow Down" we start with a heavy sounding guitar section, with DRIVING bass from Daisley which is loud and higher in the mix. The song's energy is very upbeat, emphasized by the synth on the chorus and the second verse section. The song, tinged with 80's feel and atmosphere, I wouldn't be surprised if this was a radio single at the time or if it would be used in the Netflix series Stranger Things, with its energy, attitude, synths and nostalgic feel to the song. The album's closer "Waiting For Darkness" has an opening build and feel similar to an 80's horror movie. With thumping bass, looping guitar and driving drums, it has a Nightmare on Elm Street feel to it. Ozzy's vocals wail in-between chugging guitars, atmospheric synths and rhythmic drums. The song has the band firing on all cylinders, bringing the album to a strong conclusion.

Their opponents, representing the light in heavy metal is Christian metal act Stryper, with their 1986 album To Hell With The Devil. The first Christian metal album to go platinum, Stryper preached the good of Christianity and Jesus Christ through heavy metal, with this album being one of the band's most successful albums, along with being a fan-favorite. Donned in their legendary yellow and black outfits, the band would cement a legacy in heavy metal, that not everything in metal is dark and Satanic and evil. How do these holy headbangers stack up against their opponent of dark and evil? Let's listen to this record and see how it stacks up against the darkness of Osbourne.

The album opens with the instrumental intro "Abyss (To Hell With The Devil)". A thundering bell and building synths, bring in a spooky, almost Halloween like feel in the intro. Then the album's title track kicks in. A great guitar opening, immediately giving off that classic 80's hair/heavy metal sound and guitar tone. The drums of Robert Sweet punch through hard in the mix, while guitars by Michael Sweet and Oz Fox wail behind him. I love the vocals and drums only on the first verse section, before the guitars and bass kick in, I wish more bands did just vocal/drum verses. The chorus is catchy, definitely a chant-along live energy to the song. Michael Sweet's vocal range is impressive. From high, almost falsetto like delivery, to more gravely delivery, his vocals are strong. The guitar solo on the track is also great, impressively intricate and fast, before segueing back into the main riff and chorus.

Next is "Calling on You". Drenched in synthesizer leads, along with a chugging-esque guitar, with dueling harmonies and attacking drums, the song starts off strong from the whole band. The accenting backing vocals on the pre-chorus adds dynamics to Sweet's vocal performance. The riff is catchy and the lyrics has that duel meaning that it could be about someone or Jesus, which helps the band avoid the preachiness of some overly-aggressive Christian bands. A catchy, radio-friendly song, that is actually really well done and I am a fan of this song. On "Free", the song opens with a great classic heavy metal opening riff. Robert Sweet's drums again are prominent in the mix, making you want to pump your fist along with his snare hits. Michael Sweet's vocals are strong in the performance, along with the backing vocals help emphasize his delivery and energy. The wailing guitar solo sounds so good with the punching drums behind it. With the choir like vocals on the bridge, adds more dimension and diversity to the track, almost giving off the feel of a heavy metal Sunday church session.

"Honestly" features a prominent piano intro behind it. Sweet's vocals are more emotional and passionate in his singing. The drums kick in, adding a drive and pace pick up to the song, until the guitars kick in. The synth-trumpet like sound in the musical interlude before the pace picks up again, makes the song almost have a wave your lighter in the air feel to the song. "The Way" has a great opening. With an almost galloping guitar sound, pounding and aggressive drums, the song starts off heavy. Sweet's vocals, with echo and chorus effects on it, add more punch in the delivery. The riff is a banger, making me headbang along with it, almost giving off a Dio-like feel to the song.  A strong and heavy song and one of my favorite tracks off the album. "Sing-Along Song" has another strong opening drum section, with guitars ringing out and a synth like effect, creating a weird reverb and echo like effect, which works on the song. With the chorus, the title of the song is fitting, because you really can't help but sing along to it.

"Holding On" features a 80's staple of accenting and dueling guitars, with driving drums behind it. The song has a radio single feel and energy to the song, but it makes sense, the song is just catchy. Drums are again punching in the mix, adding that intensity in a more mellow, power ballad like song. Sweet's vocals are passionate, and I love the backing vocals, which makes his vocals sound so harmonic, as well as fills the space of the mix.

"Rockin' The World" has a great opening guitar riff and drum section, with Sweet hitting almost falsetto like highs. The energy of the song, especially with an almost call and response sound with the chorus. I can picture this song being fun to perform live and the crowd singing along to the band. On "All of Me" a keyboard and synth heavy intro starts the song, giving off that 80's power ballad cliché intro. Sweet's vocals are youthful and emotional in the performance, almost giving off an empathetic feel to it.  It might just be me, but I think the song could be a tiny bit faster. To me, it sounds like it might be a tad too slow, and even sped up just a tiny bit might make the song better, but its just my opinion. The album closes with "More Than A Man", which has a booming drum and aggressive opening guitar riff, probably the heaviest song on the album. The song is intense in the band's performance, with the energy of the band showcasing in the vocals and the band's playing. Great closing track for these holy crusaders of Christian metal.

After listening to the good and evil of this versus matchup, who wins this battle for your soul? To me, Ozzy's Bark at The Moon, is the winner of this matchup. To me, Moon is a more well-rounded record, there isn't any tracks I would skip over, or I feel were bloated. With Devil, listening to the record, there were a couple songs in my opinion were filler or skippable. Stryper did deliver a strong record, and I do agree with the fan base that this is the band's best record, but unfortunately, it doesn't stack up to the mightiness of Ozzy Osbourne.

Ozzy would continue making music following this release. His most recent record was 2022's Patient Number 9. Recently, Ozzy has announced he officially retired from touring due to his health. In a recent interview with Forbes, he did announce he is planning a new album for a 2024 release.

Stryper also continued making music following this album. The band would release their 14th album The Final Battle in 2022. Received with positive reviews from the fanbase and critics, the album showed these holy crusaders still know how to deliver a strong and heavy record.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won this battle for your eternal soul? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media with your decision, and suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

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