Marilyn Manson Vs Ozzy Osbourne: Download’s battle of the Princes Of Darknesses

Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson went head-to-head on the final night of Download, but does cuddly beat caustic?

Sunday night at Download; a lesson in the evolution of danger. Ozzy Osbourne, reigning Prince Of Darkness through the 1970s and 80s, introduces ‘Suicide Solution’, a song blamed for the death of a depressed teenager in 1986, as “a song about drinking”, keen to play down its controversial overtones. Several hours earlier Marilyn Manson, holder of the Prince Of Darkness crown 1993-present, stands on his lightning bolt Nazi podium centre stage and declares “you might as well kill yourself, you’re already dead” over ponderous gothic powerchords on ‘Antichrist Superstar’, shortly after hugging a stage invader waving a flag stating that she’d ‘KILL FOR YOU’ during a groove metal tune about blood pacts. Barely an eyelid is batted.

Ozzy Osbourne at Download 2018

With drill the new musical bogeyman, Ozzy and Mazza are long past the point of being considered dangerous bad influences on our nation’s fragile youth. One’s a bumbling metal uncle and the other, it’s been decisively proven, has so few demonic powers he can be taken out by a stage prop. What’s fascinating, though, is their differing approaches to dealing with the loss of their publicity-magnet selling points. Manson appears disdainful and disgruntled by his reduced shock value, complaining about playing in sunlight (“we’re all stuck here with daytime so let’s deal with it… it’s like having sex with the lights on”) and phoning in an hour of crepuscular dirges and glam metal anthems to violence and rebellion in a series of feathery overcoats and military caps, as if grudgingly embracing his own pantomime. It doesn’t help that his yowl of “you say God, I say Say 10” during ‘Say10’ is followed by the video screen guy cutting to a shot of a bloke in a plastic wombat mask.

Manson’s recent industrial rejuvenation isn’t driven home forcefully enough on the gristly ‘Deep Six’ and he’s still at his best when sadistically subverting pop culture on ‘Disposable Teens’ and his cover of ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’. A grindhouse cover of ‘Cry Little Sister’, the theme tune from The Lost Boys, however, fails to conjure the same sort of menace, lacking a spooky child choir for that essential coming-for-you-in-your-sleep effect.

By contrast, Ozzy plays it cuddly. Beneath acid trip visuals of psychedelic crucifixes and flanked by lion-like guitarists doling out bionic solos like Kanye doles out Twitter rubbish, he sings euphoric doom rock, symphonic metal and weighty blues about witches, sorcerers and psychotic voices in his head, but its only when he stares intently into the screen cameras with a touch of the old fire in his eyes that you forget about his dog shitting on the bed. Slurring but surprisingly lively, he plays up to his national treasure status as an icon of harmless hellspawn and the godfather of hard rock. With classic rock radio tunes like ‘Crazy Train’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Change The World’ he even hints at being an originator of the 80s cheese-rock revival too.

The tedious drum solo and indulgent fretwork sections nail him firmly to the irrelevant end of antique metal, but as ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’ unites Download with a stirring big ballad singalong and Ozzy puts his wobbly all into a final ‘Paranoid’ – still ravenous after all these years – there’s an affection granted to Ozzy that Marilyn purposefully spurns. And considering controversy is a young man’s game, that’s the most dangerous move of all.