Talking about Scandinavian heavy Metal, the first name that springs to mind is Hammerfall, of course. Europe can be also categorized as Heavy Metal bend with some reservations, especially after their reunion in 2003 and some other bands. But these ones are not the first who started to play Heavy Metal in Scandinavia. There were others, like Finnish band OZ.
Formed in 1977, OZ released five albums and gained a lot of attention. However, with the development of other, heavier genres like Melodic Death Metal, the interest to Heavy metal music was decreased and in 1991 OZ declared disband. But in 2010 drummer Mark Ruffneck resurrects OZ, remaining the only member from the original line-up. Since then the band released Burning Leather (2011), Transition State (2017) and not a long time ago OZ released their eights LP named Forced Commandments.
The album mostly sounds as a typical Heavy Metal and NWOBHM with a slight deviation to Power Metal (“The Ritual”). Nevertheless, this music can’t be called boring: powerful sound, good rhythm-section and distinct guitar riffs do their job well, making the listener to nod his head involuntarily.
First of all, I want to emphasize the great work of guitarists Jhonny Cross and Juzzy Kangas: these guys are really good guitar duo in the finest tradition of Heavy metal. They got some interesting riffs, which can be NWOBHM (“Prison Of Time”, “Revival”) or Power Metal or just good fast-paced guitar work (“Liar”). Their solos are excellent as well: neo-classic in “Spiders”, technical and melodic in “Switchblade Alley” and “Break Out” (which is stated as bonus-track for some reason, though it fits this album perfectly). Generally, there is a lot of impressive guitar work here.
Vince Koivula’s raspy vocal reminds of Udo Dirkschneider a little bit, but with a wider range. From the opener “Goin’ Down” Vince impresses with its expressiveness, shows all his skills in “Prison Of Time” and in “Revival” his vocal completely sounds like a young Udo.
Peppi Peltola’s bass also played significant role in this album: in almost seven minutes long “Switchblade Alley” bass line is a foundation, the bone of the song, on which all other instruments are based. The same thing happened with “Liar”, where pronounced bass sounds equally with other instruments, making song heavier.
And of course, there is a ballad in Forced Commandments, like in almost all heavy Metal albums: great “Long And Lonely Road” with acoustic guitar, heartfelt vocal, really nice solo and other things, typical for Heavy ballads. This song is not only the albums adornment; it also gives the listener a break before ending songs and bonus-tracks.
All in all, OZ managed to write a solid, fast-paced and very melodic Heavy Metal album. But its main advantage that it doesn’t sounds boring. There are some catchy songs here, some less catchy, but there is no song here you’d want to skip. And I think it’s really cool to create such thing, especially in our world, overfilled with music.
Forced Commandments was released on May, 22 via Massacre Records.
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