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OZ has always been one of the bands that only the underground metal movement coveted and hailed with swords high, but they never really caught on to a more level playing field of recognition, much to my chagrin. While I have gone on record many times about my disdain and outright contempt for bands redoing old tracks, OZ replicates some of its classic tunes to such a vital degree that I am once more hit with the proverbial “Shut up!” stick.
The new track in “Dominator” absolutely crushes from the very opening notes and shows that this Finnish outfit still has some charge left in the old battery. With a sound straight out of the NWOBHM playbook, this track combines the very best of ancient gods and modern minions to the most discernible plateau. Ape De Martini sounds just as brilliant as he did on Turn the Cross Upside Down or Fire in the Brain, taking both of these title tracks to all new levels of amazement and subtle brilliance. The band can take on any and all comers in this arena and shelve any notions of a cash grab or opaque capitulation; OZ is taking on the metal world again and hopefully this time around they will garner more than just a passing interest from the all-too fickle masses.
“Let Sleeping Dogs Lie” is one of the new tracks that meshes the past OZ with the reformed band, plowing through the track like the OZ of old all the while sounding as fresh and vibrant as any currently-revered band from Hell to Exxplorer; this will be getting some major airplay from various Internet radio shows around the globe I’m sure. “Dominator”, “Seasons in the Darkness”, “Burning Leather”, “Enter Stadium” and “Total Metal” are the new tracks that round out this release, and each one of them is a truly wonderful re-entry into the world of heavy metal. “Seasons in the Darkness” showcases De Martini’s still brilliant vocal range and proves that sometimes a band came re-emerge from the din of anonymity, forced or otherwise, and find a willing audience of raging metalheads ready to raise the flags for them. It’s satisfying beyond all reason to see a band like this come back and claim a rightful spot in the annals of metal’s underground history, especially when the album they offer is well above board in talent and honesty. “Burning Leather” encompasses all that is real and gratifying about the early 80’s Nordic sound that held a small, unassuming spot in the heavy metal movement until the early 90’s Norwegian explosion catapulted the region to sinister, unexpected heights.
The take on the old tracks is nothing short of terrific. “Turn the Cross Upside Down” sounds even more lush and ‘large’ than it ever did on my well-worn 12” EP. I suppose this is one case where the recklessness of youth is superseded by the experience and vision of an older, wiser entity. This song is just brilliant in this current incarnation and has to be heard to be believed. I can also hear small parts scattered about that may well have influenced Quorthon’s later work in both vocal style and musical nuances, and it would have been truly epic to hear what he may be doing today if this style should have impressed him again.
OZ is certainly welcomed back to the playing field with all of the openness and praise I can offer in 600-plus words; I hope this album pulls them from footnote status and launches them to a standing so high they have to stoop to touch the top.
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)