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Finland has given the metal world it’s fair share of excellent acts over the years (Horna, Archgoat, Beherit, etc.) as well as some I’m not a fan of (Children of Bodom, Nightwish, and others), but generally speaking Finland is definitely worth it’s weight in producing quality over quantity. Up until a few year ago I was browsing the internet and I read about a band called Oz who were and still are considered one of the best Finnish heavy metal bands from the 80’s. Well I am as much of a NWOBHM/traditional heavy metal fan as much as the next head banger so I tracked a few Mp3’s. Checked them off, ordered a copy of their “Fire In The Brain” LP on CD, waited and what I got in the mail is what everyone was raving about; excellent, criminally underrated 80’s hard rock/heavy metal/NWOBHM from Finland.
The album “Fire In The Brain” is the second full-length release from Oz is considered it’s best album from the band and has earned a cult status amongst metal heads over the years. Oz, the band themselves, are just a well-rounded group of musicians who knew how to perform their instruments and with a singer that may be considered stock for it’s time, but definitely has an identity of his own. It’s obvious of some of the influences and I will discuss more specifically what they are influenced by but when I first heard this I thought “Holy shit! This is like a Finnish version of Raven from the UK!”. The lead singer Ape De Martini sounds so much like Raven’s John Gallager is surprising that he didn’t get sued, but there are times where Ape and the rest of Oz go beyond the obvious Raven influence to where they are easily their own force to not mess with as any band that busted it’s ass for year and managed to find it’s identity. Guitarists Spooky Wolf and Speedy Foxx; fucking genius stage names rip out everything from Dio-era Black Sabbath, Raven, Scorpions, Motorhead to even some fucking ZZ Top! Yeah listen to the rock boogie get-down of “Megalomaniac” and tell me if that groove doesn’t remind you of that killer fucking car and hot bitches around it.
The great thing about “Fire In The Brain” is that this is the cheesy kind of occult-laced heavy metal that a Mid-western kid who was looking for an escape from it’s boring existence is bound to start drawing pentagrams over. It’s a quarter cheesiness, a quarter rocking, a quarter serious, and a quarter dead-on with the times that at whole it represents everything great about 80’s heavy metal in general. “Fire In The Brain” also includes some of the most 80’s iconic heavy metal album artwork of all time just due to the fact that black metal godfather Quorthon of Bathory is holding a goofy-looking candle wax skull on fire with spiked wristbands and a gauntlet strapped on with bleeding fingers. It’s like looking at the cover of a big box VHS horror movie from Thriller or Wizard Video in the 80’s from your local video store with your best friend looking for cheap thrills and shit and giggles. You both know what you’re in for and are going to spend the rest of the night memorizing it. It’s the music that good times are made of.
For most than the first half of the album you are witnessed to a good variety of songs with tempo changes, genre changes, and general craziness. The opening to the song “Search Light” is a warped vinyl LP sound that when sped-up properly is the song itself. Remember that Raven influence? Yeah this is total “Faster Than The Speed of Light”-sounding. Complete cousin of Raven‘s “Wiped Out”-era. Not saying it’s a rip-off or anything negative, but if I were to put anything up against “Wiped Out” this album would surely be that to contend with. Strong head banging opener that will have you dusting off your denim jacket. “Fortune” sounds a lot like Scorpions “Big City Nights” as far as tempo goes. “Black Candles” is dark and melodic with a Mercyful Fate feel to it and obvious the occult-laced lyrics give off that tone. “Gambler” and “Feel Me, Free Me” both are a more speedier Motorhead “Stone Deaf Forever” with it’s hard living and rebellious lyrics. “Stop Believin’” begins with one of the more wilder up tempo melodies I have heard in a while. The title track “Fire In the Brain” completes the 360 degree circle by taking us right back to the Raven influence and sound that we first heard on the first song “Search Lights” that will have you bouncing up and down in a giddy way singing “Fire in the brain, driving me insane!” all day long. I can honestly say there isn't a bad song on here at all. Somewhere between the songs "Black Candles" and the ending title track the band doesn't pull as many surprises, but that's not to say it's bad, it's just that you are expecting them.
After “Fire In The Brain” Oz put out a few more LPs that tried to recapture the youthful metal mania of what gained them a cult favorite amongst diehard metal followers, but outside of the following, equally as good EP “Turn the Cross Upside Down“….Oz failed. It’s a shame because they had all the right things going for them that would have made them even more famous, but due to the superstitious mindset the band succumbed to after receiving a royalty check of 666 dollars for their more-than-obvious EP title, they were scared straight. If you are looking for an album that is nothing but good times, head banging and fast cars, this is it. Totally worth owning a piece of not only Finnish heavy metal but heavy metal history itself.