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I suppose everyone will agree that "Fire in the Brain" was a huge achievement for Oz, taking this Finnish metallers several steps further in the European metal scene. Not that they became world beaters overnight, but the hopeless days of "Heavy Metal Heroes" were put far behind them and Oz looked and sounded like serious contenders from that point onwards. And what would you do after scoring such a magnificent goal, turning a seemingly hopeless scoreline around when no one was expecting it? You play safe, of course.
"Turn the Cross Upside Down" (the EP, that is) is basically an attempt to keep momentum going, not only by recycling two of the finest songs from their previous opus ("Search Lights" and "Gambler"), but also by giving pride of place to a new song that honoured their recent output while giving credible hints of what was to come. "Turn the Cross Upside Down" (the song) starts with pretty epic twin-guitar harmonies before launching into a fast-paced attack that is very likely to put your neck in almost instant motion. Still, it's fair to say they are a bit less frenzied this time around, keeping a fair dose of drive while taking a tad more conservative approach when it comes to speed. The lyrics are not a showcase of poetic subtlety, that's for sure, dealing with satanic imagery in an ultra-clichéd fashion, but the chorus is so damn catchy that you should not be surprised if it stick to your mind for days after listening to it - not that the singalong section towards the end would leave any room for doubt! The songwriting is pretty ingenious, and Ape DeMartini's voice is in great shape, so I must conclude this song turns out victorious in its bloody battle against the lordian guards, or whatever.
The huge impact of "Fire in the Brain" would not be fully replicated by any future releases from Oz - though this humble EP got its share of belated media attention at the early 90s, with some people hinting it was something of a soundtrack for Norway's Inner Circle while burning a few churches... Yeah, a pretty bizarre assumption indeed, but nevermind. In fact, they would slow but consistently slide off the track in future releases, ultimately failing to ever recapture the sheer energy of their strongest record. In retrospect, "Turn the Cross Upside Down" (the EP, and the song as well in a sense) is as short and sweet as "Fire in the Brain" managed to be, serving as a sort of final chapter for a very exciting period in the band's career - one that lasted little more than 30 minutes in total! A fitting way for a band like Oz to reach their pinnacle, if you ask me.
Just how do you top an album like “Fire In the Brain”? You don’t. Oz realized this with their hilariously titled EP titled “Turn the Cross Upside Down”. Before I go any further in this short review, let me just say that the title is just pure fucking gold. You’re definitely not carving a niche’ for yourselves with a title like that. And you’re definitely not breaking any boundaries for that matter. No, you‘re (and I am referring to Oz) staying within your own genre and sticking to it while throwing in obvious black humor in the mix. And when that‘s done it‘s still a product worth listening to.
“Turn the Cross Upside Down” is as safe as Oz could have played the game after their classic second LP before shortly just completely going supernova. The band followed the same fate as UK NWOBHM band Raven, even so much as to sounding very similar in so many ways, as completely becoming a slight bit of a parody of themselves shortly before they even ha a chance of becoming anymore successful than either cult or just being internationally well-known. But before they did, they left us with one last piece of metal that is more or less a continuation of the fire that not only damaged their brains but the listener’s brains as well.
The only original song on this short E.P. is the title track. It features as many tempo changes as we saw on “Fire In the Brain” and equally if not and even heavier direction. Guitar solo and the drum-pounding chant of “Turn the cross upside down, turn the cross upside down” being repeated over and over again will have you reminded of the chant-like anthem of “We’re Not Going To Take It”. It’s that damn catchy. It’s really a fucking shame that this is the only thing original on this EP because the other to tracks are cuts from “Fire In The Brain”. Same production. Even the album cover is just a reversed version minus the fire on top of the skull.
I could myself buying this for collector’s reasons. It’s a hard EP to find on vinyl so that would definitely merit it’s value. But then again you can always find an Mp3 of the title track.
If a bunch of guys call you out of a bar with the intent of introducing you to every stone in the parking lot, what do you do? Some guys will try to play the nutzo card, but it’s better to play it smart. Unless it’s the Little Rascals out there, grab two of your toughest, most intimidating buddies if you can and hope for the best. That’s what Oz does with this ep.
“Turn the Cross Upside Down” isn’t a nutzo song. It looks all hot and bothered and talks a good game from the outside with a title like that, and the pivoted angle shot of Fire in the Brain’s cover is mildly threatening if not redundant. So when the lunatic image shatters by putting a needle to it, you’ve got a tune that’s as sane as everything else. The title cut is almost presented as a serenade, slow to mid-paced that is three parts chorus, repeated about seventeen times including a section of it where all instruments disappear except the drums and vocals for an even more fawning effect on the listener. It’s a contagious enough song that admittedly has me caroling the chorus hours after hearing it even if it’s not the five-piece’s greatest achievement.
Unable to stand on its own, it grabs the heavy hitters from Fire in the Brain, the boisterous “Gambler” and brawling “Search Lights”, perhaps their heaviest tracks and my faves in their catalog. Both boast a pandemic chorus and steamroll with rousing energy, and if this happens to be a listener’s introduction to Oz, it’s worth every penny. Flanked by these two bruisers, it’s easy to hear that the title track isn’t the muscle of the bunch, but the mouthpiece, and allows this ep to stand up to just about anything (or anyone) that would do it harm.
As far as I know, this track hasn’t been released anywhere else including compilations (edit: Scandinavian Metal Attack Vol. 2) and reissues on cd, which is good reason why it’s worth a little more than the average ep. Chances are the parking lot stones and these three tracks are still strangers.