By Allyson Kingsley
Scandinavia. I picture it as a beautiful land (of ice and snow) full of culture, a more peaceful society, Scandinavian menfolk, and of course, some of the best metal you will hear on earth. Oz is a band from Finland that has been around for quite some time, 1977. They were renowned for their 1983 album Fire In The Brain and their 1984 Maxi single “Turn the Cross Upside Down.” Throughout their career, there have been seven albums, an EP, and several split albums. Of course, with a veteran band of this caliber, there were also lineup changes and even a 20-year hiatus. Founding member and drummer Mark Ruffneck is joined presently by guitarists Juzzy Kangas and Johnny Cross, bassist Peppi Petola and lead vocalist Vince Koivula. Forced Commandments is their 8th full length, and they continue to shine with their NWOBHM inspired metal.
“Goin Down” incorporates speed, power, and traditional metal in their sounds, and I love it. The guitarist’s Johnny and Juzzy blaze brightly while Vince’s vocals soar above the glorious cacophony. With the pedal to the floor, “Prison of Time” has a rolling and rollicking rhythm that is both precise sharpness and never sloppy. The imperious riffs on “Revival” have the appeal of classic heavy metal, NWOBHM and power metal are as likable and anthemic as Saxon, Judas Priest, and even Primal Fear.
Throughout the album, his vocals are commanding and crisp and well balanced with the rhythms. I was not very keen on the ballad-like “Long and Lonely Road,” as I feel it has been done enough before. But thankfully, we jump back into “Liar,” which is a guitarist’s dream and a more aggressive track.
Oz continues to be a high-quality metal that ticks all the essential checkpoints- soaring vocals, a jackhammer rhythm section, hummable choruses, and scorching fretwork. They continue to shape the landscape of the music from Scandinavia.