Tuesday, April 21, 2020

OZ - "Forced Commandments"

Unabashed heavy metal, just the diversion the world needs right now! On the strength of Fire In The Brain (and especially the "Turn The Cross Upside Down" single) Oz were a staple of college radio, back in the mid-‘80s, but quickly shifting tastes, in a crowded field, saw many worthy non-native English speaking acts (originally from Finland, now based in Stockholm, Sweden) overlooked by everyone else. After a nearly two decade hiatus, drummer Pekka Mark (aka Mark Ruffneck) resurrected the moniker and this is the third full-length since the "reformation" (although the Burning Leather comeback contained several re-recorded classics, including both the aforementioned).
High energy, fist pumping metal, in the Teutonic tradition (despite locale), after an atmospheric, orchestral intro, staccato riffing "Goin' Down" leaps out of the speakers and right for the jugular. The titular phrased chorus is an infectious sing-along. Mark's drums are prominent on the meat & potatoes "Prison Of Time" (new global lockdown anthem?). Sure, the rough vocals, courtesy of Vince Koivula won't make anyone recall Dio or Halford (even with the occasional peak; think early Grim Reaper, especially "Revival"). "Switchblade Alley" feels like a grittier HammerFall tune, while punchy "The Ritual" (complete lengthy instrumental mid-section) is another Steve Grimmett moment. Following the pedestrian "Long And Lonely Road" ballad, a noodling shredfest introduces scorching "Liar".
There's a trio of bonus cuts, augmenting the original eight. The longest cut, at 7:38, "Driving Into The Darkness" kicks off the extras. The finale, is a pseudo live affair, "Kingdom Of War". Less pomp than '17's Transition State. Check it out.

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