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Oz – Forced Commandments Award winner

Forced Commandments
by Rachel Montgomery at 26 April 2020, 5:25 PM

OZ is releasing their eighth studio album after two and a half years since the last one. They’re also music veterans, having formed in the 1970s in Finland. The bulk of their work is from the 1980s Swedish scene, when their first few albums were released. However, when the Swedish Death Metal scene took off, the interest in traditional metal like OZ faded, so they went on hiatus. In 2010, they reunited and started making music again, sticking with their traditional roots. It’s paid off, allowing the band to add modernized production and a crystal-clear sound to their new album.

Going Down” has a soundtrack style opening that leaves room for speculation: will this be progressive? Gothic? Techno? Surprisingly, we are treated to a traditional-style song with cranked-up guitars and a high tenor vocal style that could give the New Wave of British Heavy Metal greats a run for their money. I love that it’s not a replica, but the operatic, clear tone is there and beyond solid. As the album continues with tunes like “Prison Of Time,” it keeps the same bombastic, traditional tone of early metal. I also want to point out that the singer’s upper register belt in the chorus is on point. The song “Switchblade Alley” is nearly seven minutes long; it captivates from the beginning with a rocking rhythm and intense, soaring melody. The long interlude, a sweep-filled guitar solo keeps the song going without needing any key changes, serves to keep this long song fresh from start to finish. One caveat: the soaring melodies on tracks like “Spiders” are great on a first listen, but on the second time, the vocals sounded a little strained. However, I enjoyed the musical painting with the creeping, crawling guitar solo on that track. That said, the guitar work on this album is intricate and shows skill. The opening of “Liar” begins with some clear, detailed sweep work that is a great lead-in to the song. As a closing track, it doesn’t make a thematic statement about the rest of the album, but since this is a traditional vinyl setup of eight songs rather than a concept album, it’s not necessary.

Overall, the songs fall into the same style, but remain fresh from beginning to end. They reminded me of a combination of JUDAS PRIEST and COHEED AND CAMBRIA. I was impressed with the tone shifts in each track and the way the album captured my attention despite having a distinct sound. If you’re a fan of NWBHM or upbeat progressive rock, this is a band worth checking out. If you like a band with more variety in their sound, still check it out, because the production and musicianship are on point.

Songwriting: 9
Production: 10
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Goin' Down
2. Prison Of Time
3. Switchblade Alley
4. Revival
5. The Ritual
6. Spiders
7. Long And Lonely Road
8. Liar
9. Diving Into The Darkness (Bonus)
10. Break Out (Bonus)
11. Kingdom Of War (Bonus)
Vince Koivula - Lead Vocals
Juzzy Kangas - Guitars, Vocals
Johnny Cross - Guitars, Vocals
Peppi Peltola - Bass, Vocals
Mark Ruffneck – Drums
Record Label: Massacre Records


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