In 2017 Finnish metallers OZ produced their first album of all-new songs in 31 years with the excellent Transition State. I reviewed it at the time for Decibel Geek so head over there if you need a refresher.
Now, in relatively super-quick fashion, they are back with Forced Commandments, due out May 22 on Massacre Records.
It is good to see that the line-up is maintained from Transition State with veteran Mark Ruffneck on drums, Johnny Cross (guitar), Juzzy Kangas (guitar) and Peppi Peltola (bass) with the line-up being completed by vocalist Vince Koivula.
In light of this, you would expect little change in feel and structure and generally, you would be right.
Whilst this is a great straight-up metal album there is a lot to get your teeth into.
Koivula is once again in tip-top Udo-style form, but with more range than the squat German. He also does a great line in lung-busting screams, great fun indeed. His range of screams are on full display on “Prisoner of Time” which follows on from opener “Goin’ Down”.
“Goin Down” is a gentle opener (not really) which is basically a big “fuck off” to people who fail to empathize when criticizing. It has the immortal line “So shut your mouth or I’ll shut it with the back of my hand”. I can’t disagree with that sentiment.
“Switchblade Alley” clocks in at almost seven minutes and is a comment on drug and other addictions and the damage they cause. The riffs are killer and the lines are delivered beautifully.
It’s a head-nodding winner with a cracking extended solo shared between Cross and Kangas.
The album’s pace is unrelenting and “Revival” is no different. Whilst I have no idea what the song is about the pace is spot on, as is the solo.
Koivula busts his balls and gives it all he’s got on “The Ritual”. Also giving it everything are Cross and Kangas with non-conformist soloing, which is a cool piece of variety.
“Spiders” reminded me slightly of Helloween in their hey-day with the way the vocals are constructed and the quality guitar runs, and even the way the track slows down but to then build up to the dramatic finale.
It’s finally time for OZ to slow down and although I wouldn’t class “Long and Lonely Road” as a ballad it still has impassioned vocals and a heartfelt solo.
It’s back to quality twiddling and power now with “Liar”. The song itself isn’t quite up there but the shredding makes up for that.
OZ completes the album proper with “Diving Into the Darkness” which delves into ‘epic’ territory with a run time of 7:30 and plenty of time changes and interest. The track seems to cover the last moments of impending death and to whether heaven or hell is the final destination. It once again brought thoughts of Helloween which in my book is praise indeed.
There are two bonus tracks, “Break Out” and “Kingdom of War” (according to the version I was sent) which carry the torch well but made me wonder why they are bonus tracks and not just part of the album proper.
I really thought that Transition State would take some beating but I actually think they did and for that, they deserve the utmost praise.
If you want gut-punching metal with rhythm, pace and power then look no further.
Also, find more of my CGCM reviews here: Sparky