Released: 2017, AFM Records
Count Finland’s Oz as one of a seemingly endless parade of virtual unknowns rekindling the fire that burns (The Brain!). Originally formed in the 70’s, Oz’s most widely regarded release came in 1984’s FIRE IN THE BRAIN. Two more albums later, the band would call it quits in 1991 as grunge destroyed all lesser known metal bands. Oz officially reunited in 2010 but TRANSITION STATE is the first new material to be released by the band since 1991’s ROLL THE DICE.
Not surprisingly, drummer Mark Ruffneck is the only remaining original member. However, he and his new additions deliver a time-tested concoction of Accept, Warlock, Grim Reaper and hints of hill and dale power metal. Helium throat Vince Kojvula is more than capable of hitting the upper registers and leading track “Bone Crusher” proves it. It is a promising tune, with a simple but effective meat and potatoes rhythm that recalls Grim Reaper’s glory days. “Restless” delivers in a similar fashion, and reveals strong similarities to early Warlock. “Drag You To Hell” is a guitar driven highlight with thumping and prominent bass lines that are independent of the guitar, a welcome return to a mostly forgotten approach to playing bass.
Not everything works so well, as you might expect from a band trying to find its footing after 25 years. “Whore of Babylon” is a bit awkward in structure and vibe, the verse music drawing inspiration from Alcatrazz’s “Kree Nakoorie” verse. Kojvula’s vocal lines do not really match the music here, and the style overall does not sound comfortable in the hands of Oz. Combine that with an album of 13 songs, and it is a bit much for a style that gradually blends together into an enjoyable but same-sounding set of tunes.
TRANSITION STATE is a quite worthy album that delivers some classic metal but also acknowledges the recalibration that took place in metal with the first Hammerfall album. This is particularly evident on “Demonized”, a song that could have easily been on “Glory To The Brave” and held its own. Final verdict is this is absolutely worth a few spins, particularly if you were a fan of the band or enjoy Warlock and Grim Reaper mixed with a few subtle dashes of Hammerfall.