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Oz
Burning Leather

Company: AFM
Release: 2012
Genre: Traditional
Reviewer: Vinaya

  • Faithful to their classic sound and style



  • Being the old school Euro-metal nut that I am, I was pretty thrilled to hear that Finish/Swedish cult favorites Oz had returned to action after an absence of roughly two decades. Three fifths of the classic lineup that produced the legendary 1983 release "Fire in the Brain" and its two follow-ups is intact here, the unfortunate exceptions being original fret-burners Speedy Foxx and Spooky Wolff.

    "Burning Leather" finds those enigmatic shredders replaced by Costello Hautamäki and Markku Petander, though both of them have since been replaced by yet another fleet-fingered duo for live purposes. In any case, the sound is crisp and the guitar work more than competent on this collection of new songs and re-recorded versions of classic Oz tracks (all but one from either "Fire in the Brain" or its followup, "III: Warning," curiously ignoring the band's other releases.)

    Opening cut and first music video "Dominator" leaps from the speakers and crashes into the room with a simple, crackling snare drum fill before its circular minor key melodic riff kicks in. It's a decent opener, but probably the weakest of the new tracks, featuring a short, minimalist lead break and a chorus that is reasonably catchy but not particularly distinctive or original.

    Things get better from there on, with old chestnuts like "Search Lights" and "Third Warning" bringing back memories of the band's glorious early days, and some of the "new" tracks sounding like they could have been written shortly after the band's underrated 1986 album "Decibel Storm." Of those new cuts, "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" emerges as the strongest in my opinion – pretty much the closest the band get to "Fire in the Brain" quality here. It doesn't quite hit that high mark, but wouldn't have been a bad addition to either "III: Warning" or "Decibel Storm."

    Miraculously, Ape Di Martini's vocal range and idiosyncrasies are pretty much fully intact on this album. The only frustrating factors for me are the somewhat thin and clanky production (though, to be fair, it does have more clarity than most of the band's early recordings.) and the guitar work, which is skillfully done, but lacking the intensity and sense of adventure that maestros Foxx and Wolff brought to the Oz albums of old.

    Still, as much as I miss Speedy and Spooky (whose current whereabouts appear to be unknown), it's good to see Ape, bassist Jay C. Blade and drummer Mark Ruffneck bringing back the awesome Oz name in a manner that is faithful to their classic sound and style. As it stands, "Burning Leather" is a solid basis on which to launch a second quest for world domination, though it simultaneously makes me hold out hope that perhaps the band can deliver a full platter of quality new stuff in the Oz tradition.



    About this Writer:
    Vinaya Saksena // Vinaya is either a writer who dabbles in guitar playing, or a guitar player who dabbles in writing. A Maximum Metal staffer since 2004, he has also served as a reporter for several newspapers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Although his obsession with music is such that it does not allow time for much else by way of hobbies, he also enjoys traveling, trivia, photography, British comedy and the occasional A-Team re-run.

    Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details
    5 Excellent - Buy it and say a prayer to the metal gods that you were tuned on to this masterpiece. A classic.
    4-4.5 Great - Almost perfect records but there's probably a clunker or a lacking somewhere to keep it from perfection. You won't feel bad about dropping some bones on these.
    3.5 Good - Most of the record is good, but there may be some filler. This is the OK range where you'd search for the record on sale or used.
    3 Average - Some good songs, some bad ones at about a half/half ratio. Could show skills but be dull overall. Redeeming qualities for indy bands are effort and passion. Majors that don't try or suck outright end up here.
    2-2.5 Fair - Worth a listen, but best obtained by collectors. There is much better metal out there.
    1-1.5 Bad - Major problems with music, lyrics, production, etc.
    0 Terrible or an otherwise waste of your life and time.

    Note: Reviews are graded from 0-5, anything higher or not showing is from our old style. Scores, however, do not reveal the important features. The written review that accompanies the ratings is the best source of information regarding the music on our site. Reviewing is opinionated, not a qualitative science, so scores are personal to the reviewer and could reflect anything from being technically brilliant to gloriously cheesy fun.

    Demos and independent releases get some slack since the bands are often spent broke supporting themselves and trying to improve. Major releases usually have big financial backing, so they may be judged by a heavier hand. All scores can be eventually adjusted up or down by comparison of subsequent releases by the same band. We attempt to keep biases out of reviews and be advocates of the consumer without the undo influence of any band, label, management, promoter, etc.

    The best way to determine how much you may like certain music is to listen to it yourself.



    ALL FULL REVIEWS FOR: OZ
    CD
    TITLE BAND
    DOR
    REVIEWER DATE
    Burning LeatherOz
    2012
    Vinaya Saksena6/21/2012


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