domingo, 9 de agosto de 2015

OZ (FIN) - Fire in the Brain (LP, Tyfon Grammofon, 1983)

RATING: *****

Some bands fail to impress, some bands improve, and some manage to overshadow their earlier efforts in a way that is even difficult to properly describe. No one who lend an ear for 1982's "Heavy Metal Heroes" - a lackluster semi-metal affair with redundant songwriting and a worryingly lack of musical enthusiasm throughout - could have the slightest idea on what was coming next for Oz. After some serious personnel changes, remaining members Eero Hamalainen (V) and Pekka Mark (D) reinvented themselves as Ape DeMartini and Mark Ruffneck, respectively, and infused new life to this Finnish outfit with the twin-guitar attack of Speedy Foxx and Spooky Woff (very mature nicknames, I know). But perhaps the most important change was the presence of Jukka Homi, who assumed all bass duties and the stage name of Jay C. Blade - and who also took to himself the responsibilities for songwriting, something that surely made a hell of a difference.

"Fire in the Brain" is not only a huge improvement on the hopeless mediocrity of their debut album: it's also one of the most intense and exciting records of the entire 80s metal scene, and I mean it. I don't know, maybe a good dose of self-criticism made them realize how uninspiring their previous effort was, and they decided to take the exact opposite road to the bitter end. Comparisons are few and far between: it sure has more than a flavour of NWOBHM to it, with Raven and perhaps Sweet Savage being the more obvious references, but it still has a maniacal element to their music which is all their own and precious few bands managed to achieve ever since. "Athletic metal", perhaps? It hits you hard, and then harder, and then even harder - almost like they mean it personally, almost like they're saying: "You wanted heavy metal, uh? Well, there you have it!"

Maybe "Fortune" is the closest reference to the early days of Oz, being much more hard rock than all-out metal - but it's still way more forceful and enjoyable than anything you can find on "Heavy Metal Heroes", so we're really dealing with a whole different entity around here. "Black Candles" is also a less hard-hitting number, being far more eerie and morbid than the rest of the songs. It showcases a somewhat ritualistic vibe, evoking images of a black mass with almost disturbing efficiency. This is also one of the finest performances of singer Ape DeMartini, so it's not like this song's less-frenzied approach is disappointing or anything: actually, it's one of the finest moments of the entire album.

But we're all here for the fast tunes, right? And oh man, there's a strong enough dose of those to really set your head on fire. The second half of "Fire in the Brain" is a particularly relentless assault, with virtually no time to breathe between tracks - not that I'm complaining about that, of course. Naming highlights is almost an exercise in futility, as the standard is pretty high throughout, but I just love the way "Gambler" (an instant classic, you listen to it once and you'll never forget it, believe me) metamorphoses into "Stop Believing", with perhaps the best rifferama of the entire album (the score the guitars play during the chorus is particularly impressive). Not that you should skip "Search Lights", "Fire in the Brain", "Free Me, Leave Me" or any other song - and not that you will ever want to (I'm positive you won't). No fillers, no prisoners taken, just unapologetic heavy metal to die for.

Don't bother that much with individual songs anyway: the most important asset of "Fire in the Brain" is its exhilarating drive, a true flood of sheer energy that grabs you by the neck and just won't let go. These guys are not interested in conjuring a wide range of emotions: they want you to headbang from start to finish, until you cause some serious neck trauma to yourself - perhaps it's the way they found to fucking kill you, who knows? These guys are insane, I tell you. And that's why this LP is so short, running for a little more than 27 minutes in total: you just wouldn't survive if it was longer. "I'm the fastest, loudest, I'm the greatest - I am the best!", screams Mr. DeMartini at the very end of "Megalomaniac", and I don't think they leave much room for doubt here. Any self-respecting headbanger should add a copy of this one to his or her collection - if you still don't have it, ask no questions and go get it straight away.

Ape DeMartini (V), Spooky Woff (G), Speedy Foxx (G), Jay C. Blade (B/BV), Mark Ruffneck (D).

All songs written by Jay C. Blade, except 2 and 5 by Jay C. Blade / Spooky Wolff.

01. Search Lights
02. Fortune
03. Megalomaniac
04. Black Candles
05. Gambler
06. Search Lights
07. Free Me, Leave Me
08. Fire in the Brain

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at and let me know! 

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