OZ – Burning Leather (AFM Records)

Sunday, 24th March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Essentially a NWOBHM band of the Finnish variety, OZ has been inactive for close to 20 years, with their last release being 1991’s Roll the Dice. Like most of bands of this ilk, reforming has been the preferred choice and for some it has paid dividends (Accept, Hell), while others are plodding along just as they did in their formative years (Diamond Head, Martyr). Hard to figure out where OZ will land, although they sure do a fine job of re-creating the vintage sounds of the early 80’s with Burning Leather.

A cursory glance at the band’s sound will be quick to reveal Saxon comparisons. So in fact, OZ is more like a smashed-up Saxon, less refined, more inclined to go for broke and leave it all behind. Singer Ape Demartini (awesome name!) has the same vocal curdle that Biff Byford does, minus Byford’s sterling pitch and command. Nevertheless, Demartini does bust out some rather deranged-in-the-brain moments on the excellent “Search Lights” and rousing “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie,” a would-be classic metal if there was one.

No surprise that Burning Leather is frontloaded, with the album’s first foursongs (“Dominator,” “Search Lights,” “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie,” and “Fire in the Brain”) being the only cuts of any real worth. “Turn the Cross Upside Down” does have stray Mercyful Fate vibe to it, while the hokey “Gambler” and poor attempt at a soccer stadium anthem “Enter Stadium” ring out with little impact.

While it’s unlikely any band from the NWOBHM era or even the 80’s is going to jumpstart some type of revolution, there’s some merit to what a band like OZ is doing. The songs are easy and enjoyable, leaving just enough to the imagination as to when they were in their prime. Burning Leather is every bit as vintage as advertised and rightfully so.

www.myspace.com/ozheavymetal

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)