Transition State is an interesting name for this album from Finnish metallers OZ. This is their first album of all new songs in 31 years, so this particular state has been in some transition for many years.
To maintain enough enthusiasm through all these years, it has taken some gumption and determination of the only remaining original member of OZ, drummer Mark Ruffneck. He is joined by Johnny Cross (guitar), Juzzy Kangas (guitar) and Peppi Peltola (bass), who all hail from OZ’s hometown of Pori/Björneborg, with the line-up being completed by vocalist Vince Koivula.
Previous incarnations of OZ tended to produce NWOBHM inspired rock, which fitted perfectly into the landscape of the time, with their breakthrough album Fire in the Brain coming out in 1983.
Transition State is another animal altogether. Out on AFM Records, it sits firmly in the European power metal stable and I feel Kojvula has played no small part in that. Former lead vocalist Ape DeMartini had a much deeper delivery and I doubt that he could pull off the required power and pace we find on this album as Koivula does, with his higher pitched voice.
Koivula has a hint of Udo Dirkschneider in his vocals, especially on the opener “Bone Crusher”; a kick in the nuts welcome to the album of scorching guitaring and fist raising heaviness.
Whilst “Bone Crusher” and “Restless” hark back to the earlier days of OZ, it is with “Heart of a Beast” that they hit their power metal straps. A catchy opening riff is followed by melodic vocals, guitaring, and the obligatory gang backing vocals. Lovely stuff.
The pace is continued on the excellent “Drag You to Hell”, where the twin leads come into their own on the impressive solo. Koivula is also on top form with his intense vocals.
There’s a surprisingly early ‘bonus track’ up next with “Whore of Babylon”. This is a slow march of a song, with hints of Manowar and Hammerfall, heavy and stomping.
“The Witch” follows, which has a harder edge but didn’t really float my boat, unlike “Shadow of a Shotgun” (which is an obvious commentary on the state of the world). It is a substantial affair, with depth, rhythm, and power.
“Never Close Your Eyes” comes next, which is solid enough but unremarkable. However, “The Mountain” gets OZ back on form. A thoughtful, well-considered track it contains some of the best guitaring on the album.
“Demonized” picks the pace up again with a track that rattles on at a fair lick and again has some impressive guitar work. Hot on its heels comes “We’ll Never Die”, the requisite call to arms to metal fans, which will have the crowd raising and punching their fists.
We finish with 2 bonus tracks in the form of “Midnight Screams” and “Sister Red”. Both tracks are worthy of inclusion in the main body of the album and they could have easily replaced a couple of the more run of the mill efforts.
I enjoyed Transition State and the variety of it all. Great vocals and stirring guitar certainly lead me to recommend it to any metal fan.