The burning leather glove on the cover artwork is apparently symbolic of reunited OZ's enthusiasm; their first album in 10 years, ‘Burning Leather’, is being released today, November 18th, 2011, on AFM Records. ‘Burning Leather’ contains brand new material and re-recorded classic tracks such as OZ hits ‘Turn The Cross Upside Down’ and ‘Fire In The Brain’. The album was recorded at Park Studio in Stockholm, Sweden, with producer Nicke Andersson (also known as guitarist of the Grammy winning rock band THE HELLACOPTERS and former drummer of ENTOMBED).
“We decided to include new tracks and re-recorded old songs on ‘Burning Leather’, because we wanted to show what OZ is about in 2011. This is our first album since 1991 and there are whole new generations of heavy metal fans who do not even know our old songs. And for our old supporters, it’s probably interesting to hear their favorites in new versions,” [explains drummer Mark Ruffneck] “With the clip [available below] we wanted to make clear: OZ is back! Through a friend, we got in contact with Amir Chamdin, a renowned and award-winning video director, who has worked with acts such as THE CARDIGANS, MANDO DIAO and THE HELLACOPTERS. The very same friend also introduced us to [producer] Nicke Andersson, who helped us with mix and co-production of ‘Burning Leather’. Amir wanted to make a heavy metal video in the '80s-style, and we simply let him implement his ideas,” [Ruffneck leaves the developments of recent times to reminisce]
“Although the group was originally founded in 1977, in the small Finnish burg of Nakkila, around vocalist the Oz (Eero Hämäläinen), its slow rise from utter obscurity to normal everyday obscurity would go largely undocumented until 1982, when a spotty debut album entitled ‘Heavy Metal Heroes’ (really more hard rock than proper heavy metal) was released by Swedish independent Tyfon Grammofon,” [wasn’t mincing his words AllMusic's Eduardo Rivadavia and the official bio somewhat agrees] “In underground circles OZ enjoy an excellent reputation, but the normal metal fan will not necessarily be familiar with this Scandinavian heavy metal force.”
Existing here to put the record straight, it is time for you to become aware of OZ's 1983's masterstroke, ‘Fire In The Brain’:
“Opener ‘Search Lights’ delivers a proto-thrash pounding right up there with other, better-known, pre-thrash Euro-metal classics like ACCEPT's ‘Fast As A Shark’ or KROKUS' ‘Headhunter’; the stunning ‘Black Candles’ boasts the creepiest yet catchiest occult metal dynamics this side of MERCYFUL FATE; while ‘Gambler’ combines the speed, the riffs, the lead pyrotechnics, and the hooks common to the genre's most balanced and tightly arranged efforts. … Heck, not even the pro-wrestler antics of bare-chested lead singer Ape De Martini could undermine the band this time around, gratefully taking a backseat to his otherwise very decent range and performance. Really, only ‘Fire In The Brain’s rather short, 28-minute running time leaves something to be desired, but that still can’t stop OZ from notching what was most assuredly Finland's first meaningful contribution to heavy metal history, by a country mile. Too bad it didn’t last,” [continued Eduardio Rivadavia – more here]
The subsequent albums, recorded following the band's relocation to Stockholm, Sweden, failed to elicit the same enthusiastic response from the critics (“the band totally sold out to cock rock” remarked E. Rivadavia); namely 1984's ‘III Warning’, 1985's ‘Turn The Cross Upside Down’, ‘1986's ‘Decibel Storm’ and 9991's ‘Roll The Dice’.
OZ features: Ape De Martini (Tapani Hämäläinen) – lead vocals, Jay C. Blade (Jukka Lewis) – bass and vocals, Mark Ruffneck (Pekka Mark) – drums and Markku Petander – guitar and live members Michel Santunione - guitar and John Berg - guitar