"Forced Commandments"

By Colonel Angus

Back in 1983, OZ’s "Fire In the Brain" album was on my turntable forever.  I loved every note, every riff, and every vocal wail and although most of tracks clocked in at the three minute mark, the intensity of the band and music was just what was needed back in the early days of NWOBHM.  I know, they were from Finland but they had all the energy and sound of the bands coming out of England.  I thought they had a lot of promise and might be as big as a SAXON or even a DIAMOND HEAD.  Unfortunately, their latter releases didn’t capture the same energy as their first record and while I still listened to those albums, they didn’t really connect with me.  I didn’t get their last album "Transition State" so I was unaware of this new lineup and what they were capable of producing.  

I was hoping that this record was going to be a return to form and happily, it is.  I knew that there were new members with only Mark Ruffneck being the only person from the "Fire In the Brain" lineup but these new guys fit right in perfectly by recreating that same NWOBHM vibe from before but moving it slightly into the future.  This disk contains slightly longer tunes but they still manage to capture that energy of previous material and Vince Koivula’s vocal performance is just what the band needed.  His vocal style fits that traditional metal sound and he really lets rip on “Switchblade Alley” and “The Ritual”.  Elsewhere, there are cool tracks like” Liar” which has some Eddie Van Halen style guitar work and “Spiders” which has some classical sounding guitar work a la Yngwie Malmsteen.  The latter track also contains a cool section right after the guitar solos which adds more depth to the track.  Even the ballad “Long and Lonely Road” is a good tune that doesn’t fall into the cheezy territory that so many metal bands fall prey to trying to achieve radio play.  There are a few tracks that are marked as bonus tunes and of those “Diving Into the Darkness” is by far the best of them.  It has a grand epic feel and, dare I say, a little bit of a proggy vibe thrown in for good measure.  It is also the longest song on the disk clocking in at over seven minutes.  “Break Out” and “Kingdom of War” are also good and don’t take away from the overall quality of "Forced Commandments".

As previously mentioned, Mark Ruffneck is the only original member but don’t let that dissuade you from checking out this disk.  Juzzy Kangas and Johnny Cross come up with some great riffs and melodic solos throughout.  They still manage to keep that NWOBHM vibe but still sounding fresh.  The production also helps to keep the riffing into the forefront where it belongs.  This is the second album for Vince Koivula and while I can’t comment on the previous release, he does a great job on "Forced Commandments".  Peppi Peltola is the final piece of the puzzle in making this release a “must buy” for any metal fan and "Force Commandments" will definitely be on my playlist for quite a while.