Fire In The Brain

by: Oz

One of the greatest one-offs in the long history of heavy metal, Oz' spectacular second album, 1983's Fire in the Brain, had no precedent and no follow-up in the Finnish group's largely ignominious career. The previous year's suggestively titled Heavy Metal Heroes had, in fact, consisted of seriously clichéd and hokey hard rock, and the next year's III Warning crossed the fine line into embarrassing self-parody, thus making Oz' improbable moment of creative clarity during the Fire in the Brain sessions all the more remarkable and baffling. But however skeptical one is, there's simply no disputing the evidence contained within its grooves. 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. And even if they didn't always measure up to these world-beating highlights, remaining album cuts like "Fortune," "Stop Believin'," and the title track kept the overall quality threshold extraordinarily high, easily holding their own with some of the best European metal releases of the period. 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. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia

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