Ossian - Orok tuz 4/5

Reviewed: 5-9-08


1. Vilagtalan vilag (XXI. szazad II.)
2. Fortissimo
3. Oszton-borton
4. Az elmulas kertjeben
5. Szivel-lelekkel
6. Tranon
7. Eletre-halalra (XXI. szazad II.)
8. Alkony elott
9. Egyedul
10. Alarcosbal
11. Szememben a vilag vagy
12. Az ido
13. Gyujtopontban 2007 (bonus track)

Regular readers of this site are well aware that we boldly smash through international boundaries ("smashing through the boundaries/lunacy has found me," but alas I digress) in attempting to bring you reviews of some of the best heavy metal CDs from around the world. I've noticed, though, that our Hungarian coverage has been lacking, notwithstanding (for example) Clint's reviews of Echo of Dalriada in its various incarnations. This is unfortunate, because Hungary has a thriving, distinctive and very cool metal scene. I'm certainly no expert, but from what I can tell the leading bands (all of which have lengthy discographies and bandleaders whose roots date back to the 80s) include Ossian, Kalapacs (Hammer), and Pokolgep (Hell Machine), Their family trees are intertwined and their sounds are fairly similar, but all are well worth checking out. Perhaps the biggest obstacles facing these bands are the absurdly limited distribution of their recordings and the formidable language barrier created by the Hungarian-language lyrics.

Named after a Celtic hero and poet from the third century, Ossian have released an impressive 15 full-length studio CDs (plus a few live CDs, a couple of compilations, a boxed set and an EP) since 1988. Led by legendary vocalist Endre Paksi, this quintet from Budapest is probably my favorite of the long-running Hungarian acts. To be sure, I've heard only a fraction of the band's extensive output, but everything I've heard is extremely well done Eastern European traditional heavy metal, with the exotic melodies blending with the Accept-styled crunch; the crisp, heavy production values; and the melodic, distinctive Hungarian-language vocals of Paksi to create a compelling take on the well-worn classic heavy metal sound. This new CD, 'Orok tuz', is no exception. Although the Hungarian language is a bit off-putting at first, with all those hard consonants, the hypnotic, well-executed music and Paksi's clear enunciation and smooth vocal lines draw the listener in. After just a few spins, the songs' hooks have burrowed into your brain, such that even though you have no idea what they're saying you'll find yourself singing along phonetically. Those who crave a full-on speed injection in their metal may be disappointed because the material on 'Orok tuz' remains comfortably ensconced in the midtempo for most of the 48-minute running time (excepting the scorching opener "Vilagtalan vilag"), but these anthems really weren't built for speed, so the relaxed tempos make sense in the context of the songs. Also, don't expect virtuoso extended musical workouts here, as the riffs and arrangements are basic and effective, with the songs being straightforward and catchy.

I have no idea how 'Orok tuz' ranks in the Ossian discography. In terms of quality level, it seems to be on par with their previous works that I've heard (which include 1999's 'Femzene', 2001's 'Titkos unnep', and 2005's 'A szabadsag fantomja'), albeit perhaps a bit slower-paced. What I do know is that Ossian are a top-caliber band who are still delivering the goods and are deserving of far more international acclaim than they have received in their 2 decades of bearing the metal torch for Hungary. If you've ever been curious as to what authentic Hungarian heavy metal sounds like, and are feeling more adventuresome than the English-language speed metal of the excellent Demonlord or the English-language power metal excellence of Stainless Steel, then Ossian may be just the band for you.




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