Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 17 Apr 2020
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One of the greatest joys I've had out of these music reviews is discovering a bunch of bands who have been around for decades, given that I'd never even heard of them before. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they've tended to be bands who only sing in their native language and whose success has been confined to an area in or around their native country, though that's not a given as there's a Lucifer's Friend or a Dice for every Ningen-Isu or Metalium.
Ossian are another of these, given that they're entirely new to me but they were formed in Hungary as far back as 1986 after vocalist Endre Paksi left a band called Pokolgép and put a new one of his own together. This is the 25th studio album for Ossian and, as Pokolgép have gone on to release fourteen of their own, there's clearly quite the scene in Budapest and it's been there for a long while.
While the opening title track is reasonably heavy and heavy moments continue throughout the album, this is more hard rock than heavy metal. The songs are all built out of traditional elements: steady and reliable beats, simple but effective riffs and plenty of vocal hooks. Ossian's speciality seems to be a surprising amount of singalong choruses. They ought to get a lot of response and involvement from the audience in the larger venues they play.
Some might accuse them of being unimaginative because there's clearly a sort of template in play here. The dozen tracks here all progress in similar ways and last for about the same amount of time. Almost all of them run for three minutes with a couple of verses, a few choruses and maybe a couple of guitar solos. I can't deny that there's a sameness to the structure of these songs and that, with a consistent quality too, makes it tough to call any of them out as highlights. If you like one of these songs, you'll like them all.
However, I wasn't ever bored listening to this album, even a few times in a row. Those hooks are all impressive ones that make me want to sing along but for my complete lack of knowledge of the Hungarian language. Ossian vary the formula here and there and throw in little touches like the acoustic guitar outro to Akiröl álmodtál that keep things varied enough.
And I'd also call out some highlights. Köszöntés is a peach of a song, with a top notch riff and an excellent chorus. This is the most obvious single of many, appropriate enough too as it translates to Greeting. That arrives nine tracks in and I like the tenth too, at the point where most albums would be tailing off. That one's Ami nyomot hagy, or Which Leaves a Mark. Perhaps the most telling to me point is the fact that I even enjoy the ballads; Követem vakon (I Follow Blindly) keeps on growing on me.
So, maybe it's an album with a dozen similar tracks that blur together even after a few listens. Maybe it's an album with a dozen worthy tracks, each of which could be viably released as a single. In reality, it's kinda both and that's not necessarily a bad thing. I just wish I'd heard any of those prior 24 albums to be able to put this one into perspective, but for now I'll just say that I enjoyed it a lot.