I stumbled onto Ossian last year, through their Csak a jót album, which I reviewed here at Apocalypse Later, but I'm a little late to the table, given that it was their 25th since 1988. That's a productive rate and it's a rare year that doesn't see a new Ossian album. Well, here's number 26, exactly on schedule and it's another good one. I really need to get round to diving into their back catalogue.
Metal Archives lists them as a heavy/power metal band and that's fair enough, because they're both of those things, but they're hard rock more than they're any sort of metal, especially when compared to most bands playing some form of heavy or power metal in Europe nowadays. Play any song from A Teljesség next to something by Primal Fear or Rage or Iron Savior and it will appear to be slower, less heavy and more traditional in comparison and that would still count even with heavier songs such as Kelj fel és láss (Get Up and See), A türelem hatalom (Patience is Power) and A hiányzó láncszem (The Missing Link).
And that's fine. There's plenty of room in the genre for different approaches and I like this particular sound. Even if it's slower, less heavy and more traditional than any of the heavy or power metal bands I've reviewed, it's still rooted in power and strength, through tone, patience and production. Richárd Rubcsics may not be a guitar shredder and nobody ever shows off in hyperspeed but this is strong and confident and very comfortable in itself. It's appropriate that the title transates from the Hungarian to The Completeness.
Those heavier songs I mentioned above are clearly metal and most of what's here is built on solid riffs and a very clean guitar sound. There's also an instrumental piece, Engedd el (Let Go), which is a tasty slice of metal too, especially when it speeds up towards the end, the only moment on this album when Ossian truly let loose and become reminiscent of Iron Maiden. However, that gives way to a far softer moment, as Az, aki voltam (The One I Was) kicks off like a radio friendly soft rock song. It ramps up for the choruses, but it's still a much softer piece.
And there's a lot of that here. Lassan ébredö (Waking Up Slowly) is an outright piano ballad and quite a few songs here, perhaps most notably Azon a napon (That Day) plays out in a very intimate way. It's initially just acoustic guitars and voice and, while it does heavy up with some power chords halfway in, until that point it feels like the band are sitting in my cramped office performing to an audience that consists entirely of me and that's a good feeling. Nem elég az ég (The Sky is Not Enough) starts out in the same way.
Most of these songs are in the second half of the album, where there's a lot going on, whether at the heavier or softer ends of the band's sound, but my favourite song here is easily the opener, which is a singalong special, Kell egy szikra (Need a Spark). As always, the rhythm section is reliable, so Rubcsics can conjure up another simple but strong riff in front of them and coax some elegant atmosphere out of his guitar too. He doesn't play a lot of notes but he plays the right ones and they're exquisite on this song.
I don't know what sole founder member Endre Paksi is singing, because just like all of these songs, he delivers the lyrics entirely in Hungarian, but I wanted to sing along with him anyway. The only flaw I'm seeing is that the core hook on this song is so strong that I wanted it to keep on going, but it fades out to give way for the next too quickly. Sure, it's the longest song on the album, but it's still only 4:35. It's surely no hardship to let it breathe past the five minute mark and milk that hook for all it's worth.
Based on the two Ossian albums I've heard now, they're a thoroughly reliable band. Some songs are better than others, of course, but they're all decent and the best are excellent. Like many bands that I review at Apocalypse Later I'd love to see them live in their home environment, but with Ossian, I'd try to watch the audience as much as enjoy the band. I have a feeling that there are a lot of people in Hungary who have grown up with Ossian and probably see them like a national institution.