When you’re my age, you don’t often get to review many bands that were around when you were in high school, but that’s the case with Ozmathoq and some albums (or ep’s) end up taking a long time before release, but in this case we’re talking about songs that were originally recorded at least 20 years ago.
For the record, Ozmathoq as a band from Ohio dates back to 1986 when Dan Marsh left the band Created Image and wanted to play some heavier music. The speed metal band Armored Lion, formed in 1986, was the result, and for the band Dan, recruited Kevin, Bob, and some others. After playing a show in 1988 they were approached by the editor of the Wedge Magazine, John Digman, who was putting together a big show called the Ten Band Jam and wanted them to play but there was a catch…they would have to change their name to be one word. The band initially resisted but after some prayer and discussion decided to see what they could come up with. Finding the Hebrew word for “loud” in a Bible concordance gave them the “Oz” and then looking at a passage in the book Judges gave them “mathoq” meaning sweetness. So, there, some trivia for you. In 1991 the band released the demo “Dance of the Cobra” and then played shows and recorded some more songs in the years before 1995 when the band dissolved. Fast forward to 2013 and Kevin, Vince, and Dan reformed the band and Kevin decided to remaster the old recordings while the new album was being written. Once the More than a Hero ep was finished being remastered, Vince suggested more guitars be added.
I see this ep as a teaser of what may be and the music world definitely needs more old-school speed metal and thrash. As mentioned, these songs were recorded at least 20 years ago and presumably with little/no budget and old-school technology, and that does come through in the sound quality. I’m reminded of bands like Vengeance Rising in the sound and approach. Interestingly, the lyrics, which are often inspired after reading the Bible have also come at least partly from their Mom, who contributed to “More than a Hero,” “Dance of the Cobra,” and some other songs.
Most of the songs on the ep follow a familiar formula for thrashy speed metal, with not much filler or fancy intros. Guitars play a prominent role in the songs and often an opening riff may start out somewhat slow and the pickup in pace for the rest of the song. Fast and loud drums are also a key to the songs, keeping things moving. Unfortunately, the bass is a bit lost in the mix, but if you consider the age of the recordings and look at this as more of a demo –like recording that is easy to overlook. Having guitar solos is another bonus and really adds to songs like “Turn Around” which also features an intro similar to what you’d hear at the beginning of a Cro-Mags song before things get faster – one of those, slower riffs that gives one the feeling that the song will soon explode and work so well in a live setting.
“Dance of the Cobra” was identified by the band members as a favorite song to play live, due to its complexity and I would have to agree. The opening starts out with some clean guitars then builds into a section sounding similar to the Metallica cover of “Am I Evil”, and then the song gets a whole lot faster for the verses with the drums adding a rapid-fire punctuation. Throw in a guitar solo and an almost groovy section later in the song that then reverts back to the defined, punchy riffs reminiscent of “Am I Evil” and you have a really cool song.
Written by John Jackson
1. More than a Hero
2. The Great Deceiver
3. Dance of the Cobra
4. Turn Around
Dan Marsh – Guitars
Kevin Marsh – Bass, vocals
Vince Marsh – Vocals, drums, and guitar
Record Label: Independent, Nov. 2014
Interview with Ozmathoq [Jan. 2015]
Video teaser clip for ‘Dance of the Cobra’
Video teaser clip for ‘More than a Hero’