The visual kei band Oz combined some of the heaviest and most aggressive sounds in the scene with a bright commercial edge which saw them become one of the biggest indie bands in their native Japan, as well as achieving popularity in Europe, where they released both of their first two albums and toured.
Oz was formed in October 2004 by former members of two minor acts: vocalist Natsuki and guitarist Aki from Scare Crow, and guitarist Tama and bassist Nao from Gypsy. The band was completed by drummer Zukki from the band Usagi. They started to play live a couple of months later, gaining a small but loyal following of fans from their gigs on the Tokyo club circuit throughout 2005, and self-releasing a number of singles, each of which was, strangely, not named for its lead track but had its own separate title in the manner of an album, a tradition which they would continue throughout their career.
Originally heavily influenced by doom metal, they quickly grasped the commercial potential of more energetic and melodic styles and started to incorporate elements from Western metalcore, to which they welded the catchy, hummable choruses which are the stock-in-trade of the visual scene. This combination caught the attention of the popular indie label Loop Ash, which specialized in visual kei and was most famous for being the then-home of An Cafe, one of the most internationally successful VK bands. The label signed them in 2006 and released a pair of singles, "Adam's Apple" and "Eve's Apple," and in 2007, their debut mini-album Six. Throughout the rest of that year and the next, Oz toured Japan fairly constantly and released a stream of singles which saw their popularity increase steadily, culminating in two Top Ten hits on the Japanese indie chart.
At the beginning of 2009, the band were voted fourth most promising out of 50 visual kei acts in a poll organized by the music news website JaME. In September of that year, they finally released their first full-length album Versus, which came with a DVD featuring the stylish promo video for its improbably named lead track "Filmy." Loop Ash had seen several of An Cafe's albums released in Europe though a distribution deal with the German label Gan-Shin, and so it came as a surprise when they inked a deal with its rival CLJ to release Oz's albums there.
After two more successful singles, "Wisteria" and "Viridian," the band released its second album, Rouge, in November 2010. Versus had received some criticism for being one-dimensional, which the band must have noticed, as Rouge was a much more varied affair which saw Natsuki expanding his vocal palette, singing rather than screaming on most tracks and making full use of his operatic tenor. The next month, the band released a best-of album which included some of their early out of print singles, as well as those from their two studio albums, and announced a tour of several European countries. ~ John D. Buchanan