Swedes Mean Streak kick off album number five, Eye of the Storm, in cheeky fashion with a track, Last Nail In The Coffin, that bare-facedly fuses two Ozzy classics together (those being Bark At The Moon and I Don’t Know) in a move clearly designed to discombobulate the listener and send all their pre-formed opinions on what to expect from these always-solid Scands flying out of the window from the album’s opening seconds.

As a ploy it works, as you’ll be halfway through second track From The Cradle To The Grave before you’ve recovered your composure; From The Cradle To The Grave itself is more hard rock than heavy metal, sounding like a kind of late-eighties mix of Def Leppard and Jeff Paris. Again, it’s not what you might have been expecting. And again, it works in a rather unexpected sort of way.

After all this palava, the album settles down. Heavy Metal Rampage does exactly what it says on the tin, whilst the speedy Sacred Ground could easily have been penned by Kai Hansen in the mid eighties. Vocalist Andy La Guerin once again underlines just what a good voice he has, whilst newish guitarist Julian Eriksson proves himself to be a versatile player capable of handling any style in the heavy metal playbook as the band veer wildly in style from track to track.

That scattershot approach does keep things fresh, however, with La Guerin’s voice being the glue that sticks everything together, giving real substance to the style. And talking of style, former Ozzy Osbourne (that name again!) producer Max Norman returns to handle the mix here, and he does a great job, highlighting the band’s punchy sound to the max.

Dying Day has a real epic, brooding feel to it, whilst 1000 Years is an anthemic semi-balladic stormer shot through with real class. Both tracks prove that Mean Streak continue to grow beyond their roots as a sort of Maiden/Priest guess-that-riff project into a very special act indeed in 2020. And whilst they’ll never leave those roots completely behind – Stand My Ground is pure Tipton/Halford/Faulkner whilst Break The Limit sees the band tributing Accept in exuberant fashion – they are becoming a fully-formed classic metal identity in their own right with each progressive release.

Eye of the Storm releases on July 17th.