(In this new edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy Synn has picked a fine day to review the discography-to-date of Finnish marvels Oranssi Pazuzu — including the band’s brand new album that’s due for release today, for which we have a full album stream for you to hear.)
Recommended for fans of: Nachtmystium, (mid-period) Enslaved, Killing Joke
After two more Death Metal leaning editions of The Synn Report, I think it’s time to take things in a… different… direction. And, if there’s one thing that can be said about Oranssi Pazuzu it’s that they’re definitely “different”.
After all, the Finnish quintet have never been your stereotypical Black Metal act and have rarely, if ever, played up to the expectations of their audience. Over the course of the last 9-or-so years the quintet have released three (now four) critically applauded albums fusing the base elements of Black Metal with massive injections of proggy psychedelia and surrealistic sonic experimentation, constantly pushing their sound in ever more unusual, unconventional directions.
With their fourth full-length album Värähtelijä set for release today, now seemed like the perfect time to suit up and take a trip out into the void in the company of these Finnish cosmonauts!
MUUKALAINEN PUHUU – 2009
The band’s first sonic journey begins with the eerie organ sounds that introduce “Korppi”, before unveiling a menacing, hypnotic groove of winding tremolo guitar work, undulating bass-lines, and croaked, crackling vocals, topped off with layers of paranoia-inducing keyboard effects, whose chilling ambience permeates and poisons the entire track.
The creepshow carnival of “Danjon nolla” melds perverse swagger and blackened spasms in a strangely compelling and contradictory fashion, sounding like the Manson Family house-band in the middle of an extremely bad trip, with follow-up “Kangastus 1968” providing the depressive come-down with its uncomfortable mix of languid chords and jangling, nauseatingly bouncy rhythms.
“Suuri pää taivaasta” has a doomier, more traditionally metallic vibe to it, frontman Jun-His coughing up a ragged stream of harsh, hacking vocals over a backdrop of darkly glimmering chords and tight, OCD drumming, which serves to keep the song pinned down beneath the glass like a particularly peculiar specimen of unknown origin.
There’s an erratic adrenalized spurt to the aggressive freak-out of “Myohempien Aikojen Pyhien Teatterin Rukoilijasirkka”, where spluttering snare drums rattle and pop like dislocated vertebrae beneath a pall of warped, dissonant chords and sullen, gloomy bass lines, while the eight minute “Dub kuolleen porton muistolle” sounds a little like Black Sabbath providing the soundtrack to some sort of impressionistic film-noir set in Weimar-era Germany… and is exactly as odd as that description might suggest.
The album’s title-track goes for a more desolate and minimalist expression of cold, cosmic ambience and echoing negative space, which leaves the door wide open for final track “Kerettilainen Vuohi” to ride its dreary, Sabbath-tinged vibe off into the pitch-black sunset, all dreamlike, drifting guitar work and rough, scarred vocals which add a touch of Nachymystium-esque filth and squalor to the mix (particularly during the tortured lead guitar spasms of the song’s mid-section).
KOSMONUMENT – 2011
The group’s second album sees them pushing further out into the unknown, beginning with the thrumming menace of “Sienipilvi”, whose droning, bass-heavy backbone seems to throb and pulse with ominous intent. It’s a subtly disturbing opener, make no mistake, and one which sets the tone for an album which is considerably darker than its predecessor.
“Komeetta” practically crackles and sputters with strange, esoteric energy, delivering a weirdly introverted interpretation of Black Metal at its proggiest, full of wild splashes of psychedelic melody, skittering drum patterns, and tangled branches of tightly-wound tremolo work, and this exotic energy carries over into the even more intense and visceral “Uusi olento nousee”, which initially pushes things in much more of an explicitly blackened, dissonant direction before collapsing under its own weight into a gravity-distorting, Drone/Doom second half.
The curiously freeform metallic space-jazz and alien soundscapes of the instrumental “Luhistuva aikahäkki” provide a scintillating showcase for the more ambient and atmospheric side of the band, leading into the sci-fi horror stylings of “Maavaltimo”, whose narcotic riffs, screeching synths and stalking bass lines conjure a truly creepy sense of existential dread, like the bastard offspring of Lucio Fulci and Stanley Kubrick.
“Siirtorata 100 10100” is another abstract, otherworldly instrumental interlude designed to transition the listener smoothly into the grim grandeur and brooding proggery of “Andromeda”, which really captures the majesty and melancholy of the vastness and emptiness of the cosmos and the sheer, crushing insignificance of our place within it.
After this, the resolutely blackened barrage of “Loputon tuntematon” comes as something of a shock, though the fascinating Finns make sure to perforate even the song’s most venomous and violent moments with gilded threads of surreal melody and freakishly infectious keyboard lines as the album barrels, helter-skelter, towards its climax in the form of the slow-motion psychosis of “Kaaos hallitsee” and its aimless, ambient epilogue “Ääretön”.
VALONIELU – 2013
With Valonielu the Finnish quintet finally started making some significant ripples outside the underground, and it’s not hard to see why.
It’s not so much the case that it’s a drastically more “accessible” album, more that it’s just a tighter and more focussed one, with opener “Vino Verso” possessing an almost Below the Lights-era Enslaved feel to it, built firmly around some brilliantly burly, brooding riff work, and shot through with contorted stabs and searing swells of unearthly synths.
The oscillating bass-line which underpins “Tyhjä temppeli” continues this Enslaved-esque feel to an extent, though overall the song’s slinky, almost-danceable vibe has less in common with the Norwegian legends (and with Metal in general) than it does with the indulgent, fractious artistry of Post-Punk at its most psychotropic, with Jun-His’ gravelly croak the only real link to the band’s more blackened roots.
By contrast to the pair of shorter, more immediately infectious tracks which precede it, “Uraanisula” is an eleven-minute monster of massive, morbid doom chords and grim, fuzz-soaked bass lines, laced with bizarre melodies and jarring, discordant counterpoints which give the track an almost pseudo-industrial, electro-clash undercurrent, building to an extended, chaotic finale of writhing, constricting bass work and droning, migraine-inducing riffs.
The sinister synth work and Twilight Zone ambience of “Reikä maisemassa” slithers under your skin like some sort of bleak, cosmic withdrawal, leaving you purged and shivering, before the Nachtmystium-esque relapse of “Olen aukaissut uuden silmän” arrives to get your blood boiling and your guts churning with its splashy, strutting drums, nerve-jangling guitars, and hallucinogenic keyboard melodies.
The album concludes with the progged-out “Ympyrä on viiva tomussa”, fifteen minutes of soul-shivering, black-jazz psychosis, topped off by the schizoid snarl of vocalist Jun-His, whose final minutes transition into, and out of, a colourful passage of queerly hypnotic, stream-of-consciousness melodic guitar work, finally culminating in one suicidally climactic heave and thrust of blackened metallic muscle.
VÄRÄHTELIJÄ – 2016
The band’s fourth album begins with the meditative, eastern-tinged opening bars of “Saturaatio”, which soon expands into a surprisingly dissonant and aggressive proposition — horror movie synths crashing up against harsh, discordant riffs on top of an endlessly repeating foundation of Mobius Loop bass lines and loose-limbed, insectile drumming – whose bizarre hooks are designed to mainline a disorienting dose of pure weird straight into the fight/flight centre of your brain.
Following this, the throbbing drum and bass vibrations and uncanny keyboard effects of “Lahja” create a disturbing sense of palpable dread and ominous anticipation which lingers even after the song has finished, spilling over into the album’s sinister, slow-burning title-track, and even insinuating itself into the twitchy, intense “Hypnotisoitu viharukous”, whose sparking, clattering drums, turbulent riffery, and strangled synthetic soundscapes twitch and jerk with the energy and urgency of a junkie desperate for his next fix.
The linchpin around which the album rotates is the 17:39 “Vasemman käden hierarkia”, which rightfully refuses and rejects easy classification, its distortion-soaked swell and subliminal, pseudo-melodic pulse producing a strangely soporific effect which lulls the listener into an almost comatose, suggestable state, before the back-half of the track takes you on a mind-bending, teeth-rattling trip all the way to the dark side of the doom.
At a hair under ten minutes, “Havuluu” is certainly shorter than its predecessor, though far from insubstantial! Its initial, noir-ish, post-rock tendencies soon give way to a brainwashing barrage of lurching, low-frequency riffs and distressing shrieks, cycling and repeating again and again in waves of psychic effusion, leading to a devastatingly chaotic and distressingly cathartic conclusion.
The album ends with the depressively melodic sounds of “Valveavaruus”, the soundtrack to the world’s worst metaphysical hangover. With only the cracked and broken vocals tying the song to the band’s “extreme” roots (at least directly), it still manages to be a suitably dark and densely layered affair, hypnotising and mesmerising the listener as it sinks ever deeper into the abyss.