Release Details

RELEASED ON 2/26/2016
GENRES Progressive,Black,Psychedelic
  • ...a jam band for the eternal void.

Oranssi Pazuzu


posted on 2/2016   By: Dan Obstkrieg

When Oranssi Pazuzu's debut album, Muukalainen Puhuu, touched down in 2009, it was a shock to hear such a fully formed vision. Despite the fact that plenty of black metal bands had exploded the genre with various aspects of progressive, psychedelic, and avant-garde music (particularly toward the tail-end of the Weird '90s), no one had yet attempted such a complete merging of second wave orthodoxy and '70s-style psychedelic/space rock. Oranssi Pazuzu's vocalist/guitarist Jun-His had previously played in the psychedelic rock band Kuolleet Intiaanit, but the band still seemed to emerge in the insular metal world as if ex nihilo. As odd as it sounds, that can sometimes be a fatal blow to a new band: if your first album nails a unique aesthetic confidently and completely, the expectations for subsequent work will be much higher than with a band that is still visibly working things out.

The truly unreal thing about Oranssi Pazuzu, then, is that they have only gotten better and bolder with each of the four albums in their still-young career. Kosmonument pulled back on some of the blackness of the debut but then filled in that void with lysergic atmospherics and outre experimentation. Valonielu tamed and refocused the sprawl of Kosmonument while grafting the band's unique sound onto the sturdiest yet most exploratory songs they had written to date. And now, on their fourth album, Värähtelijä, Oranssi Pazuzu lifts off into yet another dimension. Interestingly, there is no real seismic shift or quantum leap here from previous albums - the shifts and refinements are mostly differences in degree, not in kind - but throughout Värähtelijä's fully earned 70-minute duration, the band displays a masterful talent for structural discipline even as they revel in excess and overload.

Oranssi Pazuzu are, I suppose, a jam band for the eternal void. Each song on Värähtelijä feels like an hours'-long, chemically assisted freak-out and exorcism whittled down to its purest essence, like Hawkwind or Amon Duul at their untidiest directed into some kind of order. Värähtelijä is less outwardly aggressive than Valonielu, but by jacking up the psychedelic elements of OP's sound, it maintains a level of sustained intensity that would be overbearing if the band weren't so expert at ratcheting the tension again and again, higher and higher, and finally relenting just shy of the listener's breaking point.

The psychedelic elements come from all over - from the guitar's itinerant effects and interjections to the distorted and tweaked vocals, and from the overdriven bass riffs to the nearly endless permutations of synth tones. All of these aspects combine to form something that, if not the Platonic ideal of psychedelia, must at least be its asymptote. There might be no better example of this than "Lahja," with its gentle, tom-heavy drumming and hypnotic but almost playful vibraphone that flits between locking in with the drums and playing in cross-meter triplets. The main structure shows a band capable of putting tricky time signatures to great use, with alternating measures of 4/4 and 3/4 time.

"Saturaatio" opens the album in a driving, off-balance 5/4 that feels like struggling to walk into a powerful headwind, but eventually it transitions into a straighter 4/4 meter with a hugely sassy bass line. When the Hammond scuttles in about five minutes in, the song finds an unexpected similarity (in chord progression and rhythm) to Devin Townsend's "Namaste." The synth stabs in "Hypnotisoitu Viharukous" might seem chintzy in other hands, but here they mesh excellently, and while "Vasemman Käden Hierarkia" is the longest song of the bunch, its slow-burning stomp pulls the listener in close and whispers madness directly into the tympanic membrane.

The most satisfying moments of the album may actually be the quietest ones, where OP brings in a wealth of new sounds and textures. The church organ that animates "Valveavaruus" is tremendous, but when the song's building tension cuts out about six minutes in for the bass and drums to work a house beat while the organ is chopped up and played against the kick drum, it's a stroke of sideways genius that few would have expected from this band, even given their auspicious beginning.

Värähtelijä is a trip in all senses of the word. It is dark and dense, but still open enough as to be inviting, which is to say that while there's hardly such a thing as big tent heavy metal in 2016, Oranssi Pazuzu never feels willfully obscure or pedantic. These songs are meant to bring everyone along on a journey to the heart of the collective unconscious. Whether you conceptualize the destination as the innermost jungle of the soul or the bleeding edge of a still-expanding universe, the songs beckon you to vibrate on a universal frequency.

While the sample size of truly psychedelic black metal bands is still witheringly small, Oranssi Pazuzu remains on such an astonishing upward trajectory that any possible competition seems almost laughable. This band is bold, bracing, smart, and frankly unbeatable. Let's all get lost in this tangle, together.


Oranssi Pazuzu