One challenging listen

Finnish transcendentalists Oranssi Pazuzu have returned upon us all to conjure up their new album Mestarin kynsi. ‘Oranssi’ (‘Orange’ in Finnish) is described as the colour of cosmic energy, ‘Pazuzu’ of course refers to the ancient Mesopotamian wind demon; it’s a fitting moniker for this veritable maelstrom of avant-garde black metal mayhem.

No two of their releases sound alike, each forging a new trail. Mestarin kynsi (‘the master’s claw’) is their fifth full-length album, and this reviewer is going to dig right into the depths and attempt to ascertain the trails they’ve chosen to blaze.

Album opener Ilmestys begins with an encompassing aura of synths before the sound stage gets bigger and wider; introducing some folk-like acoustic melodies before some vocals blend into the ambience. The only thing that’d remotely be described as ‘black metal’ here are the vocals, but Oranssi Pazuzu have never done anything by the book. Ilmestys manages to however encapsulate a black metal atmosphere despite being devoted almost entirely to the creation of a haunting psychedelia. It’s something oddly familiar and almost comforting, albeit filtered through an unsettling lens.

Tyhjyyden sakramentti is another track that brings Oranssi Pazuzu’s ambient influence to the forefront. It is oddly calm, until the listener realises that there is an undercurrent of distant inauspicious drumming, harrowing electronics and almost jarring vocal interruptions. The calm atmosphere is delivered with a touch more intensity compared to Ilmestys, as the black metal influences again begin to creep in and take centre stage. 

Uusi teknokratia is the longest track on offer, clocking in at just a shade over ten minutes long. It was also chosen as the lead single from Mestarin kynsi. An ambitious move. This track sees the band’s krautrock influences head to the fore as Korjak riffs on the iconic ‘motorik’ drum beat long associated with that genre. The vocals of both guitarist/vocalist Jun-His and bassist/vocalist Ontto begin to be uttered with much more presence; albeit almost taking a side stage to the mass of drumming, impending guitars and off-kilter electronics that unfold in the centre. Female vocals from a duo of guests (Maija Pokela and Jutta Rahmel) work almost in contrast to the atmosphere built around them, which by now has incorporated a trombone amid some excellent riffing. 

Oikeamielisten sali is a bit more urgent than the works preceding it, I can sense a theme here. Beginning with hypnotic drumming beset by violin and cello, there’s an intriguing stop/start quality to the build-up that just makes it that much more chaotic and unnerving. The pulsations created by the drumming then transition into something altogether more grandiose as the rest of the band enters the fray. I’m almost hearing some influence from the electronica subgenre of glitch here amid the black metal styled vocals. I’m not sure if that influence was intentional, but it is certainly aiding in creating a layered atmosphere; albeit one perhaps knowingly rendered imperfect. 

Kuulen ääniä maan alta begins as a continuation of the harrowing atmosphere formed at the end of Oikeamielisten sali before it ramps the extremities up a notch. There’s a noticeable industrial undercurrent to the rhythm, and the riffing becomes that much solid and heavy. That isn’t to say that previous tracks weren’t ‘heavy’, Kuulen ääniä maan alta is just operating with a much more conventional framework amid Oranssi Pazuzu’s trademark onslaughts of avant-garde. Which of course means that nothing is ‘conventional’. 

Album closer Taivaan portti is the most urgent and intense of all of the tracks conjured forth for Mestarin kynsi. Korjak again sets the pace, this time with blast beats reminiscent of the classics. With that said, the atmosphere created is one as still as cacophonous as ever; as synths are gradually introduced into the second wave of black metal-reminiscent proceedings. The track as a whole becomes an unholy mesh of black metal riffing, mechanized drumming, and the utter suffocation of a dense electronic fog. Jun-His’ vocals somehow stride over the top of everything; yet at the same time are mixed firmly into the centre and risk being alienated by the veritable storm brewing above them. 

Oranssi Pazuzu are not an easy band to decode, understand, or even to comprehend. Through the years they’ve done things differently, without regard for any established ‘sound’. This reviewer wonders if they ever have anything in mind beyond eclipsing what they’ve done before. That’s all they need to do though, better only themselves.

Mestarin kynsi is one challenging listen, I feel it’d best be taken in as a whole, listened to under circumstances in which it becomes the sole object of the listener’s attention. It needs and demands that much to be understood, but when you do understand it, it offers innumerable rewards. Each track on the album near opens up a universe of its own, akin to a movie soundtrack brought screaming into an alternate universe. This might have been somewhat of an unconventional review, but Oranssi Pazuzu demand nothing less. This will appeal to fans of avant-garde black metal, psychedelic and/or progressive rock, or anyone simply looking to be challenged to explore new forms of music.

  1. Ilmestys
  2. Tyhjyyden sakramentti
  3. Uusi teknokratia
  4. Oikeamielisten sali
  5. Kuulen ääniä maan alta
  6. Taivaan portti