Artist: Oranssi Pazuzu
Album: Mestarin Kynsi
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
”Metal alchemy” is a term that has been used to describe Oranssi Pazuzu, probably ad nauseam, but it’s hard to come up with any other word that captures the raw essence of the band’s music so succinctly. Ancient alchemists attempted to transmute base metals into gold, whereas Oranssi Pazuzu filters the universal dark energy into lengthy krautrock jams with golden black metal linings. On the other hand, alchemy can be viewed as a personal journey of transformation and in this respect, it is indeed an excellent term to describe the music, especially on the band’s latest full-length, Mestarin Kynsi, which was released on April 17th, 2020, via Nuclear Blast Records.
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At first glance, the band’s music may seem like a tormenting freefall through the rabbit hole, but there’s a catch. It is most eloquently worded by C.G. Jung: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” The band’s channeling of darkness is so fluent that you might even think they had rehearsed all these years in some defunct factory that had been founded upon some ancient Indian burial ground… oh, wait! The band WAS formed on the ruins of an art-rock band, Kuolleet intiaanit [Dead Indians] in 2007. The dark, gravitational pull of the music might also tempt the unsuspecting listener to write the band off as another shamanic metal outfit, but I would rather call it possession music – it’s mesmeric, loud, and intense. Echoing the slightly paranoid atmosphere of the previous studio album, Värähtelijä (2016), Mestarin Kynsi is yet another strange energy field.
The trip begins with the band setting sails toward the same sonic seas as early Pink Floyd did with their psychedelic trance, “Set the Control for the Heart of the Sun”; the opening track, “Ilmestys,” soon takes off on a bit more unnerving tangent with cubist synth arpeggios and croaking vocals by Jun-His. Tension builds up until around the 5-minute mark where the band bursts into hypnotic Black Sabbath riffing. Despite the black metal vocals, metal is not the first thing that comes to mind when listening to “Ilmestys.” The offbeat synth riffs, oddball syncopation, and the ever-growing intensity is more reminiscent of some of the more eclectic krautrock and prog-rock bands such as the accordion-driven KTU, especially their 2005 album, 8 Armed Monkey, which featured the King Crimson rhythm section, Pat Mastelotto and Trey Gunn.
The progressive vibe intensifies even more in the following track, “Tyhjyyden Sakramentti.” The song is a kind of 3-part krautrock suite. The first movement is basically an atmospheric experiment in trance music in 7/4 meter, the second part is a relentless punch-up of spanking 5/8-riffing, and the song ends with an art-rock outro that sounds like Radiohead and Brian Eno had a lovechild in a dirty basement.
In March, the band teased us with the “Uusi Teknokratia” single. It came with the added bonus of an expressionistic music video by the award-winning director, Zev Deans. The song is as haunting as those piercing Leslie Barany eyes in the video, what with the menacing flute samples and the lingering, uneasy sense of some strange impending doom. The song is a 10-minute juggernaut of crushing space rock with a 2-minute outro of pure Brian Eno.
Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet are probably names that are not that often casually thrown around in the context of black metal bands. The fourth track on the album, “Oikeamielisten Sali,” opens with a sampled string motif that could easily replace the iconic “Lux Aeterna,” composed by Mansell and performed by the string quartet on the soundtrack of Requiem for a Dream. The manic drive in the latter part of the song would suit perfectly the transgressive mood of any work by Hubert Selby Jr., upon whose novel the movie screenplay was based. Oranssi Pazuzu is very cinematic in nature to begin with, but on this track the band puts an extra emphasis on the soundtrack facet in their trademark sound. Of course, the term “cinematic” in this context might not exactly refer to the Hans Zimmer side of things – maybe more to the atonal vibes of Krzystof Penderecki.
Before the frenzied, 8-minute-ecstasy-rush of “Taivaan Portti” brings the album to a close, we hear “sounds from the underground” – but definitely not in the sense of Girls Aloud. The song “Kuulen Ääniä Maan Alta” literally translates to “I hear voices from the underground” and these chthonic sounds are awash with fuzz and Nintendo-bleeps; the krautrock is strong with this one. The closing track is basically one continuous climax, like the never-ending climb of Kundalini energy that creeps up your spine to detonate in your head. The song is 8 minutes of stunning noise, a visceral experience.
Oranssi Pazuzu has come forth with a new offering that is a strange collection of ritual music. The band is often labeled as psychedelic black-metal, but Mestarin Kynsi leans a bit more toward the sonic aesthetics of kraut and post-rock. The craftsmanship of the band, in terms of atmosphere, is outstanding. So, It’s only appropriate that you can hear subtle flashbacks of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Brian Eno here and there too. In short, the album is a genuine mindfuck.
Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars
2. Tyhjyyden sakramentti
3. Uusi teknokratia
4. Oikeamielisten sali
5. Kuulen ääniä maan alta
6. Taivaan portti