Friday 8 January 2021

Oranssi Pazuzu - Mestarin Kynsi (2020)

Country: Finland
Style: Psychedelic Black Metal
Rating: 9/10
Release Date: 17 Apr 2020
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Here's a 2020 catch up album that I really should have caught in 2020, as Oranssi Pazuzu were half of a pair of groups who combined ranks to create the ritual piece of music at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands under the name of Waste of Space Orchestra. I reviewed that last January and loved it, as unusual a combination of space rock and doom metal as it was. This is different, more like a combo of space rock and black metal, but I love it just as much.

There are six songs on offer here, the shortest lasting for over seven minutes and the longest ten, and the commonality is in how well they find grooves and grow them. What's odd is that they build these grooves out of bizarre building blocks, strange sounds and odd time signatures, components that are more likely to alienate us than entice us, but they capture us immediately.

These rhythms are not the rhythms that we know but they're clearly rhythms and they're emphatically repeated so that we can't ignore them. What surreality is woven around those rhythms is like nothing we've heard before either, but it does follow internal logic. It's mathematical, reminding both of King Crimson and Philip Glass, and it makes everything here very calculated, however experimental it feels.

Ilmestys is the first of those six songs and it sets the stage well because it's a real trip. For most of its running time, it's a trance state decorated by dramatic vocals and electronic experimentation. It feels like we've been trapped in a parallel dimension and we're being berated by a disgruntled demon, one who doesn't care how we feel in this warm, organic environment and rants at us anyway. Of course, the Pazuzu of the band's name is a demon, in Babylonian mythology the king of the wind demons, and the one that possesses Regan in The Exorcist. Oranssu means orange.

Tyhjyyden sakramentti is quieter noodling, but in an interesting time signature. It's a few minutes in when it suddenly escalates—and escalate it truly does. Suddenly we're stuck in some space maelstrom with that infectious odd beat etching itself onto the inside of our skull. The vocals are just as twisted but more sung than spoken. Ever shaking things up, the band bring in a flute, of all instruments, for a contrast against another space maelstrom and angry lesson from the demon on Uusi teknokratia.

In and amongst all this, there are some gloriously wild moments. There's a mad elephant at the end of Ilmestys and, a few minutes into Uusi teknokratia, we drop into a clockwork nightmare, with multiple instruments, including female voice, beating time. These are underlines to the thought that it's often acutely dramatic, as if there's a simultaneous performance art element to interpret it that I'm missing because I only have the audio. Sure, it's out there stuff, an enticing psychedelic space metal painting, but it ought to move and I want to see what it looks like.

The primary reason to set this aside from King Crimson and Philip Glass and other musicians who are on this world to experiment is that it gets a lot heavier than any of them. Oranssi Pazuzu go beyond, taking their space rock shenanigans all the way up to full on black metal at points. Sometimes, like on Taivaan portti, they kick off with a black metal wall of sound and pretty much stay there, but, on most songs, they play with dynamics and contrast, merely doing so with a broader intensity palette than an army of regular experimenters put together.

So, while this is absolutely a black metal album, it's also a space rock album and an electronica album and a whole bunch of other things, all woven together into a heady and innovative mix. I haven't yet explored Oranssu Pazuzu's back catalogue but this emphasises why I need to do that Real Soon Now. I hear that they reinvent themselves on every release, so their work is always fresh.

I was disappointed yesterday with the latest Hum album, a year end list topper. I'm not disappointed with this, which made five end of year lists I'm tracking thus far, including three top tens and one top five, a second in Jeff Terich's list at Treble Zine. I like it a lot more than the release ahead of it in that list, the collaboration between Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle, but I see a lot of interesting albums on that list, including a bunch on I, Voidhanger Records, whose catalogue I expect to dive into deeply.

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