This is Seremonia's fifth album of fuzzy and doomladen Finnish psychedelic rock but it's my debut encounter with them and it surprised me. Never mind the garage stereotype, this is so lo-fi that it could have been recorded in a closet. Like garage rock, it's also massively urgent, as if most songs want to be finished ten seconds sooner than the previous take. And the vocals are fantastic, because they're hardly typical for the genre and Noora Federley doesn't sound like a typical lead singer, unless it's for a punk band in London in 1977. She has very little range and it really doesn't matter. I like this combination of styles as much as I wasn't expecting it.
And, talking of not expecting it, let's talk about Raskasta Vettä. This is the first epic of the album at almost nine minutes—the closer, Maailmanlopun Aamuna, is just under seven—and it's as slow and moody as the three songs before it were fast and frantic. It shifts gears completely, taking an interesting garage/post-punk approach to the extended psychedelia jams of the Doors. This is not the end, my friend, but it's an interesting take on it, its initial Hallowe'en vibe made creepier and more atmospheric by the presence of a prominent flute, courtesy of drummer Erno Taipale.
The rest of the album plays with those two approaches in different ways: the frantic garage band with a wildly fuzzy guitar and a dash of psychedelia being the first and the stoned psych band on a long slow trip being the other. My favourite from the first angle is easily the title track, with some strong bouncy riffs, an ever-active bass and some neat vocals that seem cut off for effect. There's also a swirl of keyboards that gets more overt as the song runs on and ends up bringing quite the Hawkwind vibe into proceedings.
Perhaps the most interesting song for me, though, is the one after it, Naamiot, which Google tells me means Masks, because of the balance of those two approaches. It feels like it wants to blister but something holds it back for the most part and so it falls more into the psychedelic trip mould. The result is short but sweet, clocking in at only two and a half minutes, but it stamps itself on our brains and stays there, even during the nine trippy minutes of Raskasta Vettä, as something with its feet firmly in DIY post-punk but just as firmly in psychedelia. However the other songs grew or evolved on me, I kept coming back to Naamiot.
Having not heard Seremonia's first four albums, I'm sure I'm way off base, but it feels like this one is the key to the band, or at least the band as it is right now. I ended up thinking of its balance as being a tantalising one between the psychedelia of the Doors, the hallucinatory groove of Hawkwind, the garage rock of the Sonics and the punk of early Siouxsie and the Banshees or maybe Penetration. When they speed up, they amp up the stoner rock fuzz and add some early Discharge urgency, but, as much as I tend to gravitate towards speed whenever I listen to angry music, it remains the more patient Naamiot and Maailmanlopun Aamuna that speak to me most.
This certainly isn't going to be for everyone, especially because of the production—or the lack of it. If you find yourself wondering what that weird combination of sounds is going to be like, I think you're already a fan of Seremonia and now you just need to hit play to confirm it. If not, then this album is never going to convert you and you probably shouldn't even try.