Vinyl VVednesday: Finnish Him! (Vol. 2)
Last week I featured a couple of artists who weren’t necessarily metal; this time it is my duty to make up for that lack of brutality. Today we’re going to find out what happens when a Finnish black metal band enters the rabbit hole of psychedelia and progressive metal. The following records were composed by one of my absolute favorite discoveries from the Toilet: Oranssi Pazuzu.
Oranssi Pazuzu’s second LP gripped me in a way that their first one (Muukalainen Puhuu) did not. I actually bought that one and decided to return it—it was just a little too standard of a black metal album for this listener. With Kosmonument, it seems like the band started doing some top-shelf drugs because it’s really out there, both in texture and in composition. The songs are much longer, stranger, and come with plenty of eerie intros and outros. (It’s probably a good thing that I started with their most recent material and worked backwards, otherwise I might not have become such a big fan.)
As exemplified with the track above, the band doesn’t shy away from lengthy build-ups to the heavier material. Half of the song builds anticipation for a barrage of furious riffing and eerie synths. It’s albums like this one that satisfy my immense thirst for progressive rock bands like Yes and Genesis, while also maintaining plenty of extremely heavy metal. The songs flow together quite well to tell some kind of story that I might understand if only I was more into lyrical content.
The artwork on Kosmonument blew me away, which is something I definitely wouldn’t appreciate from a typical BandCamp purchase or a compact disc with its much smaller packaging. I’ve had several friends ask, “why pay for physical media when you can stream the music from Spotify?” Well here is just one of many reasons, silly friend: the pictures are large enough that one could hang the album cover itself on a wall, plus they’re more glossy and vibrant than a phone camera can capture.
Kosmonument is a little rough around the edges, but in a charming way. This surreal sci-fi adventure is chock full of heavy riffs, unexpected twists and turns—luckily for me, things would continue to get weirder (and the songs longer).
I once heard a reviewer compare Valonielu to a given album released by Rush—in regards to overall layout and song structure—and that is just music to my ears! There’s only six tracks on it, two of which exceed the 11-minute mark, while the remaining ones are on the short side and make great bookends to the epic tracks. The longer songs could both exist as separate, self-contained mini opuses if they were packaged as individual EPs.
The band patiently entices us with slower, doomy guitar riffs accompanied with keyboards for the first two-thirds of the running time, building up anticipation for a maniacal barrage of hard rock riffs for the climax. It’s a move that Rush successfully pulled off in classics like “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Cygnus X-1,” a move at which Oranssi Pazuzu simply excels and which they would push to further extremes later in their discography.
Gorgeous artwork, lyrics in both Finnish and English, beautiful blue/orange splatter coloring, and knowing that you’re hearing the sound being reproduced on high-quality analog format make this another record which justifies the higher cost of a turntable.
Everything you need to know about this monster of a record has already been said by Karhu (if you haven’t read his review from 2016, go ahead and click that link and then come back). Whereas he rated this album 4 stars, I’d definitely give it at least a 4.5 or higher; it was love at first listen and also my entry point into Oranssi Pazuzu. This double LP is almost 70 minutes long and is chock-full of beautiful passages.
It’s somewhat fitting that the artwork isn’t as extraterrestrial as previous releases, as the music is a little more grounded. And I don’t mean to say that it contains radio-friendly songs or anything, but the band seems more focused on extended passage of repetitious music rather than giving us unpredictable twists and turns whenever possible. Värähtelijä kicks off with with “Saturaatio,” a nearly 12-minute slow burn that’s almost completely stripped of the band’s black metal DNA. Would I call this a more “mature” effort from the band? Yes I would, but without any of the negative connotation that comes with said description. There’s almost no tremolo picking, and the guitars don’t crunch to the point of sounding clipped, as with previous efforts. But in exchange for the raw energy of their earlier material they bring a pervasive sense of calculated and patient execution, with a heaping helping of psychedelia. “Saturaatio” is a fine example which ends in several minutes of rhythm-heavy music with the guitars stripped away.
While a few of the songs might veer far enough away from black metal as to seem like post-metal, they aren’t representative of the whole package. One of the great things about prog rock is that one song might sound vastly different than the one which preceded it. After hearing the first three songs you might not feel like your heavy metal needs are being met, but then “Hypnotisoitu Viharukous” assaults with aggression and fury that reminds us of why we gained interest in the first place. This serves as a great illustration to explain how this album contains all the various elements of what makes Oranssi Pazuzu so special, just spread out evenly among the entirety of these two records.
Värähtelijä ups the ante by including four extremely long songs in its arsenal. The musicians are never in a hurry to progress from one passage to another, a quality that pushes their brand of psychedelic black metal into territory that hasn’t been charted before. I would be remiss not to mention the final track, “Valveavaruus” which at the ~5 minute mark includes the single best usage of church organs in heavy metal, ever. It’s a style of music which is greatly enhanced if you’re partaking in psilocybin or lysergic acid diethylamide whilst listening, in that it’s almost impossible to come up with earthly descriptions. It’s a style of music that we might only find in the magical country of Finland.
I adore Oranssi Pazuzu. I would kill for the chance to do drugs with Oranssi Pazuzu. Seeing them live is now an item on my bucket list. The format of vinyl is immensely suited to these Finnish geniuses, due to the dynamic nature of their sound and their penchant for sexy artwork. I somehow managed to find all of these albums at Planet Score Records in St. Louis (an establishment that excels in Toilet-friendly metal), but physical copies can also be purchased from our friends at 20 Buck Spin. Some of their material is on BandCamp too, but I wouldn’t recommend going with the digital downloads if you can splurge for the physical copies.
Now who wants to get an Oranssi Pazuzu tattoo with me?