Record label: Nuclear Blast
For Fans Of: Neurosis, Emperor, Waste of Space Orchestra
Release Date: 17.04.2020
Over the past 10 years Oranssi Pazuzu have shown themselves to be one of the boldest new acts to emerge within extreme music. Broadly sitting within black metal – a genre notorious for its resistance to change – the Finnish quintet have somehow managed to expand its sonic palette immensely but still stay in contact with the primal heart of the genre, creating their own niche and aesthetic. With their fifth album, Mestarin kynsi, the band take us on a cosmic journey that really does need to be heard to be believed.
There is far too much going on within this record to try and unpack all of it. You could try and pick out each of the intricate passages, the individual riffs and layered synths that make up the bulk of the sound but that would feel like it’s missing the point a bit. What makes Mestarin kynsi work so well is just how bleakly oppressive it is. If you’ve seen The VVitch (and if you haven’t then you really should!) then this feels like the aural equivalent. It’s almost impossible to truly relax for the record’s duration, and not because of the usual ‘pumped-up’ feel commonly found within metal. Instead, there is a feeling of unease and darkness surrounding the album which is created by all of those elements coming together expertly.
What makes this even more impressive is how the record does feel like a complete journey, with a beginning, middle and end. Trying to infer any kind of narrative would probably be too far, and again, be missing the point, but there is a definite shift throughout the album. At the beginning of Immestys there is a ritualistic and primordial feel but by the end of closer Taivaan portti, this has shifted to be somewhat shimmering and chrome plated with John Carpenter style keys and a maddening repeated riff which heralds your final arrival at the heart of insanity. Along this journey so many different influences and sounds are wrapped up and warped to fit Pazuzu’s twisted purposes; from the jazzy rhythmic drumming and ambient synths which open Thyjyyden sakramentti to the electronic dance sound on which makes Kuulen ääniä maan alta sound like a rave from hell. Meanwhile the mid-section of Ussi teknokratia seems to push the hysterics of Emperor to the furthest possible degree and is the closest the band come to full on black metal. Usually elements this varied would lead to a disjointed or messy feel for a record, but instead they simply contribute to the madness and once more we see how everything is focused on the overall picture the band are trying to create.
Despite the highly effective use of a build and release style on the record it does feel a little overused by the time you reach the end. Of the six songs on the record, at least four of them follow this same basic template of a slow brooding opening before reaching a crescendo of distortion and howls a few minutes in and this is usually to great effect. When the fuzzed up rattle of guitars finally hits in Immestys after nearly five minutes it is particularly satisfying. However when this same trick gets used again and again it definitely loses some of its impact. This would probably be a much bigger problem if the soundscapes and feeling of each track weren’t so different, but it is certainly noticeable. Aside from this the only other real drawback of the record is the gurgled and indecipherable vocals. These are definitely of the King Diamond variety where you will either love or hate them and they really are just used as an extra-layer, frequently being ran through different levels of distortion and effects. For some this will push things just a little too far but they certainly fit the overall mood and it’s hard to imagine any other vocals working as well.
No description or summary of Oranssi Pazuzu’s sound could even come close to preparing you to hear it. Undoubtedly there will be those who will see their sound as incomprehensible nonsense and others pure genius. Both are probably true in their own way. What is undeniable though is the pure atmosphere and feeling this record creates. Oranssi Pazuzu have always been expansive by anyone’s standards, but Mestarin kynsi sees their sound grow to the size of a supermassive black-hole and dares listeners to make the jump through it with them.
Recommended Tracks: Ussi teknokratia, Taivaan portti