Finland’s Oranssi Pazuzu caused quite a stir with their 2013 release Valonielu which was about as straight ahead as these psychedelic exorcists get. For their 2016 release Värähtelijä the band came to a fork in the road and took it. The album is exceptionally experimental, plunging down the psychedelic road into unchartered territories of black metal, noise, and chaos. Yet, the album is accessible. Easy enough for a casual fan to spin and appreciate yet complex enough for those who have followed the meandering path of Oranssi Pazuzu to transfix themselves. Simply put, Värähtelijä is a startling work of uncompromising genius. Something that alters the way human beings consume and listen to not only metal, but all music.
Oranssi Pazuzu have long been a band that knows what it wants sonically. Their albums have long been cohesive works; each expressing a vision that was clearly laid out and detailed by the band. In 2009 they revealed themselves to be chaotic, unorthodox and unafraid with Muukalainen Puhuu. In 2011 Kosmonument saw the band departing from the harsh, layered formula in favor ambience and serious experimentation. Valonielu was a study in Pink Floyd style of solid, foundational experimentation. With many of the songs following a sort of drone-like pattern, that album felt timeless and comforting. An album that truly imprinted itself on the listener and vice versa. Something that was fluid yet solid. Almost haunting in it’s simplicity and reach.
Enter Värähtelijä. Oranssi Pazuzu have left the universe on which the rest of metal exists and have flown off to a distant planet to follow their own path. With songs that easily surpass the ten minute mark, the band has created the world’s first metal jam band. Värähtelijä is haunting in a completely different style than the band’s previous work. Instrumentation blends together like pudding creating a mired, gooey muck for the listener to roll in. Yet, the album is overall brighter in its production value than Valonielu. If there’s a direct comparison to be made with prior work, Valonielu’s shortest track “Reikä Maisemassa,” as well the ambient aspects of its longest track “Ympyrä On Viiva Tomussa,” are closest.
Building off of Valonielu, the concept of drone based, repetitive and cyclical songwriting has remained the core of the band’s work. On Värähtelijä that concept is taken to almost a fugue level of cyclical writing. Take the album’s title track, “Värähtelijä” — eight minutes of droning guitars and sound effects with vocals that exist beneath the subterfuge. The rhythms, when the drums finally break from drone, are almost at jazz level with the consistent slap of the ride cymbal. “Havuluu,” on the other hand, allows the bass to step to the front and create the pedal on which the band will drone for nearly ten minutes. The mix, combined with the bass sound, creates a sort of buzzing that locks into your brain — as if the bass was being played in your frontal lobe. “Lahja” might be, for fellow musicians, the most exciting track. Drummer Korjak effects Danny Carey levels of tom-tom work percussion and keyboardist EviL uses chimes, bells and keys to create a bone-chilling landscape. And then there’s the mammoth “Vasemman Käden Hierarkia.”
Seventeen minutes of landscape torture. The guitars even take on a touch of ambient country (see Lanterna (or any other Henry Frayne project), Grails, etc.). Enough reverb to drown the listener in coiled springs. The bass once again holds down the fort as the guitars effectuate an almost Pixies levels of affectation and manipulation. Picture someone playing guitar while someone else slams their amp down repeatedly. But for all its slow buildup, crackling fires and subsumed chaos, “Vasemman Käden Hierarkia” flat out rocks. There are few songs that have brought me to head bang level at my ripe age but this is one of them. By the ten minute mark the track has decayed into something of a warped video game soundtrack/digital tech nightmare. Yet, for all it’s affected noise it’s as intense as a buzzsaw attacking your brain. Oranssi Pazuzu knows how to hold a mood while altering the cartography.
Don’t despair oh-fans-of-metal. For Värähtelijä is, without a doubt, a metal album. It’s one hundred percent black metal despite the jam and psychedelic elements. It’s an experimentation — and a successful one — in the practice of what constitutes psychological black metal. A work that latched on and became an extremity of my body. Lyrics boiling up from within my own rib cage. Basses smacking around the inside of my skull. Bells chiming from within my ear canals. If you’ve got drugs — take them before pressing play. If, like me, you don’t partake, then please turn the visualizer effect “on” in your iTunes and lay back. Värähtelijä will be, even if you’re not moved to tears, one of the more exciting albums you listen to in 2016.