Once again, Oranssi Pazuzu’s oneironauts have emerged from Wastement, their base of operations for psychedelic voyages into one’s inner self, and unleashed their latest opus Mestarin Kynsi to illuminate and mesmerize in these dark, uncertain times.
Mestarin Kynsi sees the band continuing to outgrow the narrowly defined traditional confines of black metal by further committing to their krautrock and psych inclinations, resulting in a syncretic melange of all things psychedelic, hypnotic, disorienting and electrifying. Assessed and compared in the context of the band’s complete ouvre, Mestarin Kynsi exchanges the more jam-based and meandering approach deployed on Värahtelijä for an apocalyptic and oppressive sound that revisits and repurposes the lysergic lightning of Valonielu, the vicious stomp of Farmakologinen, and the palpable dread that permeated Kosmonument and Muukalainen Puhuu. At the same time, synthesizers and electronic embellishments now take an increasingly prominent position in driving the proceedings and enhancing the whole.
Mestarin Kynsi channels an insoluble malevolence that is lurking in the shadows, an invisible panopticon with an unrelenting, inescapable gaze. It operates with terminal effectiveness in the dystopian soundscape of “Uusi teknokratia,” which lures its prey out into the open before closing in for the kill with razor-sharp guitars that tear the cosmic fabric, as well as in the amorphous shape of the nausea-inducing subterranean rumble that starts “Ilmestys” and evokes a vivid allusion to the opening part of Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible and its ensuing carnage. The droning rumble re-appears on “Kuulen ääniä maan alta,” this time providing both a foundation for the determined momentum and an accelerant for the scorching vortex that appears at the song’s midpoint.
By eschewing the traditional structure of verses and choruses, the compositions have time and space to develop and blossom gradually, sometimes even implying a deceiving simplicity of form, exemplified by “Taivaan portti” and its rapturous thrill that doubles down on hypnotic repetition and unfolds and intensifies over its eight-minute runtime, until climaxing with overwhelming luminosity. Throughout the album, significant room and prominence is given to the rhythm section and electronics to envelop the listener in a narcotic haze, which heightens the impact of the punishing moments when the thorny tendrils of guitars lash out and burrow into the flesh.
As an inspired production choice, the tone and timber of Mestarin Kynsi often feels slightly off, to a dizzying and alien effect, such as on the intro of “Oikeamielisten sali,” which features vertigo-inflicting strings backed by percussion that sounds equal parts flabby, boomy and hollow, all adding up to the album’s aura of menacing weirdness. Similarly, there’s a beautifully startling moment on “Tyhjyyden sakramentti” when the wall of sound suddenly stops, and a lone guitar takes center stage until suddenly swinging to the side to make room for the return of the rest of the band. The production itself is a marked improvement over the harshness and overdriven compression that slightly impaired my enjoyment of Värahtelijä, this time providing improved clarity without any detriment to the claustrophobia on which Oranssi Pazuzu’s music thrives.
With Mestarin Kynsi, Oranssi Pazuzu continues its cosmic quest on a unique evolutionary path, as a polymorph defying convention, norms and expectations. Creating one’s own sonic reality is no easy feat, but the celestial architects of Oranssi Pazuzu are not content with mere superficial interior decorating; they constantly set out and succeed in redefining the quintessence and parameters of their musical universe, making it their laboratory of psychedelic wonder. One can only dream about the destination of their next journey, but if Mestarin Kynsi is of any indication, it will be something magnificent and enthralling.