Oranssi Pazuzu, Valonielu, Svart Records, CD SVR 226 (2013)
This Finnish five-piece is on its third journey through the psych black metal cosmos and reaching out to the very edges of the known universe and possibly beyond, as suggested by the album cover art which might (just might – I’m guessing wildly here) have been inspired by the style of famous 1960s comic-strip writer and artist Robert Crumb. “Valonielu” is a very confident work refining the style set by debut recording and album “Muukalainen Puhuu” which was a real humdinger for its enthusiastic and colourful if sometimes demented music. Our citrus-loving demons wisely don’t try to top that album in excess but nevertheless the ride here is as mind-blowing and expansive in its own way.
The opening track is a tough rocker dominated by Jun-His’s inhuman croaking vocals barking in deranged Finnish while droning synths and effects heighten the sense of unreality and the impression that chaos and other dreamworlds are just a breath away. The psychedelic space journey proper really launches with the next track “Tyhja Temppeli” (“The Empty Temple”) with a thumping percussion accompanied by squiggly guitar chords, flashes of guitar tone and synth wash. Tension and suspense created within the song builds up. The band opts for a more relaxed, spacey, trippy ambient approach with “Uraanisula” rather than continue with the near-hysterical escalation of foreboding generated on the preceding song but “Uraanisula” has its own sinister charms, especially in those instrumental passages where guitar solo competes with ascending and descending space gurgle noises. It’s a fairly long track but with a riff that more or less runs right through its length, the song is distinct with a strong focus and direction.
There’s time for a breather and a look around the alien vistas with “Reika Maisemassa” (“A Hole in the Landscape”), a trippy little instrumental with tribal-sounding drumming and a sense of wonder and awe. The difficult second half of the album – this is where filler is most likely to be found – is negotiated well before “Ympyra On Viiva Tomussa” (“A Circle Is A Line In The Dust”), a monster track of atmospheric trance immersion, blackened rock-out glory and mind-blowing consciousness-altering space psychedelia, takes us on the final lap around the edges of the cosmos, always on the verge of falling right off and over into another (and perhaps more malevolent) universe. A war to dominate our minds is waged between a battery of tremolo guitars and death rays of while Jun-His sings over the battle. The sound is evil as though the forces of darkness are winning and the spacecraft carrying us listeners is doomed to fall into black void forever.
What makes this blackened psychedelic trance record stand out is a calculated attitude that drips with evil intent; the voyage to the stars and far beyond is a one-way journey into a cosmos that is indifferent and maybe even antagonistic and hostile towards those humans who dare to forget their place at the bottom of the cosmic hierarchy and venture out from their Earth prison. The album’s energy and focus are directed towards dropping us all into emptiness: the answer to humankind’s quest for meaning to life. As cosmic jokes go, this is devastating and “Valonielu” might serve as a warning to us all about human hubris. Whereas on the band’s first album, interstellar travel was fun, now on this trip the fun has been replaced by uncertainty and foreboding that we might be in for an unpleasant shock.
While the first half of the album is a tease with songs going off on different tangents from previous tracks, the second half pulls the strands together and from then on the ultimate aim is imminent. Early tracks can stand alone as potential singles (due to one riff or melody dominating throughout) which might explain why as a group they don’t seem unified and a bit of momentum is lost from one track to the next. The musicians keep monotony at bay with synthesiser melodies, atmospheric wash and effects which help give songs their distinct ambience and identities.
The whole recording works like a horror sci-fi movie in sound: all that’s needed are the visual backgrounds and maybe some stills of actors, and we’ve got ourselves a complete package.
Contact: Svart Records