Review Summary: The pieces are there, but do they all fit? Judge for yourselves.
The increasing hype surrounding Oranssi Pazuzu has been admittedly annoying for me. There's nothing that the Finnish experimental/psychedelic black metal group have done that countless other groups playing the same musical style haven't. I mean, yes, what Oranssi Pazuzu have done throughout their career is notable and successful enough to get them some underground airplay, but not so good that they can be safely called a game-changer for the ever-expanding world of Scandinavian extreme metal. Now that that's out of the way, let me be honest to everyone about my perception of Oranssi Pazuzu: Their work leans more towards a collection of jams
, rather than actual songs, and this for me couldn't be any more realistic than describing the band's latest effort, Värähtelijä
. Sure, there's an abundance of influences and different sounds to be found here, but at heart I think what really makes the band's core influences comes alive is simply their eagerness to let a psychedelic black metal jam roll out into a (sometimes) strained 10+ minute length. Is this a bad thing? Considering the musical direction of Oranssi Pazuzu's previous work, Valonielu
, probably not. But at the end of the day, it simply depends on what you like or what you don't like of the band's output.
The most striking thing you'll find with Värähtelijä
is that the black metal part of their sound isn't as prominent any more. Matter of fact, you can only find it obvious in two of the album's seven tracks, being "Hypnotisoitu viharukous" and its successive counterpart, the 18-minute monster that is "Vasemman käden hierarkia". But here's something you may find strange, even conflicting to believe: These are by far the two best songs of Oranssi Pazuzu's latest album. The reasons being are simple. They both provide a seemingly endless array of spiritual energy, explosive musicianship and ambitious songwriting which, if I'm being honest, isn't fully realized elsewhere. It's not that there's a complete lack of these aspects in, say, opener "Saturaatio" or the title track, it's just that if you're the sort of listener looking to feel musical adrenaline and actually enjoy what you're listening to, it will seem most impressive with those two aforementioned songs. That said, the general impression you can get with Värähtelijä
ranges through many different emotions. It simply depends what you get out of the album by the end. There's enough musical versatility to impress even the most cynical of black metal fans out there, at least something which will get an eyebrow-raising moment out of every listener devoting a hour of their free time to the record. "Lahja", for example, is almost tribal because of its background ambiance and the unsettling whispers coursing throughout the song, and the album's closer, "Valveavaarus", evokes some sort of distinctive trance which wouldn't sound out of place in a standard acid rock album from the late 60s.
However, what the biggest problem with Värähtelijä
is that there seems to be too many eggs in one basket. Oranssi Pazuzu have really taken it upon themselves here to craft many sounds, some of which usually conflicting with one another, and incorporate them somehow into a track which barely exceeds ten minutes. It's not so much the components of the band's musical direction, it's more how they are put together under the guise of a complicated albeit mesmerizing songwriting ethic. In terms of effort, Oranssi Pazuzu have almost outdone themselves with this latest album. Yet consistency, in the process, seems to have gone out of the proverbial window. Take the opener "Saturaatio", for instance. The instrumental build-up evokes quite a few influences, yet only a few manage to reach top priority, and everything else-the inaudible vocal effects, the wispy atmosphere, the almost non-existent bass work-seems lost in a cacophony of everything, which at times amounts to a whole lot of nothing. Another song which provides this unfortunate flaw is the title track, which begins as if to create a storm of raw, vicious black metal sounds, but ends up sounding confused and muddied because of Oranssi Pazuzu's seemingly endless ambition. The title track is in fact worse affected, because by the end there's more lacklustre moments to consider than there are impressive ones. The entire song seems to build up via a repetitive guitar chord and trance-laden synthesiser effects, but it never quite gets to its destination. Even the slight moody change of swirling psychedelia towards the end (strangely evoking parts of the Suspiria soundtrack) can't really pull it out of the rut it got stuck in halfway, and it's thankfully up to the successive song, "Hypnotisoitu viharukous", to re-engage the band's explosive musical menace.
Oranssi Pazuzu seem to have manufactured quite a few puzzle pieces here, but only a few of them actually make sense. There's a lot of things happening, but what Oranssi Pazuzu have forgotten is how to connect everything to make consistency matter more than the sum of the album's parts. Ambition and influential musical direction is undoubtedly in abundance here, but it unfortunately doesn't provide spectacular effects without any sense of what a "song" requires, in the traditional sense of the word. Then again, nothing about Oranssi Pazuzu has ever quite matched up to any sense of "tradition". Maybe that's what Värähtelijä
proves best-that Oranssi Pazuzu will continue to defy musical logic by mixing things, twisting them into confused moulds and putting out complex music. They've excelled themselves here, that's for sure, but they've also forgotten to not get ahead of themselves.