The group plunge further into even more deranged sonic caverns.
Words by Rohan (@manvsplaylist):
The masters of some of the most thought provoking and original explorations that fall under the seemingly ever-expanding black metal moniker, a term that is now saddled with enough adjacent sub-genres to infuriate the purists, are back with their latest offering of intense nihilistic rage, washed through a depraved filter of electro grandeur and trademark psychedelic terror. Making their Nuclear Blast debut, Mestarin Kynsi (The Master’s Claw) represents ORANSSI’s fifth full-length release since the band's inception late in the 2000's. Following up 2016’s essential Värähtelijä, and together with the highly acclaimed Roadburn collaboration turned studio album with DARK BUDDHA RISING known as WASTE OF SPACE ORCHESTRA (delivering the album Syntheosis in 2019), ORANSSI PAZUZU have kept a relentless schedule spanning the past 18 months. Their latest release finds the outfit continuing to expand on their sound, finding new crazed electronic textures to add to an already unique artillery. The band has successfully pioneered its own brand of space rock psychedelia cloaked in black metal mystery, and Mestarin Kynsi manages to see the band evolve further in ways only they could. At times suffocating in its dizzy, chaotic apexes, other times hypnotic and trippy with woozy synths and pulsing bass lines – there is an ever-present sense of unease and dark tension that consumes this entire listening experience. It stands as a shockingly fitting audio reflection, and perhaps disastrously coincidental, of this moment in time of panic and fear that is gripping the globe. The opening track Ilmestys (Revelation) begins with a hypnotic acoustic guitar, droning repeating bass line, layered with an ‘80s synth riff. The gargled, sickening rasps of front man/guitarist Jun-His appear and in that moment of soft, slow paced build-up they sit in a perfect juxtaposition to the brooding instrumental atmospheres underneath. It takes only 5 minutes for the album to reach its first full psychedelic cosmic implosion. At its peak, the track is lush with synths, samples, slowly bashed off-kilter guitar chords and whatever mysterious dark matter was hiding by way of Jun-His’ raspy delivery in the songs intro gives way to full throated wails, the revelation now complete in mesmerizing glory. Featuring prominently throughout the entirety of the album is a bizarrely twisting electro/synth theme, one that passes through various points of reference from several decades past, as well as recent contemporary influences. ORANSSI utilize this tool with perverse subtlety on occasion, leaving those elements slightly hidden and out of focus. But those impulses can only stay buried for so long, as the shimmering keyboards, synths and electronic effects return to become a central, focal point of the song in several cuts on this album, with none better exemplifying this than Tyhjyyden sakramentti (The Sacrament of Emptiness). What begins with clean guitar intro, spacey synth and a woozy kaleidoscopic build-up is quickly hurled forward by urgent bass lines and pounding rhythms. The band reaches full psychedelic freak-out bliss before it all abruptly comes to a screeching halt and defers to a stand-alone, bizarrely angular, oddball blues-tinged guitar breakdown riff the likes of which Jon Spencer would be proud of. From that point, layers of keys, synths & effects return and effectively provide the driving force to the song’s haunting climax. Although every song across the album extends beyond 7 minutes each, there is never a feeling of aimlessness or needless space rock meandering. As a complete listen, the album as a whole stands exceptionally well balanced and weaves its way in and out of abject terror. As with the band's previous explorations with oddly paired stylistic combinations, none of these new found electronic influences feel forced or out of place. They all fit. They connect, and then meld together and reshape in the form of a new aural texture and dark emotive mood.
ORANSSI’s signature avant-garde flourishes abound all through Mestarin Kynsi. There is a memorable dirgey, repetitious violin riff that could be the perfect nightmarish soundtrack to any of today’s images of empty streets, once bustling metropolises turned overnight into people-less ghost towns. Elsewhere, staccato organ notes punctuate the dissonance. Then, Kuulen ääniä maan alta (I Hear Voices Underground) arrives, providing some of the most boundary expanding sonic explorations the band has made to date. Combined with equal parts programmed electro beats, wandering keys, and deep pulsating bass lines, the track pushes the albums sound further into industrial leaning textures, before fading out and giving way to the ultimate closer. No teasers or spoilers for that one. Just hang on. Literally.
ORANSSI PAZUZU are a band that have always communicated their emotion through atmosphere, texture and aesthetic. Lyrically rooted in their native Finnish language, western audiences are not reaching for a direct literal translation to connect with this music. Instead, its power is successfully conveyed via immense layers of frightening mood, tense sonic dissonance and striking stylistic contrasts. This is an album steeped in frustration, paranoia, fear and retaliation; a perfect albeit terrifying soundtrack to the present day events unfolding across the globe. The creative arc ORANSSI PAZUZU have pushed themselves further along is astonishing, and represents another bold step for a band that utterly rejects boundaries and genre expectations.
Mestarin Kynsi is out on April 17th via Nuclear Blast. Pre-order your copy HERE.