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A hectic mix of everything tasty - 83%

Napero, June 17th, 2005

Find a big blender. A really big, mean blender. Power it up, and start throwing in stuff. The first things to go in are all the full-lengths and EPs of Finntroll, and most of the Dimmu Borgir albums since Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. Add a few volumes of Waltari to avoid belonging in any specific genre, and an album or two of Mr Bungle and Primus (or any other Les Claypool project, excluding Blind Illusion) for more frantic effect and reckless attitude, but not sound. Season with the total caffeine content of fifty pots of ├╝ber-strong espresso and way too much sugar, just to cause a bit of creative hyperactive resonance, then administer a 20 kilovolt electric shock to jump-start the unholy experiment, and you're close to The Wicked's album with the too long name. This album includes everything, and maybe even too much, but like an insane chef's curry wok or an avant-garde pizza, it still is definitely worth a try.

What we have here is a strange bubbling concoction of musical ideas and experiments. The influence of Finntroll is obvious, as should be expected of a band with an important member of Finntroll in it's line-up. The second main component are the faster and more black metallish parts, however, and they remind me strongly of Dimmu Borgir's newer symphonic black, including the sampled synth-choir sound. The rest is a junk-sale collection of something old and new, blue and stolen, recycled and rediscovered things. There's pathetic classical finnish waltz, a shitload of pop culture references in the form of sound clips, strange avant garde sections of almost everything, and really solid playing. The band is indeed very skilled, and they deliver every last sound all the way.

It's very difficult to describe the band's sound. Synths and keyboards are the main theme and ingredient of the soundscape, and the sound itself is very solid, all the things combining much in the same way as Finntroll. The production is excellent. The extreme variance of the things blended into this nuclear pesto sauce make describing the sound resemble explaining the average commercial break live; too much to say, and too little space and time. Even the vocals are impossible to pin down. There are growls, screams, blackish stuff, clean singing, female visitors (I don't know who they are, my copy is a promo without the booklet) and shouting. Sometimes the speakers are flowing with synth-heavy metal, sometimes a sort of electronica or oompah with accordions. Sometimes there are horns, strings, bells, flutes and whatnot, or ambient industrial with something like puffs of steam. There are even sections that remind me of the well-known and way too much overused Georg Orff's Carmina Burana parts and certainly some vague works by Yello. The combination of melodic black and industrial is as decent an approximation of the style as possible. I'm tempted to add the word "symphonic", but before the "industrial", not the "melodic black". Somehow, strangely enough, the sound on the album stays coherent, evenly thick and unexplainably likable all the way through the seemingly chaotic whole. The producer, whoever he was, had a clear vision of the perfect way to tie all this together, and the continuity is unbelievable, considering the insane amount of everything thrown into the mix. But since exhaustively describing the sound is next to impossible, I'll just tell you about something else. It must suffice to say that instead of an annoying collection of different things, the overall soundscape somehow soothes the listener instead of irritating, and that is a gargantuan achievement by the producer.

The lyrics might be interesting, but I haven't found them anywhere. The stuff that can be heard and understood is strange once again. Just look at the song titles, and you'll probably already know roughly as much of the lyrical content of the album as I do. We are certainly cruising through interesting landscapes here. And come to think of it, the Unbirhtday Song is possibly the best piece of pitch black comedy on any metal album ever; laugh at it aloud and youll be officially a nice little nutcase.

The thing that bugs me most on the album is the overwhelming amount of pop culture references. The appeal of things like The Exorcist is obvious, and every time I hear the "No I did not, I gave him life!" line from the movie Re-animator on a metal album (surprisingly absent on this album), I must love it. But there are limits even bands like The Wicked should not cross, and peppering the whole album with an overabundance of these things was slightly unwise. Using the effect too much turns it into a liability, and this album is simply packed. Too much is too much.

Inevitably, an interesting thought surfaces: could this simply be a depository for all the wild musical ideas that are too off-the-wall and over-the-top for Finntroll? The basic sounds of the bands are quite alike, but the variance and overall goofiness of The Wicked is something well beyond that of Finntroll. Maybe this simply stuff that has no place on Finntroll's works, and a The Wicked is an outlet for all the things left over from the more serious band? Please note that I definitely do not consider Finntroll a serious band as such; there's a heavy dosage of comedy and humour on every album. Finntroll is, however, much closer to a mainstream band and has a nicely defined formula to make music. This is different, and The Wicked has less boundaries to respect.

Do I like it? Yes. I sometimes love the strange stuff, and this one hits the nail on the head with a mighty swing of a sledge hammer. And this will not get boring in the near future. I won't listen to The Wicked while tired or irritated, as this would certainly turn annoying within seconds. But on a nice friday evening, after achieving a certain kind of mental state with the help of a six-pack and a serious overload of coffee, this would be excellent.

Try this, but only if you are a fan of Finntroll and at least one of the following: Primus, Mr. Bungle and Waltari. If all the three bands seem too confusing and irrationally incoherent, forget this, you'll only waste your money. We are, after all, talking about stuff poured out of a mighty blender of... things...