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Masters of the surreal plane. - 90%

ConorFynes, October 27th, 2016

Oranssi Pazuzu began as a near-perfect fusion of black metal and campy psychedaelia. I loved the debut when it came out back in 2009. As much as I enjoyed them early on however, I don't think I would have ever predicted just how far they could take the sound. The early Oranssi Pazuzu material was fascinating by the merit of the band's authentic dedication to genre-blending. By 2013's Valonielu and especially now with Värähtelijä, it finally feels like Oranssi Pazuzu have become so grounded in their sound that it no longer feels like a forceful gimmick. For these guys, dipping into the kosmic and hellishly surreal is second-nature routine.

It's a great experience to listen to Oranssi Pazuzu's albums in chronological order. Although their style has shifted a bit along the psych/space/kraut axis, it's their confident grasp that changed the most. I felt like they finally fleshed out their substance through songwriting on Valonielu. By comparison, Värähtelijä has taken far more time for me to get into. Since it "clicked", I've realized that slow burn was a result of OP having brought themselves up to a brand new stage in their evolution. Akin to the way Kosmonument opened up and spaced out the palette of the debut, Värähtelijä does the same for the tight focus on Valonielu. This time, the band are plunging forth with a much greater sense of direction even in the sparsest moments, and the evolution has boded well for virtually every facet of their sound.

Värähtelijä is probably the most engaging metal album I've heard this year so far, and that's saying a lot. I wasn't always so warm on it. The first couple of times hearing this latest record, I surprisingly wasn't grabbed. Maybe I'd been expecting something with the songwriting heft of Valonielu; it's even possible I just wasn't in the mood for a space-black attack the first time it hit my lobes. Regardless, Värähtelijä has proved to be the biggest grower of the year for me. Where early on I was quick to call it their least engaging album to date, I'm glad I was quickly put in my place.

Värähtelijä is a total masterpiece, and this may be the first instance where referring to the band as "masters" really rings true. As their sound's expanded, they've gained tighter reins on the style. While "Hypnotisoitu viharukous" and "Havuluu" develop their always stellar heavy side, the boldest improvements arrive in the psychedelic jams. The sparse atmospheric movements on Muukalainen puhuu even somewhat up to Valonielu occasionally ran the risk of sapping the album's momentum. Värähtelijä features some of the sparsest, most ambient material yet, but I've only appreciated it more each time I hear it. They meticulously curate their soundscapes with the same intensity they offer their fuzzy riffs and blackened noise. It's nowhere so apparent as on the 17-and-a-half minute long centrepiece "Vasemman käden hierarkia". The crunchy krautrock riffs ultimately give way to wide-open dark ambiance. It's like the would-be soundtrack to some psychedelic sci-fi horror film. I guess the same could be said for their work on Muukalainen puhuu as well. However, where the spook factor early on was mostly campy fun, here, the terror is very real.

Oranssi Pazuzu's atmosphere made the transition from "fun dark" to "true dark" at some point over the last couple of albums. All I know is that Värähtelijä manages to set me on edge. The psych rock riffs are as inviting as always, but there's an undercurrent of fear in their music I didn't really hear before. For what it's worth, I think this is the first real masterpiece Oranssi Pazuzu have made. Even if their past albums can be considered classics in their own right, it's hard to think of a way where the band could develop further after Värähtelijä. From the slow burn of "Saturaatio" to the schizoid guitar noise on "Havuluu", Oranssi Pazuzu consistently find new and exciting ways of fleshing out their fundamental blend of genres. For whatever it's worth, these guys have long since encased themselves as one of black metal's most innovative forces. I have no idea how they'll manage to push it even further than this, but I've got fingers crossed.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical.

Pushing the limits - 95%

Twisted_Psychology, June 9th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Svart Records (Digipak)

On their fourth full-length album, Oranssi Pazuzu prove to be masters of the slow burn. In a way similar to Swans or Burzum, likely huge influences on these Finnish metallers, each of the seven tracks on here is often based on a single idea or two that is built up over the course of the song. The results aren’t always heavy in the traditional sense but they often have an alienating but hypnotic effect on the attentive listener.

This experience is further enhanced by the effective instrumentation. In a nice twist, the rhythm section is the group’s major source of strength as the bass introduces the droning mantras while the drums sustain them in a swelling tribal fashion. From there, the guitars and keyboards still shine though it is often more as the icing on the cake.

It also helps that the band works in several different genres such as world music, jazz, and psychedelia under its doomy black metal umbrella. Songs like “Saturaatio” and “Hypnotisoitu Viharukous” may be the easiest for extreme metal listeners to get a feel for due to their heavier rhythms but they allow their exotic influences to come out. That said, the ambient tracks like “Lahja” and the title track actually provide the most foreboding textures.

Of course, the album does have its challenges. While the compositions never feel directionless, seventy minutes of them can be an exhausting listen. “Vasemman Käden Hierarkia” in particular is an effort due to its near eighteen-minute runtime though it does have a lot of quality moments. The vocals tend to be sparse and remain distant even when they show up, but the Finnish lyrics arguably make that an irrelevant issue.

While I am unfamiliar with Oranssi Pazuzu’s past works, their fourth album is easily one of the best to be found in 2016. The eclectic styles it pulls off allow for listeners of multiple backgrounds to feel equally uncomfortable but its monolithic incorporation of them allows for consistency. Highly recommended for those looking for metal bands pushing the genre to its limits in the 2010s.

Highlights:
“Saturaatio”
“Lahja”
“Värähtelijä”
“Hypnotisoitu Viharukous”

Originally published at http://indymetalshows.com

An epic listening experience of psych BM - 85%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, May 30th, 2016

Finnish psychedelic black metallers Oranssi Pazuzu have proven themselves consistent over the years in producing albums and the odd split of epic and distinctive hypnotic music at once dark, sinister and sometimes nihilistic in true black metal style yet trance-like and all-inclusive cosmic like the best psychedelic rock of decades ago. The band hasn't changed its approach much but refines and reiterates it with each release. OP's fourth album "Värähtelijä" follows in tried-and-true fashion and the result, perhaps darker, meaner and leaner than previous work, is sure to satisfy fans if not draw in new listeners.

The songs tend towards instrumental and develop in an organic fashion from riffs that sprout branches that in turn produce more branches, and so on. From small, modest beginnings come forth entire worlds of intense hellish atmospheric density. Sparing Finnish-language lyrics are rasped out by vocalist Jun-His whose croak is still as hoarse as ever, and still fights for attention with the rest of the music. You'd think by now he'd give up but this man of few words per song still has a few to say to his Finnish followers. The rest of us can just bask in the rhythms and often delirious atmosphere and go along for the ride. OP may have left black metal technically but its grim, unyielding aesthetic still informs the band's approach as Jun-His & Co. wend their way through dark wormholes and cross through the various dimensional barriers of the universe.

Most songs on the album stand well on their own and others appear to tread water in-between tracks. "Saturaatio" serves as a stupendous introduction to the album but also encapsulates the recording in microcosm: by turns it's free-flowing and expansive, and moody and inward-looking. "Lahja" is a subdued piece of tribalistic percussion and occasional sparks of trance guitar fire that never fully lights up; likewise the title track is something of a damp squib. It's left to "Hypnotisoitu viharukous" to claw back to the drama and heights reached in the first song, and with Jun-His' heroic and anguished screeching, shrill background synth swirl and frenzied music the track regains lost ground. This sets the stage for the centrepiece marathon "Vasemman käden hierarkia", a monster that showcases OP at their most black metal and doomy, the psychedelic influences lending a deranged atmosphere to proceedings. It develops into a massive horror-movie monster with huge dark-angel choruses, mean and moody thunder percussion and guitar, moments of hypnotic hellspace ambience, furry sludge metal and space opera excess.

At this point the album could have ridden off into a crackling fire sunset but OP insist on serving up another two songs that, while good in their own way, follow almost as footnotes to Track 5. They are quite long but though not as long as "Vasemman ...", they seem more monotonous and in need of trimming here and there. "Havuluu" is a whirling dervish of demonic looping riffs that also takes in a few urban blues and jazz influences along with darkly sneering atmospheric BM and vocals that range from snaky and sneering to screaming-of-the-damned acrobatics. The OP guys throw a lot into this cauldron of manic miasma and it almost boils up and pours over.

Well yeah, it's not entirely even throughout and sometimes OP strive for more than they can handle with a couple of songs of their own volition threatening to shoot off into the farthest reaches of the cosmos. At other times OP keep their pets on too tight a leash and don't allow them to run free as they could. They get the balance about right on the two middle tracks "Hypnotisoitu viharukous" and the 17-minute epic following after, and these are the highlights of the album. The band's musical influences are diverse and while not all songs feature black metal as their dominant style, it is present in attitude and the general dark nature of the music.

Even with its imperfections, this album is still an epic listening experience and must certainly rate as a major contender for Black Metal Album of 2016.

Oranssi Pazuzu is OP - 93%

Apteronotus, May 18th, 2016

This is an absolute beast of an album. Värähtelijä is an entrancing psychedelic black metal experience that has more highlights in its hour-plus run time than seems possible. It’s an almost overwhelming amount of remarkably cool moments, but they are melded together so well that the album’s hypnotic feel never wavers even in the slightest. Incredibly, three of the tracks are over ten minutes long but you’ll end up feeling the album’s magnitude rather than its duration. In a way, Oranssi Pazuzu also flips the normal expectation of how black metal, and metal generally uses instruments. Värähtelijä is something special.

This album is heavily dominated by the rhythm section, to the point where the trance-like drumming is often the focal point. It’s not some kind of dull tribal drone either, the beats are far too unusual and addicting. Calling the syncopation on this album creative is as much as an understatement as saying Escher was creative with drawing stairs: the repetition always seems to be progressing onward. Bass lines are the other side of how the band flips the usual order of the instruments. They fill in the melody for long stretches, weaving into the drum’s rhythm and pulling the listener into the low-end of the mix. Vocals and guitars don’t sit idly by however, they pop into more traditional melodic roles, and also often accompany the music as trippy echoey ornaments.

If it wasn’t clear from reading about the album’s hypnotic qualities and rhythmic focus, this isn’t the kind of release that has many riffs to speak of. Still, there are a handful of incredibly strong moments in the guitar work. “Hypnotisoitu viharukous” for example has a really cool interchange between a fast riff and a slower chord progression. Both parts are somewhat stripped down versions of what the bass is doing, but an octave higher (see, I told you they flip things upside down). The guitar’s contribution makes a huge impact though because it add a harsher and chaotic element to the melody, which is then taken to the extreme in the song’s effects laden outro. It’s a role the effects play really well throughout the album in how they always fit just right into the composition rather than sticking out like a guitar player just screwing around with a fancy new effects pedal. See for example how all of the howls, beeps, and noises fit into the earlier part of “Vasemman käden hierarkia.”

Some exceptionally cool bits are worth pointing out individually. On “Lahja” rhythmic interaction between the strings, the xylophone, and tom drums is nothing short of stunning. It also shifts the song’s flow in a really intriguing way when the xylophone’s chimes go from a 4/4 to 6/8 feel, a simple touch that adds worlds of interest. The way that “Vasemman käden hierarkia” swings back into the earlier motif at about twelve minutes in by incrementally adding drums, bass, and vocals to the flanged tremolo-picked note is absolutely brilliant. It simultaneously brings back the song’s earlier mood in the bass melody while also creating a new feel to keep the track engaging. Then closing it off with cracked out yelling, screaming, and eventually plain old fire noises really drills home the song’s thematic progression.

Värähtelijä is a hell of a ride because it has such an earthy rhythmic side to its vast spacey sounds. Even the relatively weaker track Havuluu is really strong, it’s repetitive two-note theme mutates into a howling mess that’s so unhinged that you have to love it. The album’s mellower sections and the tame closer “Valveavaruus’s” drum free parts are stern reminders of how compelling overall pulse is. I remember the band’s debut release having two really powerful tracks, here it’s all seven. Oranssi Pazuzu abandoned a lot of the traditional rules of making metal, and still crafted a top notch release.

Originally written for Contaminated Tones.

Kaleidoscopic darkness. - 85%

Witchfvcker, March 15th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Svart Records (Digipak)

Perpetual oddballs, floating in the outskirts of the Finnish black metal scene, the enigmatic and bizarre ensemble Oranssi Pazuzu are anything but typical. Pulsating charcoal psychedelia is tightly entwined with an intense atmospheric black metal undercurrent, in an unholy union of bleak and occasionally downright hellish soundscapes. Translating to something like “the oscillator”, the band’s fourth outing Värähtelijä adds further steps to this mind-melting spiral into space metal madness.

A surprisingly upbeat proggy number, “Saturaatio” sets a vigorous precedence for the remainder of Värähtelijä. Snaking through psychedelic tunnels of sound, the energetic beat and somewhat catchy main riff is balanced out by copious amounts of spacey effects and a 12 minute running time. Further darkness washes in with the ominous “Lahja”, where an eerie xylophone echoes the atmospherics of a John Carpenter movie. Frontman Jun-His croaks incantations in his native tongue, as a universe of layered sounds swirl around like a vortex, and the ghostly xylophone bounces ever onward.

It’s easy to be swept away by Oranssi Pazuzu’s hypnotic dirge, despite the occasionally abrasively avant-garde touches that Jun-His and his compatriots keep churning out. The incredibly dense psychedelia is far removed from flower power, rather lending a devilish tinge to what feels like a steady descent through the planes of purgatory. Trancelike moments abound, such as on the jaw-dropping “Vasemman Käden Hierarkia” (“left hand hierarchy”), where a hypnotic repeated melody is backed by a menagerie of strange sounds and instrumental flourish, culminating in vast choirs that feel like you’re grasping for air.

In many ways, then, Värähtelijä is a suffocating experience, and despite its multifaceted ways it still feels like the most coherent work Oranssi Pazuzu have released to date. Although the band have dubbed themselves a middle ground between “the arsonists and the smokers”, the ambitious but bizarre sounds on Värähtelijä are liable to alienate both the hippies and the diehard black metal fans. This does not count against Oranssi Pazuzu; their originality and refusal to fit in any molds make for a unique and intensely rewarding listen.