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Grounding the cosmic path. - 84%

ConorFynes, December 30th, 2013

I'm amazed that a band like Oranssi Pazuzu could manage to define themselves by such a singular sound, and still manage to develop and change over time. When it first came out in 2013, I remember thinking that Valonielu was their least impressive album. Now, I'm thinking it's possibly their best. It has everything to do with the band's decision to focus on this album. Muukalainen puhuu opened their career with an incredibly creative set of songs that did everything psychedelic black metal could be expected of. Kosmonument followed up with a much more sombre kind of atmosphere, fleshing out the style and expanding it to near-excess. It is fairly common form for progressive bands to reel back after pushing themselves so far, but it's not often that it actual works to the music's benefit. Leave it to Oranssi Pazuzu to be an exception in many cases.

I can see why Valonielu didn't hit me quite as hard upon its release. It doesn't have a lot of the playful camp of its predecessors. Instead, it sounds like the band finally matured at some point directly prior to Valonielu. Whatever goofy charm it may have lost in translation is far outweighed by the improvements Oranssi Pazuzu made here. This is the first album of theirs where I feel the songwriting was finally consistently up to par with their ambitions. Much less was left up to chance this time around. If anything major changed between Kosmonument and Valonielu, they obviously became confident with their unique psych-black fusion that they no longer felt the need to overtly showcase the template. At last, the material was written with substance over style in mind. Saying that is by no means a condemnation of what they've done before-- Oranssi Pazuzu were great from the start; it's just that Valonielu gives a much easier time of remembering it track for track than the couple of records it followed.

Valonielu's songwriting may be more memorable, but memorable songwriting also results in a greater number of standout moments. Oranssi Pazuzu continued their tradition of fantastic opener tracks with "Vino verso"; the fuzzy starting riff atop thick bass synth has probably etched a permanent place in my memory. The same easily applies to "Tyhjä temppeli" as well, an eerie groove-driven piece that near-perfectly demonstrates everything brilliant about this band. And if we're talking about particular standout moments, the explosive climax on "Olen aukaissut uuden silmän" (complete with Jun-His' best recorded scream to date) is one of the most cathartic things I've probably heard in modern black metal. I'm sure there's some charm lost by the fact that Oranssi Pazuzu were no longer wearing their style on their sleeve when Valonielu dropped, but repeated listening has only gone to prove this was an incredibly smart move.

While I'm sure many people hearing Valonielu will have had at least some experience of their prior work before, I'm sure the music would still seem incredibly strange to a newcomer. In a way, it really is no less odd than the work they did before. The change obviously lies with the fact that Oranssi Pazuzu had finally figured out how to properly harness a sound they themselves had largely innovated. They started out as a great band, and it seems like they're only set to improve with each coming album.