The orange demons of Finland do not really need much of an introduction following the release of their 2013 full-length Valonielu. At the time Valonielu saw the band reaching, what was thought at the time, its peak. Taking a psychedelic twist on black metal, and with disregard to boundaries between diverse musical styles, it felt like Valonielu would be a very tough album to follow. And yet, Varahtelija not only manages to follow its predecessors, and carry further the evolutionary progress of Oranssi Pazuzu, but surpass them.
Looking back today, it is quite amusing to see how difficult it was to describe the sound of Oranssi Pazuzu. And yet the description has only become more difficult. Sure, the general consensus was that these guys were a post-black metal, psychedelic black metal or surrealistic metal band. The black metal aspect is still present in their sound, even though it rarely appears in its most raw form, with the exception of “Hypnotisoitu,” which awakens the early ’90s primal fury of Darkthrone. From there on, the black metal aspect is coupled with a range of different elements, such as shoegaze, and even krautrock, in the opening track, and no-wave injections in “Huvuluu.” It still plays a big role in the cosmos of Oranssi Pazuzu, but it has been mutated into something different, lending its eerie, majestic and raw characteristics, but without the need to travel to its most basic of forms. Similar is the case with some doom extensions that have been part of the band’s sound. Those are still brought forth when more weight is appropriate, making the ground shake with their heavy riffs, constructing a towering manifestation from the resulting rumbles.
As important as the role of black metal is in Varahtelija, of similar value is the psychedelic influence of the band. The lead work throughout this record drips acid, harnessing all the mind-bending quality of psychedelic rock, moving into further domains causing otherworldly experiences. The synths and effects smear the album’s surface with this sonic identity, as laser beams pass over your head and black holes begin to spawn right in front you. These trippy waves find a much darker corner of the Oranssi Pazuzu identity. A place where no-wave injections are brought in, filled with the twisted, back propagated riffs that acts such as Swans have pioneered, as it occurs in “Lahja,” “Havuluu” and in a more noise rock quality in “Hypnotisoitu.”
What has really changed here however, is the scope of the band. Valonielu was adventurous and inspired, but the degree of experimentation that this album is willing to travel to is on another level. Progressive rock elements are included and at the same time a free rock approach unfolds. Imagine that, on one hand the meticulous structures of prog rock and on the other, the furious improvisational qualities of free rock. The opening track and “Havuluu” both feature the prog rock nature of this album, while the middle part of “Vasemman” sees the band regressing to an esoteric aspect of their sound, slowly stripping its sonic elements, reaching a point of non-existence, only to bring it back to life in a tremendous effort.
Still, the most poignant of changes comes with the whole approach of the band in Varahtelija. Instead of the psych black metal or the surrealistic metal that they have been known for, here they take on a more mesmerizing and hypnotic element. Sure, the surreal elements of their sound are still present, but the overall state of the album is pointing towards ritualism rather than anything else. The repetitive patterns of “Saturaatio” and the tribal percussion of “Lahja” are instances of such quality. And just when you think that you have heard it all from Oranssi Pazuzu, you suddenly listen to the strangely folk-y start of the closing track of the album, and its peculiar evolution through circus-like synths, in becoming structurally an electronic music track. And even then, the band will keep messing with your head, re-introducing the earlier riffs from the opening track in the final minutes of the album, closing the cycle of Varahtelija.
This band is further progressing, as difficult that might be to believe. Oranssi Pazuzu state clearly with this album that their music cannot fit mere tags and labels. Psychedelic music and black metal, prog rock and free rock, this album is a big melting pot where boundaries between genres blur. I am not making the mistake of stating again that the latest Oranssi Pazuzu is their best. Valonielu was their best until the monstrous Varahtelija came along. So, let’s just say that it is their best yet.