The more complex genres of music each have their own trick. With progressive it’s melding groove into technicality, being very careful not to lose emotional impact within grand ideas. With experimental or avant-garde music it’s to give the listeners some sort of cipher, a way to approach and translate the music they’re hearing. With the complex genres that live in the feedback, in repetition or in slow, considering movements, it is to have a core. A center must be found, a place to which you return with your music when the going gets rough, when the ears ache from the overwhelming oscillations of ponderous instruments.
Oranssi Pazuzu‘s latest release, Värähtelijä is often a fantastic release. Straddling the borders of progressive black metal and drone, it does a masterful job of incorporating folk influences, string instruments, harsh vocals and guitars into one enchanting blend. When this mix is carefully measured and balanced, the album is abrasive without losing touch, emotional without being too melodramatic and convincing without being didactic. However, a lot of the album lacks that equilibrium, a certain restraint which would grant the album a stable core, a beacon in the chaos that would allow the listeners to locate themselves within its many caverns.
Opening track “Saturaatio” is a fine example of what this album is capable of when it hits the sweet spot between repetition and impact. It opens with a delightfully incessant guitar lead, repeating a few notes that almost sound like a sitar. On top of this and the drums are overlaid several fuzzy, expansive riffs that grant the entire track an epicness which reminds one of Arcturus and their latest release, Arcturian. The shifts and changes in the main guitar riff is where the power lies, strumming and expanding on the initial themes. Finally, spaced out synths are introduced, driving that space-opera/dystopia feel home at least. By the time the harsh vocals kick in, we are wholly entrapped, hypnotized for the entire eleven minute run time. So much happens within this track but yet, the band are able to keep it all together, delivering it as one, cohesive unit.
However, the following tracks, “Lahja” and “Värähtelijä” itself, display the latter quality. Their reiterations contain very little true variance, leading the tracks to be undecipherable and, therefore, forgettable. “Lahja” is intended to be a more “creepy” track, containing very little to it in an attempt to give the notion of an empty cavern or a lonely night. The deepness within it is initially tempting but doesn’t ultimately lead anywhere. The sporadic harsh vocals add a nice touch but aren’t enough to elevate the track which is basically one guitar/drum/bass line repeating ad nauseum. “Värähtelijä” is much the same, even if it differs in tone.
As if to punch the disparity between the track home, the next track is excellent once again. “Hypnotisoitu viharukous” is a phenomenal, condensed version of the themes explored in the opening track; its riffs are faster and more over the top, once again drawing heavily on Arcturus. Not only that, but strings are introduced very quickly to amazing effect. They crown the entire thing and grant it a shine, a certain special something which really sets the track apart. Their tone is epic, belonging in an opera, and the way they work with the vocals is one of the most pleasing moments on the album.
Sadly, it’s also one of the last ones. From here, the album seems to stutter between the elements its beginning first staked out. When it shrinks, when it distills itself down to its basic components, this album is an amazingly infectious and devious progressive black metal creation. If you need more proof, just listen to the down right vicious “Havuluu” and try not to shudder. But when it expands and unfurls its fingers into the realms of drone and ambiance, it loses its focus almost completely and blends together into a series of fence posts into the night. Fans of the former genre will find plenty to love here: excellent vocals, great ideas around instrumentation and composition and a fierceness which is undeniable. Sadly, however, they’ll be forced to wade through several layers of lukewarm water, not especially offensive but also not very thirst quenching. All that remains is to drink deep of what sweet aqua is there and wait for the next album, hopefully a bigger, lusher oasis.