Oksennus – Kolme Toista (2018) REVIEW

In the grand tradition of Finnish experimental and avant-garde music Oksennus began their vomitous ascent in 2010 with a flurry of atmospheric death metal exaggerations using low-budget and frankly unlistenable recording techniques until their stunning ‘ЖЖЖ’ demo in 2014. Some strange visitation, or induction, around this point lead to what I perceive as the puked enlightenment of the project and though their sound has evolved righteously across four years the readily apparent constructs of death metal are, much like recent Chaos Echœs releases, entirely deconstructed upon reaching Oksennus‘ third full-length ‘Kolme Toista’. Whereas previous releases were unhinged and chaotic, this latest album is openly structured with a vacuously ‘jammed’ and semi-improvised affect that defies the unquenchable, primal thirst for predictability that satiates the human mind.

Though it was not unheard of in 2014, most folks (including myself) did not hear Oksennus‘ debut full-length ‘Valkoinen jättiläinen’ until 2016 when it was digitally released. I am such a curious fanatic for atmospheric and experimental death metal but I’ll admit I really didn’t see the appeal of the strangely scooped/lo fi recording at the time and felt the sound defeated the effect of the impressive guitar work. Looking back at their full discography I actually see it as one of their easier pieces to connect with and from that point Oksennus became increasingly prone to experiment with relatively lo-fi sound. ‘Sokea idiootti’ was very highly recommended to me at the time because I appreciate fiddly bass guitar work and the odd atmosphere of early Phlebotomized. What struck my fancy even more than that slight resemblance was it’s overall sullen, pensive tone that felt separate from the first album. Look, none of it was even remotely memorable in pieces, and I discovered both full-lengths in tandem, but the spectacle of unpredictable and broadly musical twists left a good impression.

While Oksennus have yet to play with atmosphere as adeptly as the similarly jammed and tribally-beaten recent works of Chaos Echœs they are orbiting the same rhythmic sphere of approach and as such ‘Kolme Toista’ has a resemblance that should appeal to the same fans. With greater layering of chiming, almost microtonal sounding guitar work I’d almost rather compare the listening experience to a calmer Jute Gyte recording were it atmospheric death metal in approach. Through howling, chanting, growling and blurringly chaotic instrumentation this third Oksennus record is almost too randomly strewn in effect to even compare to previous recordings. There is a rabid confidence here in the clattering drum fills that perhaps takes too much time to breathe in between sonic textures across the albums three sections. Though the first third of “Toinen” is dense and clustered with ideas the middle part rests in one place for nearly 8-9 minutes before waking back up unhinged. As a complete 40 minute song, that dip of interest in the middle nearly kills the momentum going into the fantastic last third of the song.

Gargled throat-sung horror and terrible shouting expresses some amount of alienation and anxious tension to start that final third but I felt the implementation, compared to the band’s previous work, is somewhat amateurish. I know the larger reason is that it was spontaneous ‘riffing’ in what was likely improvised work but the true mark of great improvisation is to come prepared with a wide range of sounds and not settle too deeply into any one mode. That is my greatest criticism for most improvisational experiences when captured in a take, the tide really must change in a profound way at greater frequency. Each section of “Toinen” is fantastic in it’s own right even with some dips in interest that don’t hold up across repeat listening. The glue and greater savior of the experience is the presence of death metal vocals chiming in to rile up the introduction and intermittently to punctuate movements within the song. In keeping that voice within their oeuvre Oksennus avoid entirely alienating relevance to their previous body of work.

If you’re not prone to chaos, atonality, and improvised music this could be one shambling mess of all-too deconstructed atmospheric death metal. Where I found value was in the repeatable, almost random nature of ‘Kolme Toista’ still expressing some semblance of death metal atop it’s spiraling, out of control performance. This sort of thing is rarely successfully attempted within the tonal range of extreme metal and for that reason I found it alluring. There is a typically severe line drawn between challenging performance art and structured extreme metal that is blurred here successfully enough that I think warrants some reasonable plaudits for it’s greater venture outside itself.


Artist Oksennus
Type Album
Released May 15, 2018
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From unnatural springs. 3.75/5.0

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