Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi (2020) REVIEW

From off-the-cuff psychonautical joint adventures during typified young adult ‘rebellion’ toward spiritually attuned guidance through microdosing and intense mantra, psychedelic drugs themselves act as wildly effective medicine for the human condition regardless of the agency of the individual. Conventional ignorance regards hallucinogenic excess as poisoning with potential to erase the proper function of the mind yet the culprit for outwardly expressed reaction is most often unpreparedness for the helplessness of solitary rebirth that shocks a pronounced fear of the unknown into the limited perspective of the unguided individual. Through intense study of the psychological and chemical realities of psychotropic agents the most thrilling accounts of the improved ‘self’ come in equal frequency by way of unscientifically achieved occult rituals of ego-death as well as within professional clinical application. Clinical modus allows for the most thrilling variable, the application of a placebo, to work up the magic of the mind into psychedelic furor, weariness, and pronounced crash of a bad acid trip despite no chemical agent being introduced. The consequences of “the fear” for mental fortitude express closer to the exhaustion of insomnia, an uninteresting sort of insanity the brings frayed edges and warped sight to the most disconnected among us.

Pulling from a range of personal experiences I’d at least suggest fear and despair in a ‘poisoned’ state is a great thrill regardless of the damage, and probably more memorable for the melting horror the mind produces in response. The intermittent need to return to a psychotic blurred consciousness, a nether-dimensional scrape of terror from the innervation of the senses, is yet well-stated by music that specializes in access to oblivion. Black metal definitely wasn’t anyone’s first choice for the future expansion of dark psychedelia and for years only the deepest heralds of the old underground kept the acid flowing. Yet in the span of this last decade no other path to ego-death has felt so unsatisfyingly on the verge, the very tip of realization than the possibilities of black metal atmosphere and ethos applied to true psychedelia… Well, at least nothing else comes anywhere near what southern Finnish blackened kosmiche psych-metal innovators Oranssi Pazuzu have created and made a name with since forming back in 2007. Their fifth album, ‘Mestarin Kynsi’, comes after nearly four years of consideration and in the hands of arms with great worldwide reach, surely it will be their most accessible piece to date? Although it is undoubtedly their most luxurious and varied production to date, there is no question that the quintet have presented a work still further away from already distant norms with this fifth album.

Although I’d successfully dodged recommendations for vocalist/guitarist Jun-His‘ (Grave Pleasures, Atomikylä) post-Kuolleet Intiaanit (see: ‘Silinteritie‘) extreme metal project for a few years due to fairly limited distro of their debut (‘Muukalainen puhuu‘, 2009) in the states at the time, there was no way to miss the eruptive and original stature of Oranssi Pazuzu‘s second album, ‘Kosmonument‘, in 2011. It was a stunning, unforgettable warping of ominous space rock infused cosmic horror by way of psychedelic black metal complete with colorful Giger-esque artwork on a stunning double LP. There was no song I listened to more that year than “Komeetta” and for years since I’ve found every other attempt at psychedelia in black metal, from other bands, inferior to that point of introduction to these broad-minded Finns. With some great buzz following that second album a third (‘Valonielu‘, 2013) came quicker and more polished as an expansion of what’d been done prior. There is the sense that Oranssi Pazuzu wear their old skin and think of ways to mutilate, re-work, and repurpose the meaningful dimensions their psychedelic rock infused extreme metal modus into increasing valid exacerbation of psychedelic forms beyond the expected heavy psych and garage rock that heavy metal most often pulls from. In that sense, ‘Värähtelijä‘ (2016) was a step beyond expectations and easily one of the best records from that year, exploring kraut rock’s flattening vibes as well as more dark and dissonant forms; This was an exciting height for the band and from a fan’s perspective they’d outdone ‘Kosmonument’ then and there. The four year wait for this fifth record wasn’t necessarily excruciating, though.

A Roadburn Festival ’18 commissioned collaborative performance between (more or less) the full line-up of Oranzzi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising undoubtedly served as the catalytic nudge into new and unexpected audiences for the band — Waste of Space Orchestra‘s ‘Syntheosis‘ certainly stunned me, serving as one of the absolute best releases of 2019 when considering its artful performance, physical release and tactfully arranged blackened progressive sludge space opera thread. The first and most appropriate response to a cursory spin of ‘Mestarin Kynsi’ is that it picks up more than a few of the atmospheric revelations integral to the importance of ‘Värähtelijä’ while also expressing traits that are very much post-‘Syntheosis’ afforded freedoms. Extensively layered collages of transitional sounds are now central spectacle, there a familiar but entirely insular atmosphere manages to align with extreme metal in a completely new way. Jun-His‘ rasped vocals resort to overstating their presence in order to break through the ooze n’ flowing downward motion of each song, the black wing-flapping Branca-esque darkness pulled from 70’s kraut fascination strays so far from known parameters of black metal that only the space rock’d buzz of the distinctive bass tone can bring my mind anywhere near old associations with ‘Kosmonument’. The sense that I am once again witnessing some cascade of invention might appear a little bit naive but, it is yet a very real response to suggest that ‘Mestarin Kynsi’ is a remarkably bold and outside of the box work, even for Oranssi Pazuzu.   

The master’s claw or, the nails that those in power dig into their enfeebled prey walk with heavy steps as “Ilmestys” grinds in, distinctly -this- band and yet a new and wildly awake fusion of Klaus Schulze driven synth, Godzilla’s howling wreckage, swarms of screaming feedback and… somehow the full seven minute ‘intro’, itself not necessarily a ‘metal’ song in the slightest, breezes by with some incredibly captivating momentum. The sinister jazz n’ space rock bump of “Tyhjyyden sakramentti” feels as if Spacemen 3 had adopted atmospheric black metal at their most hollow point of daze. It wouldn’t be nuts to start thinking of Virus as the drone of the bassline kicks in and the song fully explodes at the 4 minute mark yet there is no combination of analogues and disparate influences that align for these brilliantly achieved songs, they are smoothed into form so neatly that the seams of fusion are absolutely impossible to discern for the sake of any additional meaning. A clanging noise rock guitar tone wrings out in angular distress, dreamlike sprays of synth float diagonally above and threaten to rain down like knives upon the listener as blurred and sickened growls collapse across the glitching purge of the piece –And that was still only just the second of six incredible pieces.

“Uusi teknokratia” is the first and only single to come from the album and no doubt its hypnotically phasing woodwinds and gloriously tensile aggro-psychedelic syncopation is a major, major standout for the experience. It isn’t -just- a good song it is a great moment in the history of Oranssi Pazuzu for the wonder it instills in my mind, the inspiration each fantastic layer provides into a myriad polyphonic LSD curse that somehow escapes its own seeming chaos with brilliant distinction on the tracklist. Gorgeous fluidity, gravel-pocked rasps, and somehow the most magnetic bit of flute ever integrated into an extreme metal song… eh, outside of folk metal I suppose. None of these elements are unheard of when sequestered but that they’ve made an intricate and satisfying avant-garde psychedelic extreme metal song out of it that sticks, can be remembered and absolutely craved is beyond the capabilities of the typical progressive/avant-metal institution. I’d still generally enjoy this album without “Uusi teknokratia” but no doubt I’d be less enthusiastic if it wasn’t such an incredible song at the tail-end apex of Side A.

Now Side B is where pre-existing Oranssi Pazuzu fans will feel more comfortable with known methodology taken to new extremes. That isn’t to say that the second half of the full listen is any less of a revolutionary event but that the swaying grooves and ethereal ridges of the last three songs provide some measure of satiating expression in their basal rhythmic approaches. “Kuulen ääniä maan alta” in particular would’ve been a powerful “Komeetta” style clincher for any of their last two records. “Taivaan portti” on the other hand is their “Amboss” moment, a steamroller of atmospheric black metal blasts at sharply achieved time signatures, allowing breaks for floods of synth to wash upwards amidst the echoing screams that lead the piece into delirium. This was a very polarizing song for my own taste where its incessant nature often pulled me out of my own thoughts back into focus on the end of the album, often hoping that it’d begin again soon so that I could lean back into the escapism that ‘Mestarin Kynsi’ provides. Interesting enough is the revelation that, for all of my focus lain upon psychedelia and bewildering anti-normative musical travels, as it turns out this album is absolutely serious in its irreligious lyrical expression. The prose within aims to unveil the indoctrination applied throughout the average human life cycle within society, where institutions of religion and technology bind us with greater ferocity as each generation grows more savagely affected. It all leads to destruction, a horrid cleanse of golden light by the maker’s hand. I read defiance within the prose of the lyrics and that might be my own interpretation but it certainly fits with the mind-shattering avant-black metal psychedelia provided within the album’s 50 minute reach. 

Of course I wouldn’t have bothered ranting on incessantly if a very high recommendation wasn’t impending, and no doubt some of my bias as a fan of this band since 2011 plays into the high rating of ‘Mestarin Kynsi’. Yet I don’t know how it could since at least two thirds of the album threatens to usurp and redefine most everything about Oranssi Pazuzu and their auld station as a psychedelic black metal band, a descriptor they’ve surely transcended with this record. In the span of about three weeks I’d listened to this album nearly a hundred times and yet the same parts that excited me during the first listen still hold up now even after likely exhausting myself into delirium with it. A must listen for 2020 and one of the finer black metal adjacent records in recent memory.

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Artist Oranssi Pazuzu
Type Full-length
Released April 17, 2020
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Genre Psychedelic Black Metal
Extreme Psychedelic/Space Rock
Avant-Garde Metal

Very high recommendation. 4.5/5.0

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