Karhu takes a look at everybody’s AOTY 2016.
Oranssi Pazuzu took form after the dissolution of the surrealistic rock band Kuolleet Intiaanit. Sometimes described as a black metal version of that band, OP’s debut combined psychedelia, trippy-jazz and avant-garde-ish prog with black metal. On their gargantuan sophomore, Kosmonument, the band abandoned all notion of trippy playfulness and went to a darker place. Valonielu found Oranssi Pazuzu embracing prog, doom and even sludge while still managing to sound like the same band.
The album here at hand, Värähtelijä, is darker and more massive than its predecessor – hearkening back to Kosmonument in many ways. It was there that the band began to truly utilize ambient soundscapes and a noise influence, and it is here that they have fully integrated both into unique approach. Värähtelijä is neither a black metal album, having abandoned most traces of that genre (only appearing in a very small portion of the riffwork and the vocals), nor a stoner album, never having really embraced that genre. Describing it as a proggy combination of these two is hitting as close as it gets.
“Saturaatio” opens the album pretty much exactly as you’d expect; an enthralling jangle of guitars joins waves of noise, slowly adapting into clearer soundscapes. One of the album’s strengths is the rhythm section; usually Ontto and Korjak sound like they were part of a Neurosis-inspired jam band whose parts have been added to an entirely different band. This quickly becomes apparent in the first five minutes leading to a short but eerie break before reviving the first part, only now with a stronger emphasis on the groove. Before it ends, “Saturaatio“ settles for the band’s “cosmic” side, with burning synths on top of everything, growing smaller, quieter – entering the void…
…only to find themselves surrounded with restricted drumming lifted from a tribal feast, speeding chimes and distorted guitar lines over hypnosis-come-sound. “Lahja“ may be the least metallic song the band has ever recorded and its placement here is perfect. I’ve been a fan of the band since pretty much the beginning and never have they had such a one-two-punch before. Could the rest of the album possibly meet the standards set by them? Yes, and no.
No two songs are alike on Värähtelijä, and each has a place of its own. No other songs form such a special relation to each other, only to the album. On any other album this wouldn’t be a flaw, and calling it a flaw might be a stretch even here, but the connection forged by the opening two songs leaves an imprint impossible to evade. As if the band had recognized this themselves, the slow-burning title track that follows spends its entire eight-minute run time unlocking the album again.
I know that Svart Records is fond of vinyl, and I understand the band is as well. On many occasions thinking like this has led to better totalities, but here it also rears an uglier face. Värähtelijä seems too vinyl-centric in its construction. Two songs of different nature are delegated to each side with the exception of the gargantuan “Vasemman Käden Hierarkia” taking a whole side to itself, acting like another Oranssi Pazuzu album in miniature size within Värähtelijä. It seems listening to the album through any other medium hinders it. Yet if not for one, little eleven-minute bother called “Valveavaruus”, it would undoubtedly end up as my favorite OP album.
A great deal of my dislike of the song actually stems from the excessive length of the record. On its own “Valveavaruus” is an enjoyable, albeit too long, song, but when forced at the end of the 70-minute long Värähtelijä, it becomes almost an irritation. It’s reminiscent of the way the band brought closure to Kosmonument, but less strictly a soundscape. The way it demands attention is more akin to a full-song, and as such it takes discipline not to completely skip it.
However, now that we are this far I must emphasize that despite the god-tier first side, the rest of the album is no slouch. Every song is powerful, memorable and great on its own right. Maybe it’s due to the hopes and expectations directed at it, but tearing at its flaws seems even easier than usually, whereas saying anything of note about its great many pros seems almost impossible. The album is well designed even the aforementioned flaws. Its limitations are magnified only by its greatness, and for this it deserves…