Oranssi Pazuzu Credit: Courtesy of Nuclear Blast

When I wrote about these Finnish xenonauts last October, on the occasion of the only stateside tour in their 13-year history, I called their music “wormhole black metal”: “Oranssi Pazuzu plunge you into a tunnel of fatally deformed spacetime, bathe you in a sizzling cocktail of exotic radiation, and spit you out somewhere cold, dark, alien, and very, very far away.” I stand by the wormhole metaphor, but the band’s brand-new fifth album, Mestarin Kynsi (“The Master’s Claw”), has me rethinking the “black metal” part. Over the years they’ve drifted so far from the genre’s familiar signposts that wherever they are now, they’re alone out there—and I can’t ask for more from musicians than that they grow to sound like no one but themselves. You’ll waste your time hunting for frosty tremolo-picked guitars, blurry blastbeats, and sandpaper shrieks on Mestarin Kynsi. The clotted vocals of guitarist and front man Juho “Jun-His” Vanhanen admittedly signal “some sort of metal is happening, probably,” but the album is dominated by turgid, peristaltic bass and a kaleidoscopic constellation of keyboards. Increasingly, Oranssi Pazuzu don’t have a sound so much as a psychedelic profusion of sounds: insistent oscillations of cosmic roller-rink organ, smears of dissonant hornlike synths, a violin ostinato that wobbles like a dragging reel-to-reel tape, pinging rhythmic chatter reminiscent of late-80s EBM, cascades of urgently pulsing wordless female vocals, a grotty guitar that dives in pitch like a circular saw biting into sheet metal. Only one track on Mestarin Kynsi uses a steady rock backbeat, and the lone recognizable blastbeat arrives in album closer “Taivaan Portti”: the drums hammer steadily forward, gradually overwhelmed by an insane ecstasy of cathedral-size drones that grows and grows until its howling overtones pour from the heavens like curtains of fire. The songs complicate riffs that might otherwise be catchy by dilating them with unpredictable extra beats or adding competing patterns—these guys will give you something awesomely heavy to dig into, but only so they can use that hook to drag you somewhere weird. “Ilmestys” begins with oozing synth bass and a kick drum that feels like it’s pressed up against your forehead, chased by a whirling disco-ball keyboard that staggers dizzily through the lopsided ten-beat bars—meanwhile, the sparse vocals stubbornly ignore that odd meter, suspending the oscillating patterns in a sort of infinite moment where everything feels like it could be flowing backward or forward. When the full drum kit finally enters, it brings along a dilated bass riff that finally pushes the song in a clear direction, triggering an explosively satisfying release of that tension. In English, “Ilmestys” means “Revelation.”   v

Philip Montoro

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid, and he’s also split two national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and one in in 2020 for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.