Have you ever felt like taking some really strong acid and attending a horrific version of a 70s carnival during which you happen to die? Well, I have just the album for you. Oranssi Pazuzu is a five-piece, psychedelic black metal band from Finland, and boy does this music freak me the fuck out. I am both confused and slightly scared but also having a good time. Yes, that is contradictory. Welcome to Mastarin kynsi.
The album translated roughly as Master’s Fingernail is described by the band’s bassist and vocalist, Onto, as the end of a trip. The album has clear dystopian connotations, the music, a futuristic hellscape that invites you in and swallows you whole. Full of odd times, dissonant harmony and intoxicating textures this record puts me in a dwale-like state, inducing bouts of fear yet oddly enticing; a siren’s song.
The band name itself is a great descriptor for what to expect in the music. ‘Oranssi’ translates as ‘orange’ (which according to the band is the colour of cosmic energy) and ‘Pazuzu’ is an ancient Mesopotamian wind demon that is featured most popularly in The Exorcist. In other words, “The Demon Of The Wind With The Colour of Cosmic Energy”. It has a great ring to it. The juxtaposition between these two words is exactly what we hear in the band’s music. An open, relaxed, space-y, sound; very seventies, combined with deity-crushing, maddened, black metal. There is no band out there that sounds like Oranssi Pazuzu. Although at first I found this album to be jarring and confusing, it slowly dug its hooks in and now I find myself craving it.
This album is a voyage. One may not always notice when the tracks have changed, the texture of the music blurs slowly from one section to the next sometimes dropping or growing in dynamics yet always pervasive, seeping into your brain. I feel hard-pressed to pick a favourite song as my experience of the music is not as separate, catchy tracks but as a prolonged fever dream. For that reason I will not talk about specific tracks but rather discuss what I liked the most about the album, what I didn’t like, and touch briefly on the thematic content.
Let’s start with the latter. When reviewing music that is of a different language to what I am used to I like to do some basic translations to get a feel for the thematic content. In this case, the band has not released their lyrics officially. I found some third-party sources for the lyrics however I would prefer not to work on information that could be incorrect so let’s just say the lyrics seem to be as suitably creepy and dark as you would expect. Something I can work with is the song and album titles. Here they are with their respective (rough) translations:
Mestarin kynsi – Master’s Fingernail
“Ilmestys” – “Revelation”
“Tyhjyyden sakramentti” – “The Sacrament of Emptiness”
“Uusi teknokratia” – “A new technocracy”
“Oikeamielisten sali” – “Hall of the Righteous”
“Kuulen ääniä maan alta” – “I hear voices underground”
“Taivaan portti” – “The gate of heaven”
What I can derive from these titles are clear religious connotations, some reference to madness as well as sci-fi and dystopian imagery. Those last themes are confirmed when watching the music video for “Tyhjyyden sakramentti” (go check it out) which has very strong Metropolis (1927) vibes. Anyone reading any of my other reviews will know I am a sucker for these kinds of themes, if we are going to be blunt besides the sci-fi twist they are not too unique for black metal however the sound that Oranssi Pazuzu achieves is.
The music on this album is phenomenal. It is one of the most original black metal albums I have heard in a long time. Although the recording quality itself is warm and well-produced, the texture produced by the compositions is far from comforting. In fact, I would say the complete opposite, this album puts you on a rocket-ride to the Seventh Layer of Hell and does not allow for rest stops. This album is equal parts violence and nauseation. Each time I look for words to describe this record I end up with ones such as “sickened”, “bewildered” and “petrified” and to the average person these might sound like negative qualifiers, however, they are not. Perhaps at first listen I was not soothed by the music but something about it intrigued me and before long I found myself looping the album three or four times every time I put it on. Something akin to the addiction one procures from smoking cigarettes or drinking hard liquor. The experience is not always pleasant at first but the end result is – an acquired taste that becomes addictive.
I would say what is off-putting about the music at first is exactly what makes it so unique and appealing. As someone who is partial to horrific, confusing, or ultra-violent movies and media, I found this part of the music alluring although someone who was not a fan of similar content might not enjoy the album. I would not say this is an album that everyone would enjoy, it could possibly even be described as niche in appeal but whether it is your cup of tea or not it most definitely is unique. I personally found it to be an inspiring work of art.
If psychedelic black metal isn’t something you have gotten into or even heard about, maybe now is the time to give it a shot, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
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