Oranssi Pazuzu have always gifted us with their original blend of black metal and ’70s psychedelia, in the vein of Hawkwind and similar bands. Their new album, Mestarin Kynsi, was announced together with their deal with Nuclear Blast: bass player Ontto told us a bunch of things about it.
Hi Toni, it’s a pleasure to have you on Aristocrazia Webzine! How are you?
It’s good, thanks for asking! It’s going nicely, just hanging at home.
Let’s start from something I’ve read in a 2016 interview: you said that Valonielu was the start of a trip exploring our consciousness, while with Värähtelijä you were in the middle of this trip. Where do you find yourselves with Mestarin Kynsi?
Well, it’s kind of a logical continuation from where we left off with Värähtelijä. At the end of Värähtelijä there’s this song called “Valveavaruus”, which translates into something like “Awake Space”, you kind of wake up in this horrific realisation of neverending space, an existential threat. It has this electronic feeling to it, and when we were starting to write songs for the new album Mestarin Kynsi we thought it would be really interesting to add more synthesizers and electronic stuff in there. We kinda started exploring that. Värähtelijä, if you think about the thematical side, is a very trippy album and it has obvious different scenes that you are in: this [Mestarin Kynsi] continues with the same thing, but this time it’s almost like a story you go through. I don’t know if I answered the question completely, but these are some of the things that came to my mind about the new album.
You just said that this album experimented more with synthesizers and electronic stuff. At the same time, Mestarin Kynsi feels more tangible and concrete. How was the album conceived? How did it come to be?
Yeah, Värähtelijä was more all over the place, more jammy. After that we did this large album with Waste Of Space Orchestra, together with our friends in Dark Buddha Rising. That was really a great effort: we had a lot of sounds, ten musicians, the recording process was really heavy. When the other guys left and theree were only the five of us, we felt pretty alone and realised there was no way to sound as large and magnificient as Waste Of Space Orchestra. We decided we should go in an opposite direction, more close and aggressive, an in-your-face kind of thing. In a way it’s kind of a reaction to that previous album: we wanted to make it sound like you’re in the middle of it and there’s stuff happening. Like you’re going through different rooms, you walk through the door and you’re instantly inside of it. The atmosphere is really close and dense. We didn’t jam as much as we used to in the past albums, we did more actual songwriting in the end… we had brief ideas and chord ideas, of course we jammed them a lot, but the origin of the ideas was not so much in the jam, like in the previous ones.
There are a couple tracks that hit me particularly: “Kuulen Ääniä Maan Alta”, which is quite obsessive in its rhythm patterns, and the closing one, “Taivaan Portti”, which is quite cinematic and a perfect one to close the album. Do you pay any attention in putting some songs in a certain order?
Yeah, we put lots of thought into the songs order. We look at the album like it’s a one, long song, in a way. We want all those different parts of the album to be in the right place. I think that “Taivan Portii” is so heavy and demanding that it can only be the last song, in my opinion. Also thematically, the lyrics are following this narrative that ends up in “Taivan Portti”: it’s where everything ends, the white light, the end of all things.
From a rough translation of the titles, looks like there’s an underlying religious theme on the album. Is it actually some sort of concept or just an impression?
Yes, the narrative of the album is… it’s a paranoid vision of a dark master rising, using occult tricks to control the masses’ minds. He rises to power and, after that, things go pretty badly [laughs]. It’s like a religious leader. Kind of a witcher I think, but in a religious way.
And the overall sound is quite apocalyptic I think, like something really bad is happening. That’s one of the feelings I had while listening.
That’s nice to hear, because that’s definitely something we were looking after.
Your artworks have always been very evocative and in line with your music, and you explicitly said that they’re not just something to accompany the album, so to say. This new one looks very cryptic and different from before, especially from the “rawness” of the last one. What’s the meaning behind it, if there is one?
Of course there’s a meaning. We always wanted to give the artist complete freedom for the album covers. This time we asked this female artist from Helsinki, called Tekla Vàly, to do the artwork. We let her listen to the new songs, gave her the lyrics and talked about the album themes a little bit. After a couple of weeks she came up with a collage idea: it has many visual themes that are going on in the songs. For example the eye in the back watching what you’re doing, the tied hands on the front cover which refer to song number four, “Oikeamielisten Sali”, which is about getting judgement. It’s all kind of connected with the themes.
After many years on Svart Records, Mestarin Kynsi will be the first album on Nuclear Blast, a label which is mostly associated with huge names in metal. Any specific reason behind this choice?
Well, it was more like a practical choice for us. We’ve been working with the previous label Svart, a Finnish underground label experimenting with cool stuff. It was really cool with them, we had creative freedom and all the benefits that come with that. In recent years we started thinking that with a bigger label, more people could listen to the album, or at least hear about the album. If you have a big label, you have more muscles to spread the word a bit more. That’s basically why we started looking for other companies. In Nuclear Blast there was this guy we knew, Jens, who is a great progressive rock and 70s rock fan: we had the understanding that Nuclear Blast wasn’t looking for a mainstream metal act, we could do our own thing and try to collaborate with them in that scale. It will be interesting to see how that will go.
So it’s like a natural growing process, to reach a bigger fan base.
Yeah, it’s not about changing who you are. It’s about using bigger muscles to spread music more. If it goes well, it will be great and we’ll do another album with them. If it doesn’t, we’ll look for something else.
The band’s name is a great still image of what your music sounds like, Oranssi representing the psychedelic side and Pazuzu the metal one. Is there any aspect in which one of these two faces is more prominent than the other? I don’t know, maybe some of you guys are more inclined towards a specific one, or maybe some phases during the songwriting process.
We have been playing together for so many years, so it gets all blurred together. We don’t have any straight lines, everybody is influenced by all of those things. But you can trace some rough line: we have this space theme, the keyboardist and guitarist [EviL and Ikon] are making most of these atmospheric and almost ambient things, not really playing rock music. And then there’s the other three, me on bass, then the drummer and guitarist/vocalist: this trio is doing more metal, riff-oriented and back-to-basics stuff. But yeah, sometimes those lines get blurred a little bit.
I’ve been reading that you’re also a movie fan. Thinking of Pink Floyd and the Wizard of Oz as an example: is there any movie that, according to you, could go hand in hand with your music?
Well, when we were working on the new album everybody in the band saw this horror movie called Midsommar, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that. We were all blown away by that movie, so I would really much like our music to be played against that, because it’s really fucking trippy and disturbing. It made a big impression and was a big influence on the album. You never know which influences get up in the album, it’s not controlled and a bunch of stuff can go in there.
Returning to Waste Of Space Orchestra, which you mentioned before: Syntheosis was one of my top albums of 2019. Is it going to be an isolated effort or can we expect something else in the future?
I’m really happy to hear that you liked it, because we put really much effort into that album. I’m really happy with how it turned out, but it was also hard, with ten people, involved in many bands and with different schedules. We are not saying no, but at this moment it’s not very likely that we’re gonna do a sequel soon. At some point, we might do something, I really can’t say. Also, I’m a bit nervous because I’m kinda surprised it worked so well! [laughs] It was great, the guys in Dark Buddha Rising are great friends and they’re really creative guys. It was nice to do something with them.
Okay, great! We hope to see you soon here in Italy. Any plans for the foreseeable future?
Yes, actually we are doing this tour… it’s only in September/October, so it’s still a long way. It’s a European tour and I think there’s some Italian dates, at least one will be there. Hope to see you on that show!
Mestaryn Kynsi will be out on April 17th via Nuclear Blast Records.