Exactly ten years have passed since Aristocrazia made first contact with Oranssi Pazuzu, thanks to their split with Candy Cane. Of course, the five Finns haven’t been sitting on their hands in the meantime, and they shouldn’t need much introduction for those who are used to black metal’s least orthodox fringes: their development within an extremely peculiar niche brought them step after step to the remarkable Värähtelijä, alongside a collaboration with their colleagues Dark Buddha Rising in Atomikylä and Waste Of Space Orchestra, with the monumental Syntheosis out last year.
I must admit that Oranssi Pazuzu‘s new deal with Nuclear Blast, after years on Svart Records, made me raise both my eyebrows, especially because of their strong personality and the normalizing aura which the German label is enshrouded in. Let’s make it clear straight away, every doubt was dispelled: on their new Mestarin Kynsi (“the master’s claw“), the Finns sound a hundred percent as they have ever done, and the label change was purely for practical reasons, as explained by Ontto (bass player and co-founder) during our interview.
The aforementioned latest two works laid the foundations — regarding the approach, at least — for this opus: a sharp change in direction, going from the jam session feel of Värähtelijä and the grandeur of Syntheosis to something claustrophobic, apparently very close to the musicians. Mestarin Kynsi is a good ol’ concept album and tells a story which is as oppressive as the music itself: lyrics are still unavailable, but the bigger picture shows a tyrant who rises to power commanding people’s minds, something like Big Brother starting a fanatic cult, a narrative which finds its graphic counterpart in Tekla Vàly’s artwork and its symbols.
The opener “Ilmestys” (“revelation“) sets the mood for Mestarin Kynsi, an album where the two classic sides of Oranssi Pazuzu are closely intertwined: the result is an amalgam where black metal is not something related to the genre’s standards, but a widespread sense of oppression and anguish embodied by the demonical and disturbing vocals of Jun-His. Be it the schizophrenic “Uusi Teknokratia” — “a new technocracy“, accompanied by a great video which might as well have been a stunning collaboration between Orwell and Fritz Lang — or the deranged charm of “Oikeamielisten Sali” (“the hall of the righteous“), Mestarin Kynsi is an effort where the Seventies are extremely tangible, either in the form of overly saturated fuzz or space synths worthy of the best Hawkwind, under the effects of still unknown drugs. The closing brace, the tribal-sounding “Kuulen Ääniä Maan Alta” and the ceaseless movement of “Taivaan Portti”, showcases clever songwriting as well, an ability to see the album not only as a collection of songs but as a homogeneous entity along with its specific evolution.
Oranssi Pazuzu is a peculiar band, hard to grasp at first listen for some people: I have hesitated long enough before exploring their production, even though I was fascinated by their nature. Compared to Värähtelijä, Mestarin Kynsi is more concrete, less elusive and is permeated by the same quality, more similar in terms of approach to their past works up until Valonielu. A great album for them, waiting for their next steps, and an excellent starting point for those who don’t know where to start with this insane creature.