Oranssi Pazuzu-VarahtelijaOranssi Pazuzu narrowly missed out on Captain Ricard’s Best Black Metal Album of 2013 award (that went to Teethed Glory and Injury) with the magnificent Vaonielu. An instantly accessible yet bizarre and musically deep record, Vaonielu kept me away from my Toto loop for weeks with its sublime blend of catchy, aggressive riffs, trippy grooves, psychedelic synths, and menacing atmosphere. While (apparently) living legend Happy Metal Guy‘s assessment of the album reflected its mind-expanding nature scarily well, he uncharacteristically underrated the record, awarding a respectable but unreasonably low Good/5. When news came through to the Angry Metal Staff that Oranssi Pazuzu‘s latest was available to review, I was unusually quick in snapping it up so that I might right HMG‘s wrong by lavishing the record with suitably gushy praise and awarding them the Chpistorher Rike Medal of Valor1. So now I’ve heard it, is it worthy of such acclaim?

Well, almost. The musical elements that make Oranssi Pazuzu so unique and engaging are all present and correct, but they are ruined by the mastering. It feels like every other record I review these days has been violated by excessive compression, but it is especially damaging for a band like Oranssi Pazuzu, whose extended slow builds, warm synths and tripped-out jams need breathing space to allow the music to go somewhere other than Clipping Central, Brick Wall City when they unleash their aggressive side. This is a real step back from Vaonielu, which – while not especially dynamic – sounded very good, and is particularly galling when you listen back to some of the Krautrock Oranssi Pazuzu draw inspiration from and hear the fantastic use of dynamics to create thick, vibrant soundscapes. Värähtelijä is comparatively monochromatic, sterile, and often muffled, as if strangled by Pazuzu’s notorious serpentine schlong. It becomes such a distraction (the bad sound, not Pazuzu’s wang) that I’ve felt the need to moan about it right at the start of the review.

Musically Värähtelijä is excellent, the band continuing in the same vein as on Vaonielu. Their style is difficult to describe accurately, combining as it does such disparate influences as Tangerine Dream, Ved Buens Ende and Aborym; psychedelic black metal works reasonably as a descriptor, but it is slower, more sinister and less accessible than, for example, Hail Spirit Noir or Nachtmystium‘s (similarly over-compressed) Addicts record. Oranssi Pazuzu‘s songs tend to be based around simple and repetitive – but engaging – riffs, slowly adding many layers of synths, sound effects, guitars and harsh vocals that would provide an excellent example of how to build and release tension were the dynamics not quite so limited. The repetition works well in drawing the listener into a trance, especially given the use of slightly unusual rhythms, and despite the lengthy songs only very rarely approaches boredom.

Oranssi-Pazuzu-2016

Highlights include opener “Saturaatio,” which features an epic build and wonderful transition into a brooding close, “Hypnotisoitu Viharukous” with its dancing Aborym-esque synths, and the 17-minute epic “Vasemman käden hierarkia” that stays engaging from its Thorns-like opening, through passages of Enslaved-inspired prog metal, and a Faustian centrepiece before returning to a sludgy doom rendition of its opening. The full album is a whopping 69 minutes, and while that may be a little excessive, they make almost every one count. My only criticism is that the music doesn’t feel quite so memorable here as it did on Vaonielu; the focus is more on textures and structures than riffs, and that doesn’t lend itself well to easy recall.

It’s tough to know how to score Värähtelijä; the music is unique and wonderful, but I am put off repeated listening by the irritating sound. With a better mastering job this would be an easy 4.0, but I can’t award that when judging the whole package. I fully expect Värähtelijä to be one of the most interesting and innovative black metal albums of 2016, though, so it still deserves to be high on your shopping list.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5  | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Svart Records
Websites: oranssipazuzu.bandcamp.com | oranssipazuzu.com
Releases Worldwide: February 26th 2016

Show 1 footnote

  1. Given that I don’t even like the show, the amount of time I’ve spent trawling Star Trek fan sites in search of punnery (really, really shit punnery at that) just because of my nom de plume is bordering on lunacy
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  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    As far as I know this is the only real record I’ve been looking forward to this year. I’ve been following this band since muukalainen puhuu (which I’m lucky enough to have a physical copy of). Can’t wait for this to come out, disappointing to hear about it’s sound quality though.

  • Lasse Momme

    Really like this record and the production doesn’t really get to me as much. I agree it would be preferential to have a bigger soundscape especially considering the psychedelic aspect of their style but it hasn’t really bothered me that much so far and the song writing is really on point.

    • viking12082

      I totally agree ! With a “better” and “clearer” mix/production (maybe à la Arcturus ), this album could be a killer ! I’m really hopefull that the vinyl version sounds better !

  • Seriously, this is already a front-runner for the worse production job of the year. It is absolutely dreadful.

    • Thatguy

      I usually like to say ‘so what/get over it’ when people complain about the sound, but I have to agree with JLR, you and all the others about this one. Especially for such a long album it is going to be hard to listen all the way through.

  • Luke_22

    Damn shame about the mastering, I was really looking forward to this. Still need to give it a spin but bummed the band decided to fuck with their sound this way, especially on an album of this length. Nice references btw.

  • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

    Anybody heard this on vinyl yet? I had already planned on buying it anyway but now I’m even more inclined to.

    That Youtube sample is hissy as fuck – like someone’s frying bacon in the background. Turn down the volume on your speakers and the last sound to fade is ssssssssssssssssssssss…terrible.

    • That is a good question. I too am wondering if this got a dedicated vinyl master. I would assume so OR at the very least, the pressing engineer probably turned down the volume just to get it cut.

    • tomasjacobi

      I haven’t heard the vinyl, but I have several vinyl records released by Svart Records and they all sound really great, so I think there’s a good chance this has a different master for the vinyl…

  • I don’t get it at all. 90% of amateurs can make a better sound IN THEIR F)&^*NG BEDROOMS. Apparently, someone is deaf here. Or tailored this record especially for people with tiny earphones, who passively listen their music in buses twice a day.
    Sorry for poor grammar, I’m quite upset because I’ve been really anticipating this record, and now it’s ruined.

    • You and me both brotha.

      • AlphaBetaFoxface

        I feel someone developed a super-underground black metal DAW that intentionally reduces audio quality and adds grainy foliage before brickwalling everything. It then exports audio to 320, even though it would struggle to match 9 and a half kbps recording from the year 1603. Kvltly named Rëäpër. Demographic is people who wear black hoodies in band photos.

        • What’s sad is that there are band who spends thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours to come up with the exact same effects.

        • Berit Dogg

          Fvck. Of course this is going to happen.

  • Sigh. When will we learn. Black Metal Bands Cannot Master Their Own Records. Except Impiety because they purposefully master them like an idiot to make a point. That you, you sir right there, suckamaballz.

  • Sharp-Blunt Boy

    Gutted – I was also really looking forward to this. To make matters worse, the two tracks I’ve heard are inventive, unique and must have sounded awesome on the demo tape. It’s baffling that they couldn’t stop the dude from ruining their hard graft, or even worse, didn’t notice they were scoring such a sickening own goal.

    • Sharp-Blunt Boy

      For historical completeness: I relented and bought the CD. It’s a good as I’d hoped musically, and although my initial knee jerk reaction to listening to youtube clips was a bit emotional, the mix does let it down: it’s at its worst when they wig out, the quieter sections don’t have the depth or dynamics the ideas deserve and it takes some effort to make it through the whole set.

      Either way, happy to have spent the dollars, even if it only increases the chance of them doing a better job next time around.

  • JL

    I really don’t see the big deal with the production here. Is it perfect? No. But does it make the album impossible to listen to? Definitely not.

    • Despite my affinity for this band, this sounds terrible on all of my setups.

    • Theoretically, white noise also isn’t “impossible to listen to”. But do you find any pleasure in this?

    • True, hence it still gets a very good score. But it still really annoys me because it’s so needless.

  • Norfair Legend

    Album cover sums it up perfectly, if you use your imagination it could appear that one is looking up at the sun from a few feet deep in the water…exactly where this sounds like it was recorded.

    Solid music though.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    It’s funny, but after listening to Baroness’ Purple a few times, this actually sounds pretty good in comparison. I realize I often don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to audio issues, but the compression seems to add to the oppressive atmosphere. I think I’ll go back and give Vaonielu a spin. It’s been a while.

  • Pauli

    There is nothing wrong with sound quality if you play it through even a decent amp. Except if you are listening album from YouTube… My advice to great sound quality and overall satisfaction is: go listening new Oranssi Pazuzu album in the dark and silent room with good headphones. Concentrate to your trip.

    • A decent amp can’t rescue this from being insanely over-compressed.

      Apologies for the 8 month time-lapse in replying :D

  • shazwagon

    Loving this album!

  • Catalyst

    Vinyl is on it’s way. Will update this comment with a quick comparison b/w it and the FLAC off of bandcamp to see if the mastering is better.

    • Cockypock Aioli

      Hi there, any chance you could update on the master of the vinyl?

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Interested too

  • Kosmonument

    There’s nothing wrong with the production. Listen with your ears not your bum hole.