Two decades ago, a young troupe of bummed-out Finns churned out two primitive death/doom demo tapes, and promptly disappeared following the death of one of their guitar players. Rippikoulu’s latter release, 1993’s primitive doom/death gem Musta seremonia, followed suit with other short-lived doom/death groups from the early 90s by accruing a great deal of kvlt charm cultivated by many years dwelling in obscurity and anonymity.
One can guess what happened next: perhaps inspired by the reemergence of similarly short-lived death/doom acts such as Winter, Thorr’s Hammer, Disembowelment (reformed as Inverloch), and fellow countrymen in the classic death metal group Convulse, Rippikoulu have reformed and are ready to cash in their little chunk of kvlt credit.
Genre purists can take immediate solace in the fact that their comeback statement – a diminutive EP entitled Ulvaja, clocking in at 18 minutes over three tracks – picks up more or less where Musta seremonia left off back in 1993. Ulvaja is deaf to the psychedelic luxuriousness and retro Sabbath-worship of the genre’s new school, dealing solely in classic death/doom darkness.
Rippikoulu have predictably opted for more professional recording methods to lay down Ulvaja, but the song ultimately remains the same. “Loputon” makes brief ventures into slightly blackened territories with a heaving tremolo swill and the title track makes more expansive use of mournful keyboards, but the lion’s share of the EP’s 18 minutes belongs to the funereal dissonance characteristic of Musta seremonia, replicated with added sheen, heft and precision in the aforementioned title track and closing number “Jää hyvästi kaunis kesä.” It does little more than clock in and clock out, running down the genre checklist with rote, workmanlike efficiency. I’m sure the last thing you would want me to do is use cliched throwaway adjectives such as “crushing” and “suffocating”, but Ulvaja’s utter redundancy leaves little room for discussion.
It’s reasonable to look at Ulvaja’s ancient predecessor with a less critical eye when taking into account the historical context of its release – that is, being the first statement of a band during its formative years while this business of playing bummed-out death metal at a glacial pace was still a novel thing – and it’s easy to enjoy purely on the basis of its murky, feral callowness. With Ulvaja, however, Rippikoulu now stands alongside a fairly established canon of doom classics – Transcendence into the Peripheral and Antithesis of Light immediately come to mind – as well as the ever-swelling morass of newer groups taking doom to rock bottom and beyond. There is simply no more room for mere doom metal competency, and such is Rippikoulu’s only virtue on Ulvaja.