So, do you know anything about techno? What you’re about to read is a review of an album as far removed from metal as anything that ever appeared on Angry Metal Guy. There are only two, minor and farfetched at that, connections between Finland’s Tähtiportti and metal. One, the vocalist of much beloved doom act Reverend Bizarre, Sami Hynninen (aka Alex Witchfinder), makes an appearance. Two, Svart Records usually puts out stuff at least tangentially related to the genre. Usually. Other than that, this is left field, experimental, and generally weird music rooted in techno and other electronic genres. Yep, you’ve read that right. But, please, before crucifying me, continue reading!
OK, this is not metal, yet if you look beyond Tähtiportti‘s sound just for a second, you’ll start noticing that the overall moods and themes on their eponymous début are akin to those found in metal. Death, Satan, gloom, despair… only the best stuff! Of course, Tähtiportti’s essence is filled with self-irony and parody as they obviously enjoy mocking many cultural tropes (the band’s name translates to “Stargate”). And the music, wacky as it is, is actually pretty admirable. Tähtiportti build their ominous and devious style with elements from primitive techno, darkwave, eighties synth pop, synthcore, and even italo-disco. All of that is shoved into a blender and served with a generous amount of humour, surreal eclecticism, and experimental tendencies on the side. A recipe for some great music that simultaneously sounds dead serious and outrageous. Take, for instance, the opening “Kruunujen kruunu: Karjaportti / Himon portti;” there’s broody chanting, abrasive synths, and the atmosphere is so menacing that it would make even the church-burning metalheads of old cower. No, really! But if you listen carefully, it becomes apparent that they’re actually subverting those exact idioms and philosophies.
It’s hard to accurately depict the general style of Tähtiportti since the band’s approach changes considerably from tune to tune. There are songs with harder techno beats such as “Tähtiportti I,” downtempo numbers like “Tähtiportti II,” marching songs that might as well be classified as “martial folk” (“Tähtiportti IV: Luciferin pylväs”), and in their midst, an odd, disturbing cover of an eighties Finnish hit song “Poikarakkaus.” Regardless of the style they opt for, they manage to pull it off without jumping the shark. Or maybe by constantly jumping the shark? While there are a bunch of artists active on the electronic scene that nurture similar musical influences (Gatekeeper, Mega Drive, Perturbator), none of them sound quite like Tähtiportti. Much of this comes down to what I like to call the “Finnish twist” in the music. You know, the totally insane and quirky paradigm shift that you might only expect from Scandinavians (or Japanese people, but that’s beside the point). Indeed, the act they remind me the most of are their equally silly (and awesome) compatriots Kemialliset Ystävät.
The band, consisting of the aforementioned Hynninen, Vilunki 3000, Stiletti-Ana, and Randy Barracuda, uses a variety of well-produced synthetic and organic audio effects to form their sound with Hynninen’s “singing” floating above it. He delivers his lines about death, misery, and other decrepit and bizarre stuff (“recounting stories of abysses, of an abyss within the abysses… in an ancient kingdom, beyond time and space“) with a guttural voice which has a creepy, matter-of-fact quality. On some songs such as “Tähtiportti IV: Luciferin pylväs” he’s joined by Stiletti-Ana for added effect. It’s regretful that I don’t understand Finnish since the lyrics seem equally absurd as the music and the group’s overall image. In the end, I just wished for this rollercoaster ride to last a bit longer than 35 minutes.
There are not many artists that shock me these days. While Tähtiportti are not revolutionary nor do they push the envelope, I’m happy to say that they managed to both surprise me and fill me with a weird sense of glee. This is a uniquely fun record that might just give you the answer to the question that I posed at the beginning. Even if you think you’re too trve and kvlt to listen to some kind of electronic nuttiness… listen to it anyway! Nobody has to know. [FYI, I’ll know. – Steel Druhm]
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Svart Records
Websites: Too cvlt for the interwebs!
Release Dates: Out Worldwide: 02.27.2015