In the beginning, there are only faint, oblique details. Scattered hints of an eerie theme repeated by bubbling analogue synthesizers and their faux operatic voices floating in a vast chamber. Syntheosis’ first cut “Void Monolith” leaves the impression of a minimalist prologue for a labyrinthine, perverted science fiction show from the sixties. A depraved homage to Hawkwind and Delia Derbyshire, perhaps. But beneath this ethereal façade, heavier and darker clouds of crumbling riffs stir. And then—the explosion! As the second minute of “The Shamanic Vision” passes by, the coalesced force of Finnish bands Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising is revealed in its full, utter grandeur. The soundscape is suddenly overwhelmed by a clash of sounds. Malevolent growls of a mad zealot proselytize, recite, and contort while frenzied tremolos and filthy sludge heaviness intertwine with ritualistic rhythms, rolling drums, incisive sitar plunks, and synth-laden drones. It’s a stunning climax to a build-up that announces a record infused with psychedelia, metallic mass, and divination.
A certain thespian poise dominates throughout Syntheosis, the piece originally commissioned for Roadburn Festival 2018 and then turned into a proper studio recording. Highly conceptual, Waste of Space Orchestra narrate a quite demented story somewhere between magical realism and occult horror. The album develops intently and purposefully, tracing the lines of an imagined ritual and its performers, three mysterious creatures that aim “to open a portal that will suck them into a different reality of brain-mutilating color storms and ego-diminishing audio violence.” The three protagonists—The Shaman, The Seeker, and The Possessor—each possess a voice (and vocalist) of their own accompanied by corresponding musical themes, symbols of certain facets of humanity. Not quite demons, not quite angels, but a bit of both. Musically speaking and true to the album’s name, Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising synthesize rather than just collaborate, pulling various influences in their storytelling. While Waste of Space Orchestra obviously shares traits and stylistic flourishes with both bands, it is ultimately a thing of its own.
Post-punk rhythms, a Virus-like inflection, and harmonized choruses indebted to space rock emerge on the scorching “Seeker’s Reflection.” “Wake Up the Possessor” follows up by summoning a coven of cackling witches that dance towards a slow blackened death implosion accompanied by weaving bass lines. These familiar licks are incorporated deliciously. Elsewhere, the Yin and Yang of “Infinite Gate Opening” and “Vacuum Head” contrast hypnotic invocations with minimal instrumentation and propulsive, buzzing black metal crests. But it’s the long, meandering “Journey to the Centre of Mass” that is the standout here. Centered around an Earth-like cadenza driven by resonating low frequencies and the meditative drone of blues-tinged guitar leads, it slowly builds up speed, turning from mild-mannered and melancholy into a progressive sludge monster underlined by a black metal ferocity and psychedelic tapestry. The songwriting is assertive as it eclipses the album’s concept and dictates the narrative, creating interconnected cuts that function both as stand-alone pieces and as movements of an overarching epic work. As soft ambiance and oscillating textures of “The Universal Eye” lead into the closing, majestic title track, Syntheosis teeters between pandemonium and anger on one side and a creepy sense of calm on the other. Because of this duality, hellish growls, alien electronic noises, and towering guitar riffs will make the song’s fade out sound like a loud and furious question mark.
Recorded in a studio rather than capturing the orchestra’s actual performance at Roadburn, Syntheosis is characterized by an organic, warm, and at times expansive sonority that often evokes Hexvessel’s enveloping atmospheres. The sound of individual instruments is round and hazy—drums hit curiously softly but with a sense of heft, guitars murmur with subdued aggression—yet the production and mastering seem deliberate in projecting an otherworldly, uncanny feel. Despite the band being composed of ten musicians, they manage to eschew the pitfalls of large groups whose busy sections overflow and saturate the band’s vision. Instead, they suppress their egos and engage in restrained interactions interspersed with silences and pauses.
With such a bizarre concept and combination of styles, it’s a small miracle of how coherent, focused, and easily enjoyable Syntheosis really feels. Each listen introduces a new and slightly different trip into the eternal world that Waste of Space Orchestra have built. A triumphant album that feels complete and that would perhaps be best left without further installments.