4 out of 5
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Produced by: Julius Mauranen
I don’t exactly recall how I found Oranssi Pazuzu – though I believe it was just from reading weekly new release reviews (that’s right, reviewers, keep doing what you do!) – but it came right around the time I was discovering, through Hydra Head records, that I might actually have some in-roads to death metal, a genre I never really figured as part of my ballpark.
After finding some groups that were squarely in that scene, but incorporated enough post-rock or hardcore elements to work for me, I stumbled across Bergraven, and… the world changed. This felt like a true crossover – not just one genre with sprinkles of another. And then I heard Oranssi, and never had a need for Bergraven again. Okay, not really, but it was like one eye-opening experience… immediately followed by a brain exploding one, as OP are absolutely death metal, with all the reverb and howls you need, but then they’re absolutely post-everything as well. I recognize that there are groups that make “pretty” heavy music – something the group touches on here, inbetween moments of extreme harshness – and that do genre crossovers of all types, but that’s not what’s happening here. Oranssi are, truly, just in a class of their own, swaying mesmerizingly from blazing, thrashing guitars to shoegaze noise to jazz-flecked pomp to atmospherics…
But this is done without being overwhelming, and yet also without relenting: no word is whispered, all are shouted; no guitar is cleanly strummed, all is distortion and loud. I don’t get it. And yet, I do, and so will you, from the opening, 11+ minute epic Saturaatio that lays this all out, impossibly encompassing nearly everything I stated up top and never dimming in intensity – and that’s the thing about a lot of thrash / death metal / post-metal: once I listen to it more, it’s power doens’t hold up, but Värähtelijä very much does, dozens of listens in – and yet allowing for further moods to be explored on the tracks that follow, with the rather gorgeous keys of Lahja the most immediate changeup, and acting as a slowburning fuse to forthcoming peaks. Musical themes are carried throughout, and the songs gracefully lead into one another. I have never heard anything like this. (Except other Oranssi Pazuzu works.)
…The only criticism I really have is that the album has a few endings. The 17-minute Vasemman Käden Hierarkia mirrors our opening, and absolutely climbs the highest mountains of metal near its conclusion to strike down at us with the band’s full force. The disc could (maybe should) end here, but it’s like the group figured that another take on this idea couldn’t hurt, so we also get Valveavaruus concluding the disc, and it’s excellent, just maybe not advancing the narrative by that point. Preceding this is the atmospheric Havuluu, which is another fascinating and compelling tune, but could’ve been worked in between the Saturaatio / Vasemman bookends, and I suspect it only wasn’t so we’d have some buffer for Valveavaruus.
If you view these tracks like a bonus single (with a total runtime equaling the length of some albums), Värähtelijä absolutely kills. Considered as one whole experience, though, it’s kind of like coming out for a second encore. Yes – you want to see the band, but, like, the first encore was already a damn good time.