Finnish black metal powerhouse Oranssi Pazuzu return once again with their fourth full-length album, Värähtelijä, courtesy of 20 Buck Spin Records. While the outfit has pushed the envelope since their inception, this record sees them perfect their highly unique sound in order to produce what might just be a career-defining release.

While firmly rooted in the black metal tradition, Oranssi Pazuzu have often eschewed the most obvious hallmarks of the genre. Blast beats and tremolo-picked guitars are few and far between. Album opener “Saturaatio” gives a more accurate picture of how this band operates. Clean guitars open the track, the notes possessing a slightly bent and drone-like quality, with drums coming in quickly to join them. The beat is repetitive and distinctive, repeated ad nauseam to create a hypnotic quality. The bass plays a great melodic line underneath everything. When harsher guitars join the sound, it becomes quickly evident that Oranssi Pazuzu achieve their extremity through sensory overload. The track builds in intensity across its almost twelve-minute running time. Elements drop in and out of the arrangement, perhaps most notably some excellent organ work and psychedelic guitar solos.

After the epic overload of the opening track, the next two songs, “Lahja” and the title cut respectively, take a more restrained approach. The hypnotic and intricate drum work features prominently in both. The mood here is more lurking menace rather than out-and-out aggression.

The fourth track, “Hypnotisoitu Viharukous,” marks a return to the band’s heavier side. Here they seem to betray a slight Neurosis influence. The keyboards join the fray just before the two-minute mark with a simple, repeated figure that’s almost industrial-sounding in its conception. While more aggressive than the last two tracks, this piece still makes great use of dynamics, much like the album as a whole.

While there isn’t a track less than five minutes long on the entire album, “Vasemman Käden Hierarkia” feels like the centerpiece, clocking in at over 17 1/2 minutes. Neurosis once again comes to mind, with great mid-paced riffs flowing in and out of each other and long drum breaks featuring tribal-inspired tom work. But this song also offers the first blast beat of the record, played in short bursts, the effect both violent but appropriately mind-bending as well. After the song almost completely winds down in the middle, it closes out with a hypnotic and psychedelic final section.

“Havuluu” contains some of the most claustrophobic and dense cyclical riffing on the album, and another bout of intense but strange blast beats. The album closes with “Valveavaruus,” another slow-burner in the vein of “Lahja” and ” Värähtelijä.” “Valveavaruus” does have a bit more of a loose quality while exuding a ritual ambience as well. It is certainly a great statement to close the album with.

Oranssi Pazuzu has been a band to watch for quite some time now. Their blending of various elements, most notably psychedelic music and black metal has always been intriguing, but such is their deftness now that they’ve been able to transcend simple genre tags and produce a singular sound that is all their own. With a late February release date, it might seem a bit too early to promise this one will be on year-end lists, but then again, it is hard to imagine any complete list without it.

Allen Griffin

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