Albums of the Decade: Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä

Oranssi Pazuzu have done it. They’ve made metal unpredictable and free spirited again. In fact, the whole Tampere, Finland-scene is responsible for a subgenre of psychedelic black metal with a range of influences so vast that such music would not have been conceivable until very recently.

Pazuzu’s fourth album, Värähtelijä, is a phenomenon on its own, though. Back in 2016, it featured in some AOTY lists right next to famous releases – this wasn’t even a niche record back then and even less so today. It’s a goddamn landmark. Rarely has an underground metal band’s fame grown so quickly thanks to a single album. Värähtelijä is a brutal tsunami of exotic instrumentation and tunings not usually associated with metal, yet in creating an atmosphere so profoundly dense it can easily rival the darkest Norwegian forest.

This brand of black metal doesn’t sound like the icy winds are coming for you and your family, though. It actually feels like a life changing experience during a Scandinavian Summer night somewhere by a lake. This is, somehow, welcoming music, inviting you on a trip of a lifetime in which all of your inhibitions vanish. Yet, all the sense of urgency you’d expect and want from a black metal record is still there.

The liberal use of organ and heavy bass is Värähtelijä’s biggest achievement. Whilst that combination is usually associated with the pomp of heavy acts from the seventies, here it serves an entirely different purpose. Värähtelijä sounds like it’s luring you to go deeper into the darkness, as opposed to being afraid of it. The instrumentation does more than the vocals in that sense, as the enticing and mysterious atmosphere is mostly down to a complex but somehow spontaneous sounding combination of wildly different influences. Jazz, folk, very well balanced black metal vocals and psychedelic rock. It’s all in there and blended together to near perfection.

Yet, Värähtelijä can be brutal by way of the howling, grunting and the frequent all consuming walls of sound. But as soon as the record seems to become too intense, it downshifts to calmer, PH (Mr. Peter Hayden)-like, waters. This balance is kept throughout the entire hour-long album, up until the inevitable climax of closing track ‘Valveavaruus’, complete with insane outro groove. The previous six songs could have easily formed a one-track record much like Dopesmoker – only more interesting, which tells you something about how fucking good Värähtelijä is.

Judging from the immense quality of Värähtelijä, the biggest thing at the start of the new decade might just be its successor.

Words: Marc Puyol-Hennin