Building on the strengths of three progressively wilder albums, 2016 saw Finnish five-piece Oranssi Pazuzu notch a new high with Värähtelijä, a mind-warping excursion through the tattered fringes of psychedelic black metal. These shamanic Finns inhabit a world where the most extreme strains of modern metal splash violently alongside krautrock, acid house and even jazz. You could be forgiven for wondering what more their new album could possibly add to the mix?
The answer is: nothing. In fact, Mestarin Kynsi sees the band moving in the opposite direction – pulling back the dizzying scale of their assault for a feverish, 51-minute headtrip that unleashes a blinding psychedelic maelstrom that lacks neither the ambition nor the intensity of its predecessors.
Repetition is the backbone of psychedelic music; rhythmic or melodic patterns repeat over and over as new elements are gradually introduced. In this way, opener Ilmestys begins with a slow and unwinding progression of two jangly guitar notes, bent to the point of dissonance. The motif builds and repeats until, at the five-minute mark, a blasphemous siege of howls, power chords, cymbals and drums erupts and drives the song to its breathtaking end. Kuulen Ääniä Maan Alta is a wild, driving surge of electronica, gradually pulsating into a neck-snapping gauntlet of extremity before ceding to a droney haze of chilly atmospherics.
There’s an undeniable stripped-down quality to these six tracks; you can hear it in a clearer separation of instruments and dynamics. And it works exceedingly well. Not for the faint-hearted, Mestarin Kynsi is a thoroughly intense and captivating departure from this earthly realm. You might need a walk and a bit of sunshine when it’s over, if only to clear your head for your inevitable return.