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A lot of music is easily packaged with a clearly-marked label, a label that makes it simple to digest and classify, and to market to the right people. Oranssi Pazuzu don’t make that type of music.
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Their most recent release goes beyond even what they have previously attempted in subverting musical norms and defying expectations.
Mestarin kynsi takes the Finnish existentialist quintet even further from their original avant-garde beginnings to a truly unique musical identity. Gravitating slowly away from their more psychedelic aspects, the band began experimenting with a lot more synths and keys this time out.
“It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do, and this time we just decided to go a lot deeper with it,” founder Jun-His explains. “Also, we have a new member for the first time, Ikon, the guitar player, who also plays a lot of synths and uses samplers and stuff like that, so it gave us the opportunity to use the technology a bit more.”
He is quick to point out, however, that this doesn’t mean they will now be a band to start falling back on too much studio trickery. Working together as a live band on songs remains as important as it has ever been for Oranssi Pazuzu.
The theme of the album is mind control and a dystopian nightmare vision of this religious cult leader and his following.
[ Jun-His ]
“Even though there are a lot of electronics, we tried to keep it old school in the way that we play as a band. We jam as a band. We all need to be there together, rather than just adding some electronic layers. They all meet together when we jam and we add the electronic elements then rather than later which, I think, would be a mistake. It wouldn’t fit. So we try to be new school and old school at the same time. Everything has to have a live feel to give it that certain edge that we want.”
Despite its weirdness, Mestarin kynsi has an organic feel to it that can only come from a group of people working together on a mesh of ideas and driving toward a common goal even if it is one as bizarre as the music this band creates. They haven’t yet gone so far as to put together something they can’t replicate live.
“But we always keep our minds open to anything,” Jun-His warns. “We try to think of our albums as a sculpture. On the first two albums we were more precise. But it’s helpful to have the basis of the album from live work, because otherwise our groove might disappear a bit. The groove has to come from the band. Then you can add a million fucking tracks if you want. It’s ok to add stuff, like we added some violins and female vocals later.”
Translating as The Master’s Claw, Mestarin kynsi is a study of the psychology and power dynamics of manipulation. With their deeply experimental melange of psychedelic black metal, krautrock and industrial music, the Finns are highly adept at creating vistas of haunting soundscapes and the unsettling atmosphere associated with nightmares, a fitting accompaniment to the minimalist lyrics exploring their subject.
Even in the first stages of writing the album, we were thinking about how we wanted it to feel and sound, some curses or some spells or that sort of abstract idea. It’s about exploring your psyche. A lot of our stuff is about that, and the existence of the whole human species; it’s absurd that it even exists!
[ Jun-His ]
“The theme of the album is mind control and a dystopian nightmare vision of this religious cult leader and his following. Even in the first stages of writing the album, we were thinking about how we wanted it to feel and sound, some curses or some spells or that sort of abstract idea. It’s about exploring your psyche. A lot of our stuff is about that, and the existence of the whole human species; it’s absurd that it even exists! We went very deep into it on this album. It’s not about any particular leader, it’s more some sort of Lovecraftian creature, or something.”
None of Oranssi Pazuzu’s albums are easy listening, and even more difficult to comprehend. Jun-His is happy to admit that his band’s music is meant to be immersive and complex, but also makes it clear that there is a definite direction even if that might be hard to find and follow.
“We think a lot about the drama curve of the songs so there is a tension and then a release,” he explains. “We find those kinds of things very meaningful, and at the same time, on this album we wanted to guide the listener on a path. Even if the path changes quite drastically, there’s always a path there to follow. Even when there is a lot of ambience, or only ambience, and you start drifting from the path, there is something there that will grab you right though the album. There is a path, but it’s up to everyone’s interpretation.”
He doesn’t hesitate in nominating Mestarin kynsi as the band’s best album, but he also doesn’t really care if others don’t think the same. He reads reviews, he says, “for entertainment” and isn’t concerned about the opinion of critics. What is important to him is that Oranssi Pazuzu creates a strong reaction from the people who hear them. Being ordinary is not this band’s goal.
“I don’t learn stuff from reviews, because you already know what you’ve done by that point. I like all sorts of opinions, even ones that give us one star out of five, or something. That’s so cool. It’s the sort of music that should draw a strong response, even if it makes somebody really angry because it breaks the rules or something like that. I think it should be like that. It’s distressing if your music is bland and people just say, ‘Oh, that’s ok.’ It has to be something you really love or something you really fucking hate!”