Oranssi Pazuzu

support Dark Buddha Rising + Atomikylä
author AP date 11/10/16 venue KB18, Copenhagen, DEN

It is Tuesday evening and for once, the dingy, garage-y confines of the meat packing district’s premier music venue KB18 are bustling. Despite none of the featured artists on this all-Finnish line-up enjoying what you would call ‘prominence’, it seems that the Danish underground is far from oblivious to the new wave of Finnish metal growing roots of late. As it was with the country’s dark take on melodeath, this new movement is highly recognisable from its rawness and marked infusion of psychedelia into the usual forms of extreme metal, and has consequently won the affection of hipsters and grizzly metallers alike — owing perhaps in some part to the success of bands such as Alcest and Deafheaven in translating the genre into a more mainstream format. It is difficult to imagine any of tonight’s entertainment achieving the same level of recognition, but the presence of well over 100 patrons is still a strong testimony to the fact that all three bands on the bill not only know their shit, but also offer something unique, something worth making an effort to experience.

Atomikylä

Atomikylä, of course, is a convenient choice of support, seeing as the project emerged from the Wastement rehearsal space shared by Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu as a kind of jam session between select members of those two bands. But the band is also an effective precursor to the later sets because, as you might imagine, it brings together the sounds of its musicians’ primary outfits to forge a kind of halfway state, shall we call it ’blackened, psychedelic doom’? Compared to the main acts, however, Atomikylä relies on the improvisational skills of the two guitarists, Dark Buddha Rising’s Vesa Ajomo & Oranssi Pazuzu’s Juho Vanhanen, who trade cosmic solos over the ritualistic rumble of Tapio Hietamäki’s bass and the hypnotically pulsating drum rhythms of Jukka Rämänen, occasionally injecting a notion of vocals as well, each in his own distinctive growling style. Indeed, the sort of music practiced by Atomikylä can only be written and rehearsed to an extent — the rest relies on the musicians’ skill at constructing a jam off one another’s ideas, and in this department Atomikylä excels. But the required focus means that the band’s showmanship is rather shoegazey, and only really suitable for the 30 minutes or so that have been allocated to them. This is just enough to space out and immerse yourself in the séance, to achieve the frame of mind in which to best experience the following acts.

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Dark Buddha Rising

As the long-winding space trips of Dark Buddha Rising envelop us, the tempo slows markedly, the riffing grows heavier and the atmosphere turns seriously eerie — not least by virtue of the cross-shaped emblem constructed from a variety of animal (and human?) bones so ominously lit in hues of red by the ground-stationed spotlights. Even darker, however, is the behaviour of vocalist Marko Neuman, whose movements seem so compulsive, so possessed that one is unsure whether or not this is a human being or in fact some terrifying hellspawn. His kneeled/crouched quivering and spasming has a disturbing sexual sheen to it — certainly the sort of antics of which Satan himself would approve — yet for all the distress of it, the man is nigh impossible to take your eyes off. Vocally, too, his shrieks, growls, frenzied inhale screams and dramatic baritone singing serve to create a constant point of fixation amidst the droning, trudging slabs of metal that his compatriots unload upon us. He may be batshit insane, but Neuman is clearly a crucial element in terms of making Dark Buddha’s performance memorable visually as well as aurally.

As for the music itself, the quartet embraces repetition as an art-form, basing the songs on an ultra-heavy yet mesmerising core from which guitarists Vesa Ajomo & Vesa Vatanen then swerve off with the aid of some serious arrays of effect pedals. The pieces seem to last forever, but there is a anaesthetising quality about them that invites the mind along instead of numbing it through the litanies of slow movement. This stuff drills right into the psyche. Still, there is no escaping the reality that were it not for Neuman — kneeling behind his diabolic, bone-made effigy as if he meant to exorcise us, the humans, with its power — Dark Buddha Rising would lose a significant portion of its magnetism. With both of these elements in place however, the experience of watching them live is quite otherworldly.

Oranssi Pazuzu

Could Oranssi Pazuzu be the most animated black metal in existence? Certainly on the basis of the quintet’s showmanship tonight, one is inclined to think so. All of the trite stereotypes to do with the genre are swept aside by the dizzying maelstrom raging amidst the beams and strobing of those same ground lights all of tonight’s artists have utilised — yet to call it simply ’rocking out’ would be doing the performance a huge disservice. No, these are the antics of a band possessed by its own music, the musicians’ unrelenting intensity creating a vivid, but never theatrical visual aesthetic to accompany the blackened drugginess of songs like “Saturaatio” and “Lahja”. If Woodstock ’69 was organised in hell, then most probably Oranssi Pazuzu would be the perfect example of its sound, appearance and atmosphere.

Indeed, few concerts this year have given rise to the rare sensation of awe and euphoria that the Finns are now beckoning from within us. It is the perfect symbiosis of light, sound and showmanship unfolding before our eyes and as such there is very little that goes against Oranssi Pazuzu tonight. The inherent eeriness of the music has the audience in a trance, with yours truly feeling like part of some dark conjuring rather than merely a concert most of the time — an impression heightened by some of the more toned down passages during which the two guitarists and bassist often form a half-circle, but facing away from each other like a fiendish antithesis to this common stage move. It all culminates with Dark Buddha Rising’s Vesa Ajomo joining the fracas for a deranged rendition of “Hypnotisoitu viharukous” (perhaps the most quintessentially black metal piece on Oranssi Pazuzu’s latest album “Värähtelijä”, and one of the songs that truly underlines the demented character of frontman Juho Vanhanen’s vocalisations), before the brooding epic that is “Vasemman käden hierarkia” sends us so deep into the cosmic black infinity its 17 minutes feel like a third of the length.

Judging by the majesty of Oranssi Pazuzu’s performance in front of some 120 people then, this underground sensation seems destined for more lucrative pastures. The outlandishness of them music is justification enough, but with a visual aesthetic and showmanship this enthralling, the Finnish metallers’ need to be regarded as one of the most potent live acts available right now — at the very least within the black metal genre.

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