Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Oranssi Pazuzu: Kosmonument (2011)


Eighteenth century scientist Sir Henry Head was interested in the human nervous system. He became frustrated because experimental subjects were too vague in their accounts of pain. So he decided to experiment on himself. He had his left radial nerve severed, and from then he went on to use a technique he called the "negative attitude of attention." This is a deep meditative state of the mind wherein he closely examined the sensations of pain. For five years, instead of blocking out pain, like most of us do, he focused on it to the smallest detail.

Listening to Oranssi Pazuzu's Kosmonument is like that. For their sophomore effort, the Finnish psychedelic black metal band have presented us with a fully-immersive exploration of pain and fear. All of metal asks you to face the negative, but rarely has this examination been so intimate.

Long-time readers of mine may recall my review of their first album. I gave it only a 3 out of 5 rating. I since came to appreciate it much more, but even so, this record blows that one out of the water.

Weird, psychedelic guitar plays over hypnotic basslines, while a dark black metal rasp whispers Finnish straight to your lizard brain. Sometimes they shift into tremolo mode, and other times they go into doom or eerie ambient passages. The atmosphere is just as dynamic as the pacing and textures. For example, "Andromeda" starts off by wondering at the majesty of space, before you realize your suit is punctured and there's nothing standing between you and oblivion. Even the ambient sections add to the experience. This is all served through an organic, coherent production that gives each instrument the right amount of space.

The Verdict: Kosmonument is a huge leap forward for an already promising band. It speaks to the most primitive part of your brain, the part where fear and pain reside. Many albums attempt to teach you about pain, but it's usually second-hand. This will give you first-hand experience. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.


  1. What would you give the first album now that you've allowed it time to sink in? It's weird, I've seen so many mixed reviews about this band, but after listening to the first album I took to it immediately and Oranssi quickly became one of my favorite bands. Just sayin'. By the way this album is sooo good. Good review.

  2. I'd probably give Muukiwhatever Puhuu a 4/5 today. I totally get why people wouldn't like this band at first, because I myself didn't fully get it the first time around. But it really is quite unique. They were definitely onto something with the first one. My review said I hoped for more maturity and polish the second time around. There's definitely more maturity, but no polish, and it's much better for it.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. someone found this to be a good review..? i only came across it yesterday and found it so unhelpful and inaccurate (even if it is positive) that, even on reflection, i still felt compelled to drop by and tell you so... to me, it reads as if you listened to the album once, high as a kite, deriving a psychedelic (fleeting, entirely subjective) set of impressions from it - impressions which were then written up two weeks later, with no repeat plays in between. (no, i'm sure those were not the actual circumstances under which you wrote it - i'm basically just saying that i would never recognise the album from your description of it.)

    you honestly hear nothing in this apart from pain and fear? seriously? there is soooooooo much more in there dude... you don't seem to have picked up on the vastly increased range of stylistic references on this album (the first was already a very varied mix of influences, obviously)... it always strikes me that the touchstone for the album is *into the pandemonium* by celtic frost, not so much in terms of direct musical influence (although there is at least one straightforward lift - the bell-like guitar parts in "maavaltimo" are self-consciously copied from frost's "mesmerized"), but rather by way of example. there are so many different elements in the mix here!

    pain and fear... negativity... i mean really... "komeetta" is actually danceable, "andromeda" is trippy and almost soothing (until they don't want it to be), and "loputon tuntematon" is as majestic in mood as emperor at their best imo. sure, different strokes and all that, but considering how many albums you have heard, you don't seem to me to make much sense of what you hear - ! not trying to be unpleasant about it, you understand; but like i say - i gave it a night to think about it and still decided i had to get in touch...

  4. Thanks for the comment. (I've never been high, by the way, so your impression is wrong as far as that goes. There's plenty more wrong with it but we'll leave it at that.)

    I think the core to your disagreement may be alleviated by three observations. First, pain and fear are much broader experiences than you're giving them credit for. Second, I keep my reviews short out of both necessity and conscious choice, so nuance is often passed by, at least when it distracts from the overall picture I'm painting. Third, the vast majority of my reviews are new album reviews, not in-depth explorations of something that I've had more than a year to digest, as you have in this case. If you read any of those and say "That doesn't make it better, that makes it worse," then my reviews are simply not for you.

  5. sorry, forgot to check back in with you to see if you'd replied. very bad form.

    it did occur to me shortly after i left that comment that the probable truth would turn out to be rather ironic: that is, that you might not have heard the album high at all, and that this is part of the "problem" (not a problem for you, obviously - but i would still say you weren't close to the music in this instance). for better or worse, OP were high as kites when they wrote and recorded this stuff and the resulting music does make more sense if heard in that state, or at least if one understands that the sound palette is arranged with that in mind. in my case... well, i was certainly high when i first got into the album, and that may have helped me get closer to the artists' intentions quickly. (yes, i have had a year to get used to the music *now*, but probably 95% of my impressions from it were fully formed after two or three plays, when it first came out. it just happens that i only came across your review very recently.)

    still don't agree with the basic point about pain and fear, however broad you want to make those experiences (and i'm not suggesting they're narrow). if you listened to that second track again now, i think you would struggle to recognise your own description. but i do take your other point/s: you need to keep your reviews short, and you write about new material on brief acquaintance. and you're absolutely right... it's not for me. if you find it worthwhile and others find value in it, good luck to you.

  6. Thanks again for engaging with me.

    I only want to get into your last point. I am a student of both metal and the art of reviewing. I've put a lot into studying how reviews are done, and people's perceptions of them. There are many people who do prefer brief reviews that are not exhaustive, which take a simple angle to leave an impression that is, in the first place, engaging, and secondly, that is sufficient for someone to determine whether they're interested in pursuing the work reviewed. I don't have any real data to base this on, but I suspect that is the majority of people, but the minority (who take your viewpoint) are much more vocal. And if any of my reviews has been successful at achieving my goals, I think this one is. It's one of my favorites.

    You say, critically but respectfully, that I make the reviews on brief acquaintance. That's true. But you said yourself that your impression was almost "fully formed after two or three plays." That is sufficient.

    Thanks again. I always appreciate the chance to examine my reviewing philosophy.