Making you mosh isn’t high on the list of Oranssi Pazuzu’s priorities. There are plenty of other metal bands—stronger, faster, straighter ones—that can scratch that itch. This Finnish five-piece aims higher, past the pit and into the cosmos. Its fourth LP, Värähtelijä, plays like the soundtrack to an interstellar voyage—what mad astronauts might put on while piloting their spacecraft straight into a black hole. Brutal breakdowns, squealing solos, anthems to send devil horns skyward: Värähtelijä forgoes all of that in favor of something more enveloping. It’s sonic science fiction, cocooning the listener in extraterrestrial menace.
Named after the Babylonian demon that possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist, Oranssi Pazuzu is typically classified as black metal, with some additional qualifier attached. (“Psychedelic” or “progressive” are the most common prefixes.) But no basic genre terminology captures what it’s like to actually listen to this wildly adventurous band. All seven songs on Värähtelijä expand and contract constantly. Opening track “Saturaatio” sets the sophisticated standard, introducing elements in piecemeal—the throb of the rhythm section, the banshee shriek of lead singer Jun-His, some spacey sound effects—until the song explodes into cacophony, before receding into a sinister groove. “Lahja” commences with tribal drums, then introduces some eerie chimes straight out of one of Goblin’s ’70s horror soundtracks. Even “Hypnotisoitu Viharukous”—the album’s first single and its punchiest track, at a comparably slender five and a half minutes—finds room for what sounds like otherworldly flute.
There were more ferocious metal albums released this year, like Cobalt’s caged-animal comeback Slow Forever, and more emotionally involving ones, like Landless, the second doomy opus from Eight Bells. But in an era when the genre’s boundaries are constantly being tested and redefined, Värähtelijä is a model of evolutionary progress, proving how malleable metal really is—how much it can accommodate foreign sounds, how well it can operate as atmospheric headphone music—without betraying its fundamental ass-kicking appeal. Rarely does music this heavy cheat gravity this hard, melting your face even as it floats off into outer space.