Determining the next logical step for band like Oranssi Pazuzu requires being able to understand a band whose music defies logic as we know it. They’re one of the most innovative and forward-thinking bands in metal today, which means that inevitably their approach might come across as alien or disorienting. That’s sometimes both by design and entirely literal; their 2016 album Värähtelijä—my favorite metal album of 2016—included an actual thematic thread about an alien symbiosis growing inside a human body. Couple that with an awe-inspiring sprawl of black metal, psychedelia and experimental elements and the result is something unique and awesome. Where do you go from there?
Farmakologinen is the actual next step for the Finnish metal band, a relatively brief (by their standards) four-track EP comprising new material that’s a comfortably weird and abrasive addition to the band’s catalog. It doesn’t feel right to say these are in any way more straightforward or traditional than the mind-warping epics on Oranssi Pazuzu’s previous full-length, but there are elements of standard metal tropes spliced in between their most thrilling peculiarities. The repeated eruption of a standard black metal blast beat on “Unihämähäkki” is surprising, but not unwelcome. Most of its eight minutes are spent in atmospheric tension, spacious synth effects reverberating against a jagged noise rock guitar progression. It’s caught between a grimy grounding and an entirely different stratosphere, its tentacles seemingly reaching farther beyond the known realm with each minute.
Each track on Farmakologinen sounds entirely different than the one that precedes it, though there’s a common level of melodic abrasion and psychedelic terror that runs through each. They’re entirely recognizable as Oranssi Pazuzu songs, so far as one can recognize the stamp of a band that never stops progressing or testing the depths of its otherworldly perversions. “Torni,” for instance, makes a pretty seamless leap between a slow-moving goth-rock dirge and a furious blast of acid-laced sludge. By contrast, “Farmakologisen Kultin Puutarhassa” pounds, scrapes and throttles with the bite and venom of the most potent post-hardcore. Leadoff track “Ole Muukalainen” is, somehow, both the most accessible and the most peculiar of the bunch, with an eerie noir atmosphere provided by a recurrent slide riff, juxtaposed against one of their most powerful metal pummels, progressing ultimately into a nightmarish headtrip of a chorus. It’s difficult, seeing the big picture, to say whether this EP is a step forward, since Oranssi Pazuzu isn’t the type of band to move in linear fashion. It is, however, a fantastic and challenging listen throughout its 26 minutes, revealing just a little more of the cosmic landscape through which the band wanders. Just as it was with the album that preceded it, the next step from here is anyone’s guess.