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Oksennus’s “Kolmen toista” and the Unexpected Avant-Garde

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In music, especially metal, there is this idea of “meat and potatoes”: music and performance distilled to pure necessity. Maybe not the most luxurious means of sustenance, but they provide just enough to propel the corporeal form forward. Musically, “meat and potatoes” works similarly — simplicity over flair, structure over adventure, utilitarianism over the avant-garde.

Finnish kuoleman metalli metal trio Oksennus looks at the simple meal placed before them and asks, “Well… why no carrots?” The idea of simplicity in music — a lack of layering and complexity of ideas — is often seen as a negative in metal, at least, metal which doesn’t fully wear their influences on their sleeve. Ostensibly, Oksennus is a death metal band, something harrowing and horrific, but their music is much more complex than what resides within the superficial. There is the classic “cavern” sound and plodding, percussive momentum, but that’s where this trio’s classification as “old school” death metal ends.

The band’s new album Kolme toista, roughly translating to “thirteen” (but is also wordplay on “three seconds,” “three instances,” “three times,” recognizing that it is difficult to fully translate without being able to read Finnish) is a strange beast, something hypnotic and terrifying, moving in slow, shuffling steps across a blank plain. Oksennus, themselves, use this stability in superficial sound to bolster their own oddity, which presents itself as something close to secret without careful listening. Sure, there is murk here, but beneath that dense miasma are strange, clattering riffs and staggered, alinear improvisation. So, yes, Oksennus presents themselves as a nutritious, traditional stew, but beware what lies beneath. Sometimes carrots bite back.

Kolme toista is out on Nuclear War Now! Productions (CD/LP) and Caligari Records (CS). Listen to a full stream of the album below.

Follow Oksennus on Facebook and Bandcamp.

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