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Oranssi Pazuzu Now Touring the US, Soaking Crowds in a Kaleidoscope of Blackened Psychedelia

Oranssi Pazuzu
Oranssi Pazuzu. Photo credit: Andrew Rothmund

There are no two ways about it: Oranssi Pazuzu puts on one hell of a performance. Eerily transcendent beyond metal’s confines and simultaneously catchy as shit, this band captures both body and mind in a swift, ethereal grasp. Their musical grounding in krautrock funnels effortlessly through a stoned-out black metal vibe which, unlike other bands sporting “psychedelic” tags, doesn’t proselytize or overstay its welcome. Oranssi Pazuzu simply is, an entity not identifiable not by membership or even technical skill but rather the immense and unusual noise they extract from dreamy worlds beyond. On record, this results in ecstatic and cerebral forays into the mind (especially with high-end headphones); on stage, Oranssi Pazuzu slug-shot their mental effervescence straight into your fucking soul with god-unmatchable power.

And that’s what surprised me at last Thursday’s set in Chicago (the band’s first stop on their US tour): Oranssi Pazuzu’s absolute command of all the oomph Reggie’s otherwise mediocre sound system could muster. Most bands who utilize extremely dense layering and heavy atmosphere seem to summon it from beyond, only controlling the throughput and channel and lens to allow the emergence of sound-walls; Oranssi Pazuzu, though, actually create, and it feels like heavy art sui generis. The band’s members conduct themselves as connoisseurs and masters of electricity’s transformation into sound, directing their wavelengths toward both body and mind in an effortless state of “presence” rather than ritualistically executing on some given playbook to achieve an expected intensity. What I mean to convey here is that Oranssi Pazuzu feels, on stage, like an experiment in action: all resolutions are always possible, imbuing the ambiance they create with a colorful tension and sense of excitable purpose that goes far beyond just feeling the impact of a shitton of noise. There is simply no way to see Oranssi Pazuzu live and not fall completely out of the past and future — depression and anxiety, respectively — in your consciousness. There is no way to see Oranssi Pazuzu live and not have some kind of release from yourself.

That hour or so of mental relief is a gift that only the absolute greatest bands can deliver.

As last Thursday wore on into the evening, I began my usual routine of smoking a ton of high-caliber weed, and that night I even layered my high with a few beers (though I don’t drink much these days). Suffice it to say: I had found the perfect sweet-spot of inebriation and lucidity, that delightful ecstasy of achieving a soaring good-vibe plane but also trusting your ability to maintain it. I felt there, surrounded by friends like my trusty compatriot Jon Rosenthal and Varaha frontman extraordinaire Fabio Brienza, drowning in laughter and smiles and hugs and togetherness and all that wonderful bunny-rabbit shit. Accompanied also by my lovely Varaha-shirt-wearing wife (she purveys in super-grim black metal and the likes despite rejecting the “metalhead” moniker, which I find adorable), Reggies that night just felt like the right place to be. Though the venue’s ambiance can be a little stale by default, the combination of THC, booze, and accelerated expectations for some seriously great tunes elevated everything. As the night played out, Varaha absolutely slayed the stage, delivering on their promise to massage brains with powerful and moving doomgaze whose atmosphere blankets instead of floats; then, Insect Ark bent our minds with a less atmospheric but more jam-like performance with an impact vigorously technical and deconstructive. Together, Varaha and Insect Ark can be thought of as mirrors to Oranssi Pazuzu’s sound, stimulating two important essences like appetizers teasing your mind for one big climactic dish.

Oranssi Pazuzu is an almighty band, a triumphant band, one which achieves those senses entirely without pretension; they are doubtlessly psychedelic irrespective of how you define that term, or whether you even believe in any supernatural realms. The band does not subscribe to any specific drug, probably because the experience of being enveloped by their sound is the drug itself, and however you enhance that with other substances is entirely up to you as a distinct individual. For me, it’s definitely weed, my savior and my crux, and I had leveled-up to groovy-as-all-fuck by the time Oranssi Pazuzu hit the stage, nailing my oil vape with the frequency of smoking a cigarette. There’s no real way to describe how it felt as the band began to paint a masterpiece right onto my cortex; my eyes channeled additional indulgence into my flesh-processor as my camera’s viewfinder framed band’s energetic bursts of groove and hook in ways which gave me shivers. The dank enhanced all of this, saturating my receptors with garden-vivid colors*, nestling me into the almighty groove which backbones Oranssi Pazuzu’s onslaught.

*The decision to go with black-and-white photos for this set was purposeful in relation to not ascribing my own color interpretation; also, the lighting at Reggies does not do this band justice. Whether any of this really matters or not, I hope these shots showcase the etherality of Oranssi Pazuzu, allowing you to color the moments yourself, or leave them color-bare as dreams themselves.

Oranssi Pazuzu dissolves time. Their meditative punch is plenty enough to transport you to less-connected states of being — for me, aided by the head-high of a very strong sativa, the band’s sonic one-two totally disengaged me in the best way possible. For the duration of their set, and now as I feel it in retrospect, I was truly but temporarily void of the impervious depression which sickens my life and has ruined so much. Truthfully, ever since I exited my twenties, I’ve had rapidly diminishing confidence that I can survive this profound battle with depression, a.k.a. “The Beast.” Last Thursday, though, as Oranssi Pazuzu hit their blasting and mesmerizingly saturated peak, I felt the rapture of security and self-authorship emerge inside of me. The band’s hyperbolic denouement fucking leveled me, vaporizing my inner hauntedness, paralyzing The Beast and its many creepy tentacles, and releasing my free, artistic mind into itself to, well, feel. For that relatively minuscule slice of time in my life, I was indeed free and unburdened, and I swear that feeling is truer than any other except for perhaps love. If music is the most powerful weapon in my arsenal, then Oranssi Pazuzu is a quad-barreled bazooka aimed right at The Beast’s crooked dick.

So, seeing Oranssi Pazuzu was an extremely rare vacation, if you want to look at it that way, from a mind which suffers unto itself, inflicted by a sinister self-poison both indescribable and indecipherable. Only a few things in the world can do this for me, giving me that moment of release whose reverb carries me yet another month or two into time’s narrowing tunnel. Oranssi Pazuzu is now one of those things, a special rarity beyond just music or performance, something instead irreducibly personal and meaningful and therefore all-important. Their blend of dynamic rhythms and ultra-saturated soundscapes all wrapped up in a blackened blanket amounts to trance-inducement for some, including me.

Great bands will live and die, so too will important ones, but bands can be great and important though still largely meaningless. Bands that nail the great-important-meaningful trifecta have succeeded, in my opinion, at discovering a sonic equation for quite literally therapizing people into feeling present and pure in the moment, something which I think is foundational vis-à-vis the enjoyment of music. Such bands do not trade in music or even money, per se and primarily, but instead in delivering something so important but so impossible to find anywhere else: release. I wish I could always achieve the undiluted bliss Oranssi Pazuzu helped me discover last Thursday — even though I can’t, I am goddamn thankful for this band existing and the five sensationally talented musicians who speak music through impact and intensity, obscuring the superfluous componentry of noise-creation to reveal life’s kaleidoscope as seen by a mind liberated from the echoes of death’s ceaseless knock.

Oranssi Pazuzu’s tour continues through October; additional stops below.

10/14/2019 – Sonia – Boston, MA
10/15/2019 – Le Poisson Rouge – New York, NY
10/16/2019 – Underground Arts – Philadelphia, PA
10/17/2019 – Metro Gallery – Baltimore, MD
10/18/2019 – Kings – Raleigh, NC
10/19/2019 – 529 – Atlanta, GA
10/21/2019 – Barracuda – Austin, TX
10/23/2019 – Club Red – Mesa, AZ
10/24/2019 – Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA
10/25/2019 – Cornerstone – Berkeley, CA
10/26/2019 – Star Theater- Portland, OR
10/27/2019 – Chop Suey – Seattle, WA

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