Opium Warlords Premiere “Year of 584 Days”; Droner out Nov. 3

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Finnish experimentalist entity Opium Warlords releases its fourth album, Droner, on Nov. 3 via Svart Records. On and off for the last 13-plus years, Sami “Albert Witchfinder” Hynninen has used the one-man project as a vehicle for reveling in the sonically weird, producing and playing the vast majority of the instruments on records like 2009’s Live at Colonia Dignidad (not actually live; discussed here), 2012’s We Meditate Under the Pussy in the Sky, and 2014’s Taste My Sword of Understanding. Indeed, Droner follows suit in this regard, though where one might’ve found that compared to the rest of the Opium Warlords discography, Taste My Sword of Understanding was relatively straightforward, delving into structured material if doing so with a still exploratory bent, Droner steps well outside just about any and all stylistic confines with the three pieces included on Droner, and just when Hynninen seems to be making some kind of play toward the listenable, as on 19-minute closer “‘Closure,'” he immediately deep-dives into a wash of abrasive static noise that goes on to consume the track as a whole before a quiet ending caps the album like nothing ever happened. For those who might know him only through his work in Reverend Bizarre or Spiritus Mortis, it’s a considerable sonic leap off a considerable sonic cliff.

That said, the atmosphere is thoroughly one of doom, whatever salt burial Hynninen might be applying to that definition. Droner is comprised of three tracks — “Year of 584 Days” (20:33), “Samael Lilith” (20:27) and the aforementioned “‘Closure'” (18:54) — and each one of them is an album unto itself. Yes, drone is a huge part of it, perhaps nowhere more so than on “Year of 584 Days,” which sets the pattern in rumbling low end, initially sans percussive backing, and strange declarations from Hynninen on a post-opium warlords dronerWorld War II theme. The lyrics for that “song” — such as it is — and its two counterparts, are drawn from outside sources, and into the minimalist-feeling emptiness that permeates “Year of 584 Days,” Hynninen casts words from Finnish cultural historian Jouko Turkka. A suitably militaristic march of chains and stomping begins at about seven minutes in, and the declarations continue on the theme of Germans with flamethrowers, Hynninen drawing out pictures made all the more horrific because of the reality behind them. The minimalism has by then abated and it will continue to do so as the rumble moves into later progressions of guitar, key and bass droning, but right at about the 15-minute mark, the final movement of “Year of 584 Days” begins with a quiet guitar line and some subtle backing scrapes, and though volume will swell again, there’s a singularity to that moment that is no less vicious than the scathing to come in “‘Closure.'”

Between those two points is the curio “Samael Lilith,” which finds Hynninen reciting a ritual from the Congolese Ndembu culture designed around sexual intercourse and procreation. Its frank intonations of the vulva and the penis are no doubt intended as a shock piece for Western ears, and I guess they may or may not be, depending on one sensibilities as regards these things, but arrangement-wise, the SunnO)))-worthy drone that persists beneath and around Hynninen‘s spoken words is enough to add an otherworldly horror to the proceedings, making them all the more strange as notes are sustained into string-vibrating oblivion. Harsher noise takes hold late in the piece, skronking out in avant-jazz fashion until, at last, a straightforward ritualistic progression, different from the percussion and chants that started the track but still somehow tied to them, closes out. This brings the relatively folkish strum and vocals that begin “‘Closure,'” the lyrics for which come from midcentury artist/cultist Marjorie Cameron, whose ethereal invocations still come through as grandiose despite the relatively simple arrangement surrounding, which turns itself backward after eight minutes in to set the stage for the tearing apart that follows. The wash of noise — harsh, cruel — gives way to sparse bells of various kinds, percussive bowls and so on, and that’s how Droner finishes, finding peace at last.

The journey it has made by that point is significant both in runtime and in the substance of how that runtime is spent, but Hynninen proves himself able to act as the master of the chaos he’s bringing to bear throughout, and his central presence at the heart of Droner is what ultimately ties it to a feeling of craft. It is a deeply expressive performance piece, culled together in its various elements and layers, and very much in keeping with the nature of Opium Warlords as a whole, completely unto itself in sound, style and execution. You will not hear anything else like it.

Please enjoy “Year of 584 Days” premiering below, followed by more info from the PR wire:

Sami Hynninen on “Year of 584 Days”:

“What could I say about this song… it is about hydrogen bomb, and the total war. It is the clear world of devastation and torture. All senses are awake when you face the presence of pain and death. You are reborn to the battlefield and flames and terror. Everything you had before has been wiped away. You are alone and lost to a nightmare that has no end. The sun won’t rise again. Your home, and the pictures of your loved ones are now ashes, but you have to force yourself to go on. You just have to go on.”

After three wilderness years with doom gods Spiritus Mortis and Lord Vicar, electronic warriors Tähtiportti, and black metal sorcerers Azrael Rising, Sami Albert “Witchfinder” Hynninen is back in business with Opium Warlords. On November 3rd, Opium Warlords shall release Droner through Svart Records.

Droner is the fourth Opium Warlords album, and it brings Hynninen’s uncompromising musical vision to its most sparse form. It is noisy lo-fi riff music consisting only of particles unquestionably necessary, but at the same time with a musical spectrum that is very wide and open. It is experimental and avant-garde, still with roots deep in the very heart of heavy rock music. It is concrete blues, diving to the existence and the smallest molecular spheres of minimal riffs, and what seems to be an endless repetition of them. From these rather skeletal elements, it occasionally reaches neo-classical, even medieval spheres and death-romantic chambers of apocalyptic folk. Onto all of this, disturbing lyrics are chanted by unnamed, hostile protagonists.

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Droner at Svart Records webstore

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One Response to “Opium Warlords Premiere “Year of 584 Days”; Droner out Nov. 3”

  1. […] Three years after their third full-length, Sami Hynninen‘s Opium Warlords will release a new album in late 2017. During this time, Hynninen released three records with Tähtiportti, one with Spiritus Mortis, and played with Lord Vicar. The return of his esoteric doom drone outfit also marks a shift in tone according to the press release, which states that “gone is the soothing warmth of the preceding album (…) Droner is all about nuclear war and clear, post-apocalyptic primitivity of the surviving culture. It is torturing purification through purgatory, to a new world and new form of life.” The twenty-minute long opener «Year of 584 Days» can be heard at The Obelisk. […]

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