[Click play above to stream Seremonia’s Pahuuden Äänet in full. Album is out Sept. 30, 2016, on Svart Records.]
Even if one doesn’t speak Finnish, as I most certainly don’t, it’s hard to ignore the engaging oddity that Seremonia have become. Pahuuden Äänet (on Svart) is the fourth album the dark-psych rockers — working with the returning lineup of vocalist Noora Federley, guitarists Teemu Markkula and Ville Pirinen, bassist Ilkka Vekka and drummer/flutist Erno Taipale — have released since their 2012 self-titled debut (track stream here), and it follows last year’s Kristalliarkki (review here, stream here), which only upped the bizarro quotient from 2013’s second offering, Ihminen.
There have been elements consistent throughout their work in songwriting and a penchant for catchy bounce, but each record has found its own personality as well, and the 10-track/40-minute Pahuuden Äänet is no different. While roughly produced with a vintage sound in mind, as all their work has been, and given to a classic sense of boogie in “Sielun Kuolema” (“the death of the soul”) and “Me Kutsumme Sitaä” (“we call it”), there’s a sense of pushing “far out” as far out as far out will go on the brief “Sähkolintu” (“electric bird”), and where Kristalliarkki had its greatest impact in its 15-minute, two-part title-track, Pahuuden Äänet spreads some of that vibe around, so that the seven-minute “Ne Ovat Jo Täällä” (“they are already here”) and the later, six-minute “Riivatut” (“possessed”) both come across as patient, rich in their cultish swirl and still fitting with the overarching flow of the album, which winds up being one of its greatest assets.
They begin with Federley‘s echoing proclamations on “Orjat” (“the slaves”), itself longer than cuts like “Sielun Kuolema,” which immediately follows, and given to a languid initial groove. No strangers to the otherworldly, Seremonia do well throughout Pahuuden Äänet to blend ethereal and terrestrial impulses, but “Orjat” opens the record with particularly hypnotic motion, its second half tripping out instrumentally on effects-laden guitar repetitions, growing washes of noise and a growing sense of the weird-worship to come as the album plays out. As noted, “Sielun Kuolema” plays against this impulse with a faster, more straightforward rush, but the interplay between Markkula and Pirinen and the layering of vocals still makes it a standout, only bolstering its memorable hook. The album’s title itself translates to “the sound of evil,” so it’s no doubt with a sense of irony that the title-track has some of the sweetest sounds to be found herein.
Aside from providing Taipale with a subtle showcase of far-back push, “Pahuuden Äänet” boasts a weepy guitar line and sense of consuming melancholy that suits its place on the record, picking up in its last minute to a space rock thrust that almost seems to be snuck in, like Seremonia were trying to get away with something. It’s that sense of playfulness that makes their material so dangerous and really gives the impression they enjoy what they do. Helps as well that both “Sähkolintu,” with its key/guitar freakout, and “Ne Ovat Jo Täällä,” with its slow-wah drift circa the halfway point and own shift into exploratory madness, are an absolute blast, the latter breaking before five minutes in to gleefully wander beneath a forest canopy of noise that presumably serves as the end of side A.
“Me Kutsumme Sitaä” starts the second half of the tracklisting at as full a speed as Seremonia move on Pahuuden Äänet, the thrust underscored by Vekka‘s bass and Taipale‘s drums nonetheless putting the guitars forward along with Federley‘s reverb-soaked voice. They’ve come to excel at this kind of 45RPM-ready burst, but there’s not much for which I’d trade the creepy bass/flute intro of “Riivatut,” or the forward build that it begins. Just before two minutes in, the song takes off and Seremonia revel in their class-M space impulses, seeming to draw together the various sides they’ve shown already — the boogie, the psych, the experimentalism — it’s all there even before they land in the engulfing wah wash march that ends the track, leading to the standout push of “Kuoleman Planeetta” (“death planet”), less of a speedy shuffle than “Sielun Kuolema” — another cut with a direct reference to “death” in the title; I learned something today — but no less rhythmically engaging in an easy groove ridden to a natural conclusion that in no way overstays its welcome, stopping short to move into the molten, flute-topped start of “Riudut Ja Kuolet” (“squares and killing”), with a spoken-word verse and thudding behind its chanted chorus.
That’s swapped out circa 2:30 in favor of a push derived either from classic rock, classic metal or both (or neither?) that seems to throw out the songwriting rulebook but works all the same, particularly with closer “Uusi Aamu Sarastaa” (“the new morning dawns”) behind it. Perhaps because one might expect Seremonia to finish with another turn of effects and improv-sounding strangeness, “Uusi Aamu Sarastaa” caps the record with a relatively straight-ahead feel — take that, expectation — which is also a noteworthy turnaround from the last album. There are a few here, further proving that while Seremonia have clearly established a sonic niche within quirky, heavy, and psychedelic cult-ish rock, they’re not at all content to rest on that in terms of creative growth. They’ve kept an impressive pace to this point and show no signs of slowing, so it seems only fair to look forward to their next one even while still enjoying Pahuuden Äänet.