The Lazarus Pit: Decoryah’s Wisdom Floats

Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love; stuff that’s essential listening that you’ve probably never heard of; stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for.  This week, we go skinny dipping in the fall dark waters of Decoryah’s Wisdom Floats (Witchhunt).
Finland!  It’s a dark place.  Dark and cold.  And there are reindeer.  And saunas.  Basically, it kind of sucks to live there, which is why there’s been so much great metal originating from that country.  The Finns have a way with melody, although it’s usually laced with melancholy (see: Sentenced, Amorphis, Nightwish, really anybody).  Their misery is our musical gain.  And while there are some big obvious influential acts from the infant days of the 1990s, one that you very rarely hear about is Decoryah.

Formed in 1989, when the members were only 13, they recorded a few crappy demos (as was the case with pretty much everyone back then) before settling on the dark, doomy sound they would make their own.  It was an unusually ambitious style; simplicity didn’t suit them.  Instead, they went for a layered, classically-influenced approach, one that was so intricate that they never even bothered trying to perform live.  They probably shared more in common with Dead Can Dance or Fields of the Nephilim than Paradise Lost or My Dying Bride (although there are certainly heavy traces of the latter two).  Listening to it now, it doesn’t sound particularly unusual – this type of ornate, Gothic metal has become fairly commonplace.  Back in 1995, though, their debut, Wisdom Floats, was much more innovative.

For one thing, they were one of the first acts to do the beauty/beast, male/female vocal dynamic.  While Jukka Vuorinen handled the bulk of the moaning and growling, they liberally interweaved Karolina Olin and Sini Koivuniemi’s ethereal singing.  Combined with the keyboards, which played the part of both atmosphere generator and piano, that really gave the slow, gloomy compositions a unique ambience.  They also weren’t afraid to let the songs breathe – most of the tunes are over six minutes.  While none of them are exactly what you would call “catchy,” “Astral Mirage of Paradise” and “Monolithos” show how deftly they balanced darkness and beauty.

They released another, equally excellent record after this one, and then broke up.  Their allergy to touring didn’t help spread the word, and their original label, Witchhunt, didn’t really do a whole lot for them.  Even though they signed to Metal Blade, it’s not like Metal Blade in the mid-90s was any sort of meal ticket.  Also, from the interviews I’ve uncovered, the main guy doesn’t seem like the easiest dude to deal with.  Anyway, for whatever the reason, they broke up, and subsequently vanished – their legacy obscured by higher profile groups.  Still, their wisdom will hopefully float to the surface again.

Buy it here!