A Cosmic Calling: 10 Essential Psych Releases Selected by Oranssi Pazuzu’s Ontto & Ikon

Oranssi Pazuzu are master scavengers and manipulators of sound. Black metal—a subgenre rooted in groundbreaking sonic pursuits since its early second-wave (See: Mayhem’s 1987 Deathcrush EP featuring the opening instrumental by German electronic composer Conrad Schnitzler, “Silvester Anfang”)—may be this Finnish band’s foundational layer, but there’s also an other-world of eclectic styles colliding in cataclysmic fashion across their essential discography. And Oranssi Pazuzu do not discriminate when it comes to where they source the vital elements that comprise their wildly experimental, often demented, yet carefully constructed extreme metal.

In a way Oranssi Pazuzu’s multi-dimensionalism is underground metal’s own modern version of kosmiche Musik (“cosmic music”), the title applied to krautrock—a late 1960s/early 1970s German movement which saw daring artists meld psychedelic rock, electronic music and every other offshoot of avant-garde instrumentation in bizarre and vivid ways. Specifically, you can hear the motorik beat, perfected by Can drummer Jaki Liebezit, in some of Oranssi Pazuzu’s ouroboric rhythms, beckoning mass hypnosis. The atypical structures, ambience and boundless sense of adventure of Neu!, Guru Guru, Amon Düül II and Popul Vuh also feature. In fact, when I previously interviewed bassist Ontto for Terrorizer Magazine ahead of the release of 2016’s Värähtelijä—No. 54 in Decibel’s Top 100 Greatest Metal Albums of the Decade (2010-2019)—he was very enthusiastic about this particular musical strain: “What I especially love about krautrock bands like Can and Neu!, for example, is the focused repetition; it makes you lose rational sense of time and forces you to be here and now, in the moment.”

Outside of that mindful wellspring of influence, when it comes to Oranssi Pazuzu’s music, there’s Hawkwind-esque psychedelic space rock; the clang and skronk of art rock and noise rock; Magma’s complex prog visions re-cast through a grim Beherit prism; the interstellar overdrive of early Pink Floyd baying at the dark side of the moon with prime Darkthrone… the comparisons and combinations could go on ad infinitum. Such is the case with true (trve?) progressive music—a term that has been bastardized terribly by writers over the years, yet applies to this fearless band without question.

As you will see below, Oranssi Pazuzu’s musical knowledge runs even deeper than you might expect, as we ask Ontto and guitarist Ikon to give us 10 of their favorite krautrock/psych/prog cuts. What’s most unexpected is their inclusion of My Bloody Valentine and Portishead, seminal bands in shoegaze and trip-hop respectively, but not usually classified within the trifecta of krautrock/psych/prog styles we had envisioned. However, both choices make sonic sense when revisited alongside some of the other LPs selected here. And when you consider Oranssi Pazuzu’s own releases—including their incredibly imaginative and gripping new album, the elaborate opaque odyssey Mestarin kynsi—there are many interlinked similarities in terms of tones and atmospheres, rhythms and textures.

Psychic Paramount, II (2011)

Ikon: Psychic Paramount have been among my most treasured artists since I first heard them years ago. I always admire bands that implement both electronic and organic elements in their music, and Psychic Paramount succeed to sound like the whole band is trapped in some kind of complicated sampler or looper. This is electronic music played by a trio that use traditional rock instruments to sound like a super computer.

BoredomsVision Creation Newsun (2000)

Ontto: I think this is the ultimate psychedelic album. Boredoms are always wild and uncompromising, but on this album they are floating through a stream of dimensions and manipulating the perception of time and space instead of playing fragmented noise-punk freak-outs. It’s like blocks of sound hammered over tribal drum loops, and makes you feel like there are no rules in music. [I’m] very happy I was lucky enough to witness them live in the 2000s.

Soft MachineVolume Two (1969)

Ikon: I was torn between Volume Two and Third, but I chose to go with [Volume Two], because it’s often overlooked and I think it sounds even heavier and more deranged than Third. A crazy psychedelic pop album. The constantly changing song parts gave us inspiration to make quick changes with the structures in the making of Mestarin kynsi. Not to mention Hugh Hopper’s nastiest basslines, that have so much fuzz they make the average stoner rock band pale in comparison. Just listen to the opening of “Pig.”

CircleTaantumus (2001)

Ontto: It’s easy to forget that before Circle went full-on spandex and [New Wave of Finnish Heavy Metal], they were an amazing kraut/prog rock band expanding on Loop’s hypno-rock ideas, and in a way took the hypnotic nature of music even further. This is the album that made us really appreciate the power of repetition. The stream-of-consciousness guitar-work here is mind-bending.

Miles DavisBitches Brew (1970)

Ikon: I think Bitches Brew manifests paranoia perfectly, and gives the impression that you are running away from something terrifying. Many have tried to achieve the mood on this album, but I reckon no one does it as well as Miles and his orchestra did. His whole electric freak-out period is very inspirational for us.

WigwamBeing (1974)

Ontto: A true prog theme album, and I think also the pinnacle of 1970s Finnish prog. I’m very much into the jazz vibe they had, a bit similar to the Canterbury scene, with very complex prog-organ compositions and a twist of really catchy pop sensibility.

My Bloody ValentineEP’s 1988—1991 (2012)

Ikon: I chose this compilation over Loveless because it has some of their loudest and best songs on it: “I Believe,” “Feed Me with Your Kiss,” “You Made Me Realise,” etc.. The band created their own universe of sound in which the listener can just drop in and drown. A perfect blend between beautiful soundscapes and painful noise, crafted into pop songs.

Portishead, Third (2008)

Ontto: Not sure how this one passes for a “krautrock” or “psych” album, but Third is definitely one of the most progressive and inspiring “pop” albums, especially in how the band manipulate the sound to suit their needs. Each instrumental line or loop is heavily based on how the part sounds and holds an idea of a deeper atmosphere or purpose. The use of elements is very restricted and functionalistic. This album was something which we referred to a lot when we were thinking about the arrangements for the new album.

King CrimsonRed (1974)

Ikon: At one point I was obsessed with everything they did before Discipline, literally digging through all of those live bootleg recordings and what not. The sound aesthetics and how much they focused on improvising in that era have given me so much inspiration. A certain lo-fi-ness found on those early live recordings just emphasizes how heavy, raw and merciless they can sound. They set the bar for how a band should operate live and how fearlessly they should experiment with the music and sound palette. I think the best example of their dynamics is this album and its song “Starless,” which, in my humble opinion, is the most beautiful song ever recorded.

CanTago Mago (1971)

Ontto: It’s hard to pick a favorite Can album… But Tago Mago has “Halleluwah” and “Oh Yeah,” so I’ll go with that. Love their musical patience and the feeling of never-ending grooves. It’s also very fun in a way, that unexpected things might and will happen at any moment. I think Can are the definitive krautrock band; they have a high dose of psychedelia, adventurous prog attitude and an endless repetitive form that separates the music from pop rock conventions.