Waste Of Space Orchestra

Syntheosis

Written by: AP on 08/01/2020 00:12:22

Like so many other musical revelations, Waste of Space Orchestra was conceived by Roadburn Festival, which commissioned a special collaborative composition and performance from the two Finnish bands Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu for its 2018 edition. The name of the project references both the rehearsal space shared by the two artists (Wastement) and the sheer number of musicians involved in the undertaking, with three guitarists, two drummers, two bassists, two keyboardists, and an additional vocalist working together to create something hitherto unheard of in the metal genre. It was not surprising thus, that it turned out to be an unforgettable spectacle, and without question one of the finest hours of the festival that year, as well as overall. Yet the concert left me in a solemn mood, as the composition itself was far too accomplished to be resigned to the annals of history as a one-off thing as was the intention. Clearly, the decet of musicians agreed. Later that same year, Svart Records revealed that it would in fact be released under the title of “Syntheosis” in the Spring — not as a live recording of the show, but as a full-fledged studio album — and understandably the news was received with ecstasy by not only those of us who got to experience the music at Roadburn, but especially those who did not, and were otherwise resigned to watching grainy and poor-sounding phone videos of it on YouTube.

Given the artists involved, the style of Waste of Space Orchestra is, of course, anchored in psychedelic black and doom metal, yet as the title of the album also implies, “Syntheosis” is not merely a sum of its constituent parts. Rather, it is the sound of two visionary bands melting together into a single monolithic entity with its own story to tell. It is the story of three beings searching for a higher consciousness: the Shaman, the Seeker and the Possessor, personified by guitarists Vesa Ajomo and Juho Vanhanen, as well as vocalist Marko Neuman. The album is to be understood as a kind of séance in which the three characters summon a portal to a new reality, and while it was originally conceived as a single, confluent piece of music, it is here divided into nine distinct tracks culminating in “Syntheosis”, which finds the three characters in equilibrium, their minds conjoined as one. If that sounds trippy, that’s because it is trippy, from concept to execution. “Void Monolith” opens the proceedings as though removing the lid from a kaleidoscope, enveloping the listener with electronic effects and dissonant guitar leads each seemingly in conflict with the other, before the two drummers — Jukka Rämänen and Jarkko Salo — are possessed into rolls of atavistic percussion to set the ritual into motion with the subsequent “Shamanic Vision”. Its swathes of hallucinogenic synth and plunks of sitar inundate the ominous rumble of Toni Hietamäki and Petri Rämänen’s bass guitars, while Ajomo snarls and moans in a demented vocal performance reflecting the Shaman’s tormenting by premonitions of a bleak future for mankind, all the while the endlessly repeating drum pattern beats the listener into an ever deeper trance.

When I first stumbled across psychedelic extreme metal via Ufomammut’s “Ecate” and Oranssi Pazuzu’s “Värähtelijä”, it was like an epiphany. I am no stranger to the murkier subgenres of metal, yet it was some of the most terrifying music I had ever heard, much in the same way that psychological horror movies use the art of suggestion to foster in the viewer a terror far more potent than jump scares ever could. And the ten musicians involved in this project master the musical equivalent of the art, unsettling the listener with dynamics that seem to become more jarring, and atmospheres that seem to grow more sinister with each passing song. Ghastly, fluttering growls by Vanhanen mingle with a miasma of space age keys dancing upon industrial grade slabs of bass and guitar in “Seeker’s Reflection”, while in “Wake Up the Possessor” Neuman twists his voice into a startling falsetto, sneering like a sorcerer as he conjures a dark deluge of tremolo guitar and hypnotically careening bass lines by Toni Hietamäki and Petri Rämänen. His baritone chants and tormented squeals in the end of that song are even more chilling — and things get darker still when “Infinite Gate Opening” arrives in its wake. Not so much a song as an invocation, it marks the final transition in the concept of “Syntheosis”, the three protagonists now beginning to enter a state of shared awareness. As three become one, their individual characteristics clash and implode, producing some of the starkest contrasts on the album yet — first between the heaviness and atavism of “Vacuum Head” and the placid ambience of “Universal Eye”, and since as the ‘Orchestra teeters between pandemonium on the one hand and a creeping sense of calm on the other in the eponymous closing track.

As “Syntheosis” needs to be experienced as the unified composition it is, there is little use in singling out standout tracks from it. But if I had to pick a mantlepiece, it would have to be the droning “Journey to the Center of Mass”, which evokes the meditative cadence and blues soaked guitar leads of Earth, building both pace and volume as it slowly transforms from mild and subdued to a trudging monster of black and sludge metal draped in a psychedelic tapestry. As the song reaches its noisy climax, it is baffling that not one of the nine instruments, nor the sound of Vanhanen’s growls is lost in the rumble, and indeed, “Syntheosis” as a whole benefits from sublime production. The music has a hazy, organic sonority about it that overwhelms the listener with an uncanny, otherworldly sensation — perhaps even more so than in the live setting. It continues to mesmerise and surprise me even after countless listens… which provides some balm to the painful realisation that, despite producing a new benchmark for the genre, “Syntheosis” is very likely a one-off undertaking. We may never hear from Waste of Space Orchestra again, but at the very least there is enough to dissect and think upon in this masterpiece of psychedelic doom and black metal to last us a lifetime.

9

Download: Seeker’s Reflection, Journey to the Center of Mass, Wake Up the Possessor, Syntheosis
For the fans of: Atomikylä, Dark Buddha Rising, Oranssi Pazuzu
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.04.2019
Svart Records

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