Finnish black metal may just be one of my discoveries of the year. Ok, I’m not saying I’ve personally discovered it, invented it or destroyed the world, created a new one and declared a ban on any extreme metal that wasn’t from Finland. In fact I’ve mostly been working, eating and sleeping recently so I’m probably very late to discover anything you care to mention. But this stuff is so raw my granny would have insisted on putting some magic cream on it. (Hopefully, if she were still with us, she would nobble some of them with her walking stick over their silly politics too, a problem which sometimes seems more rife there than elsewhere in Europe. But I digress….)
So, where was I? Ah yes, after hearing Saturnian Mist a month or so ago doing a bit of investigation into the Finnish underground and listening to bands like Charnel, Cosmic Church and Arvet, I’ve decided there is definitely a casual and, yes, almost ugly malevolence going on up there which attracts fans of extremity like badly-piloted, clothy-winged moths to a flame. A darkness which feels more concentrated than neighbouring Sweden and much less chained by history and form than Norway.
The grainy, punk-fuelled vibes of Abyssion – the name being the only thing about the band that isn’t in, to me at least, impenetrable Finnish – are definitely not challenging that point of view. Luonnon Harmonia ja Vihreä Liekki (which translates as something like ‘natural harmony and green flame’) is a semi-melodic vision of anger that seethes daylight-deprived malcontent from every horrible, smoking sinew. In fact, having just skipped off one review in which I complained about the lack of true psychedelic sounds despite what was promised on the menu, I can honestly say this blackened horror fest at times sounds like a bar-room brawl and at others turns into a wonderful whirl of thumping, sonic LSD.
Unsurprising since this apparently includes members of Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising and backed by the tireless ex-Code and ex-Dødheimsgard vocalist Kvohst via Svart Records. Luonnon Harmonia follows a mish-mash of releases over the past few years by the band and sounds, after some cursory investigation, like the most accomplished yet by some margin. Not exactly complex in its musical arrangements but the handful of chords represented on each track manage to ooze dark atmosphere. Repetition, some inspired harmonics and subtle use of keyboards are all used to excellent effect as well as shouted vocals, which have their roots as much in punk as black metal, add to the unhappy malevolence like a dealer hiking his prices in the crack den on giro day.
The effect is like getting sucked into a dark, psychedelic, timeless vortex – even though the fun is all cut short after five tracks and 26 minutes. This is probably my only complaint about Abyssion. I’d have been delighted with something twice as long, although, admittedly, it’s easy to say that when the effect of doubling the length might very well have had other side effects – flashbacks and loss of short-term memory, perhaps. That aside, this is just about perfect. There’s something visceral and unpleasant about Abyssion. A grassroots approach to black metal like a reworking of early 1990s Darkthrone that still manages to sound fresh and mesmerising. Like a bad trip in a bad place surrounded by some very bad people.
(9/10 Reverend Darkstanley)