I’ll be entirely honest here as despite this being their fourth album, ‘Pahuuden Äänet’ is the first time I have knowingly encountered the music of Finnish psychedelic five piece Seremonia. It may well have been playing at the house of a friend without my knowing what it is, but on the basis of this release from the ever reliable Svart I think I may well have to investigate their back catalogue.
From the off ‘Orjat’ leaps away from many identikit retronaut bands by virtue of vocalist Noora Federley delivering the song in her native Finnish rather than reverting to English that is truly the international language of rock. This adds another layer of mystery to the song, playing out against a sound scape of jangling guitars and effects laden squeals that could have come from the hazy imagination of Captain Brock himself. Next comes ‘Sielun kuolema’ or ‘Death of the Soul’ if you prefer (thank you Google Translate), a track that is far more frenetic with a faster, almost jazzy beat, whilst title track ‘Pahuuden äänet’ throws in some baleful country notes like a Grateful Dead jam, the mellow sound at odds with the title that translates as ‘The Sounds of Evil.’
Even without looking at the photos that came with the promotional material, it is impossible not to imagine Seremonia on stage clad in a host of flares, kaftans, and tie-dyes, playing antique Gibson guitars to an accompanying oil-lamp projection show, an image utterly reinforced by the space faring freak out of ‘Sähkolintu’, a multi-layered experience of squealing guitars, howling Theremins, pounding beats, swirling Hammond keys, and vocals like a summoning rite screamed from the pages of a book of ancient dark wisdom. By the time ‘Ne ovat jo täällä’ swings in with a style like the Hepcat theme song for a gangster Film Noire, it is almost a relief to get back down to earth, such is the intensity of the prior number, meandering as it does through a jazzy seven minutes rather than sprinting by in a scant minute and forty-seven.
The album continues to deliver track after track that seems to eschew modern production techniques, sounding like it was played through valve driven amplifiers and recorded onto huge tape spools rather than going near a computer, be it the shambling and doom laden heaviness of ‘Riivatut’, the simpler rock of ‘Kuoleman planeetta’ or the flute laden occult sounding chant of ‘Riudut ja kuolet’.
Seremonia are clearly a band that are in love with music of the past, but rather than sticking to what would have once been the mainstream sound of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco’s hippy capitol, they have delved into the darker sounds of jazz, thrown in the proto-punk garage sounds of the MC5 and The Stooges, mixed in the acid trips of Hawkwind, and then given it their own unique sound by sticking to their own Finnish tongue. I may not speak a word of the language, and beyond the translation of the title tracks, for all I know the songs could be about anything from travelling the astral plane to the local politics of Helsinki and the problems with the public transport. That makes it no less compelling, and along with the trippy sound lends ‘Pahuuden Äänet’ a hypnotic quality that saw me listening to the album time and again before finally committing this review to the page.