Just in case you ever wanted to know what Bartok-esque symphonic music and brutal death metal sound like in a blender with a few other ingredients thrown in for flavor (nineties techno, EBM, cartoon music, opera and boy band music), look no further. The Finnish avant-garde pop group Waltari didn’t just create this potent combination; in one album, they basically mastered it. Unlike standard symphonic metal bands like Therion, who use the orchestra for aesthetically-pleasing window dressing, Waltari’s music features whole stretches of brooding orchestral music with a late nineteenth-century atmosphere and chunks of modernist dissonance. Instead of wallowing in ersatz classical beauty, they jump right into blazing death metal fury (the orchestra follows the frenetic beats and vice versa), punctuated with hilariously short digressions into commercial music (like the kind you’d sell toothpaste with), silly Broadway show tune bits and cyberpunk sound effects, and some longer digressions into symphonic rap (with a thick Finnish accent no less), bass-drum-heavy techno and pastoral romance ala Sibelius, or Bambi.
The music is both incredibly impressive (especially for something from 1996) and funny, with radical juxtapositions of divergent moods and volume, but finally kind of sad and scary, albeit in an ironic way, with a pounding and abrasive finale following a long stretch of depressive doom. The warlike ending pairs a hard-driving EBM beat with an oddly affecting melody right out of a national anthem, before fizzling out in silence followed by a hilariously trivial hair metal anthem. It’s ridiculous, but it also kind of takes it out of you. It’s just so much feeling and ideas in one place. Finnish bands seem willing to push genre-bending to its outmost extremes.
The Avanti! Orchestra provides the wide-ranging orchestral music (straddling classical, romantic and modern). Waltari’s bassist and vocalist Kartsy Hatakka holds down the center, joined by some metal talent (Amorphis’s Tomi Koivusarri on vocals and Children of Bodom’s Roope Latvala on guitar).That said, the metal here doesn’t resemble those bands so much as the unrelenting heaviness of Suffocation or Dismember–I mean, this is actually death metal, not the simulated kind you might find on a Estradasphere album. Also featured on the album is the chilly soprano voice of Eeva-Kaarina Vilke, who portrays an angel of sorts in the symphony’s cyber-punk storyline. The music doesn’t really need a story since it speaks for itself, but the concept does allow for some interesting lyrics in parts, usually involving a conversation between the protagonist John Doe and a supercomputer bent on world domination.
Waltari’s Death Metal Symphony is a rare, one-of-a-kind beast. Most bands would never have the time, talent or the resources to pull something like this off. Waltari actually does it, and manages to make it funny, poignant and insidiously entertaining. This is some impressive pop art.
Label: EMI Records
Avantgenre: Symphonic Death Metal Served With Typical Finnish Irony
Origin: Finland (where else?)
Official site: http://www.waltarimusic.com
Review online since: 25.03.2011 / 04:32:54
01 – Misty Dreariness