What happens when two distinguished Finnish underground metal acts Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising join forces? The former’s icy avant black metal and the latter’s repetitive psych doom meet in the form of a cinematic monster of a theme album under the name Waste of Space Orchestra.
November 2017, Juho Vanhanen recalls sitting at his band’s rehearsal room with a beer in his hand when the phone rang. The caller was Walter Hoeijmakers, the founder and curator of the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands.
Vanhanen and his band Oranssi Pazuzu have performed a couple of times at Roadburn – the gathering of the open-minded European metal underground. So the phone call from Hoeijmakers wasn’t completely unexpected. But the motive for his call was.
Instead of booking Oranssi Pazuzu to play Roadburn festival once again, Hoeijmakers asked for something neither the musicians nor the festival had done before: a commissioned work. A piece of art to be presented and premiered at the festival’s main stage in April 2018.
“Before the call I had been talking with Toni (Hietamäki of Oranssi Pazuzu) that it would be fun to do something special. Maybe play live in sync with the visuals. Or do something with an extended lineup”, Vanhanen says.
"It was exciting to see what would become of this. I was quite sure we would manage to make some noise”
After talking to Hoeijmakers it was clear to Vanhanen that it should be both and it had to be “a Wastement production”. Wastement is the name given to the loose collective rehearsing in the same room in Nekala, Tampere. Read more about the Wastement collective from our feature article.
Vanhanen then called Vesa Ajomo, the leader of Dark Buddha Rising, a Neurot recording artist and another Roadburn veteran. Waste of Space Orchestra was formed.
“Without a doubt we were in. It was exciting to see what would become of this. I was quite sure we would manage to make some noise”, Ajomo says.
This wasn’t the first collaboration between Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising members: they already had a project called Atomikylä. But this time it was different.
“I’m not sure if you can even call Waste of Space Orchestra a project. We aimed for a synthesis of the two bands that already existed. It really became that: everybody dived in, served the gestalt (which translates roughly to "something else than the sum of its parts") and forgot about anything else”, Vanhanen tells.
It was also clear that with an orchestra of 10 people and an approaching deadline, the creative cycle could not be as “jam-oriented” as with their main bands with smaller lineups. And obviously the work needed a story as well. The storyline, was written during and after Waste of Space meetings, became “three beings and their deep search for knowledge”. Next up was the composing process, which was really functional according to Vanhanen.
“For example, the storyline needed a part where The Seeker is wandering, so I had to imagine what it would sound like”, Vanhanen recalls.
On April 19th 2018, merely six month after the initial phone call, our 10-headed orchestra was standing on the main stage of Roadburn Festival. Waste of Space Orchestra’s premiere was due the next day and Hoeijmakers was one of the sole witnesses at the dress rehearsal. He had basically given a free hand to the group to create the piece and had flown a crew of 15 people from Finland to the Netherlands – all on a basis of mutual trust.
“Yeah, we didn’t send him any music beforehand”, Vanhanen grins.
Again, Hoeijmakers was on his phone, this time making frenetic calls to the Roadburn staff not to miss this spectacle.
“Five minutes before the gig I was a nervous wreck. Why the fuck did we agree to do this? But when we started playing and I looked at the pairs of eyes staring at us… which there were quite a few…” Ajomo describes.
"We thought that we had to record this properly, instead of some live recording. Everyone of us was so pleased with the outcome."
Waste of Space Orchestra played their 70 minute set in front of an audience of over 3000 spectators. Which was obviously a huge audience, given the atypical nature of the situation: the debut show of a collaboration project performing unreleased music.
After the show, reputable underground metal blogger JJ Koczan wrote on The Obelisk website: “It seems to me the substance there is too great to be left as a one-time-thing-and-gone experience”.
Thankfully the band had the same idea, so they headed to the studio after Roadburn. Almost exactly a year after the world premiere, on April 4th 2019, Waste of Space Orchestra’s album Syntheosis is released through Svart Records.
“We thought that we had to record this properly, instead of some live recording. Everyone of us was so pleased with the outcome”, Ajomo says.
Waste of Space Orchestra celebrates the album with a special show at Sideways festival in Helsinki in June. They are open to the idea of more shows, but also realistic about getting a crew of 15 musicians and technicians on the road, both logistically and financially.
Ajomo and Vanhanen agree, that if people like Syntheosis and there is demand for a sequel, then there probably will be a sequel at some point. The cat’s out of the bag: there’s no need for a phone call from Hoeijmakers, or God or even their album’s main characters The Shaman, The Seeker and The Possessor.
“I think we Buddhas learned some ambition from the process. To set the bar higher and not always be satisfied with the first takes”, Ajomo says.
“I’d say just the opposite”, Vanhanen laughs.
“That we can trust what we’re hearing and be less analytic and more relaxed in making music.”
It remains to be seen whether the aforementioned lessons learned from this collaboration will be audible in Oranssi Pazuzu’s and Dark Buddha Rising’s own music. Both bands will hit the studio in the summer for planned early 2020 releases. Dark Buddha Rising is also touring Europe in March and April.
Waste of Space Orchestra is:
Vesa Ajomo – voice of The Shaman, guitar
Toni Hietamäki – bass guitar
Niko Lehdontie – guitar, effects
Ville Leppilahti – keyboards, effects
Marko Neuman – voice of The Possessor
Jukka Rämänen – drums
Petri Rämänen – deep bass guitar
Jussi Saarivuori – electronics
Jarkko Salo – drums
Juho Vanhanen – voice of The Seeker, guitar