Oppression - Scars 1988- 1990 CD
A most unusual place on Earth is The Land of the Thousand Lakes; it’s a treasure “trove” for out-of-the-box, left-hand-path music, especially when it comes to death and thrash metal. There were/are so many unique entities over there that I don’t know where to start: Maple Cross, Airdash, Stone, Nomicon, Demilich, Flounder, Protected Illusion… I guess at some stage the mind just snaps amidst so much water and a long stretch of days when the Sun never sets or never rises; and all this ice and snow this overwhelming combination permeating the human soul and emotions to a point that nothing except a truly unusual and innovative work of art can come out of it.
Oppression may recall the also voluminous funeral doom metal scene from their motherland name-wise, but in fact this is one of the oldest thrash metal outfits on Finnish soil having started in the distant 1987. The central figure of the band’s “oppressive” activities is the guitar player Lare Nieminen, an authority on the Finnish metal field having done service in notable outfits like the black metal stalwarts Gloomy Grim, the thrashcorers Dirty Damage, and the heavy metal heroes Sacrament; and is playing at present with the doom/death metal formation Corporal Punishment which is his most lasting “affair” with the music industry.
The compilation reviewed here contains all the band’s works, from their debut demo in 1987 to their 1990 EP. The first demo comprises three lengthy tracks the band thrashing with both energy and thought attempting something in the progressive camp on “Punishment from the Gods” the complex delivery echoing future works like Pestilence’s “Testimony of the Ancients” only with more tolerable less shouty vocals; there’s a vast array of tempos changed throughout the guys covering a wide ground of moods. “No Day After” is a steam-rolling shredder with great surreal bass-driven breaks the riffs creeping in a consistent mid-tempo manner with a hefty doomy vibe. “Oppression” occupies similar mid-paced confines not taking on anything too adventurous.
The 1988 and the 1989 demos contain the same numbers “Into the Dark” being a short 2-min atmospheric doomy introduction flowing into “Immortal Objector”, a raging proto-death/thrasher with choppy technical breaks the guys moshing with the utmost intensity providing tasteful intricate licks whenever appropriate. “Parasites” is another creepy mid-pacer the band thrashing with subtle unobtrusive technicality which turns to marvellous Coroner-esque vortexes in the second half.
The last demo suggested a transformation towards something more interesting and complex, and the 1990 one and the EP show this strife very nicely accomplished. The style has become a mesmerizing combination of doom and technical thrash, a truly unique symbiosis which Sacrosanct also greatly displayed on “Recesses for the Depraved” (1991). For no apparent reason the demo begins with “For No Reason” the riff-patterns of the squashing brooding variety accumulating inertia bit by bit until some appetizing stylish mosh gets instilled thanks to weird progressive motifs ala Voivod and the French Treponem Pal, a one-of-a-kind panorama which becomes even more outlandish with more creeping surreality served later. “Within Six Walls” has a cool balladic intro overwritten by the staple doomy section which blends with the more technical undercurrents with echoes of Treponem Pal again, an abstract masterpiece which upgrades to a much more dynamic delivery in the second half the eventful cavalcade wrapped up by a mazey stomping exit. The vocalist is now more aggressive with a more accentuated death metal-ish timbre reminiscent of Jan-Chris de Koeijer (Gorefest).
The EP is the culmination of the guys’ endeavours seeing them perfecting the very intriguing approach from the preceding demo with these two compositions from which “A Majesty, A Joker” is an atmospheric mood “killer”, but its serpentine twisted riffage would make even Coroner and Astharoth proud. “Alone” is a standout progressive thrasher the mazey rhythmic-sections starting from the get-go stifling any attempts for more orthodox ways of expression as the highly-stylized motifs move onward only allowing a more impetuous galloping passage mid-way to break their march, and a short quiet interlude to pacify the listener.
It’s great that some labels, Xtreem Music in this case, are fixed upon gems from the underground and manage to dig out from time to time some invaluable pieces of metal that would otherwise be irrevocably lost to the world. Like Flounder, this band never managed to reach the official release stage except with the EP thus spending all this time in the “long forgotten masterpieces” section of the genre. Thanks to the endeavours of tireless metal enthusiasts their legacy will hopefully find a wider exposure now, and will add another medal for uniqueness and originality to the Finnish metal movement.