If you were to mention Finnish metal these days, probably the first bands to spring to the minds of most would be the likes of Children of Bodom, Turisas, Amorphis et al. Step back in time to the early to mid 90s (cue squiggly screenwipe) however and Finland was veritably bristling with death metal bands who, like their oft-lauded Swedish and Floridian counterparts, were forging a singular sound peculiar to their region. Its makeup, broadly speaking, consisted of typically European melodic tremming combined with foreboding doom (see Depravity and Purtenance’s work). Although the riff at 3:50 of ‘Ikuinen piina ‘ (translation ‘Eternal Torment’) is a typical FinnDeath riff, it is predominantly into the latter category which Rippikoulu fall. Indeed, having released a paltry two demos in 1992 and 1993, (Musta Ceremonia being the latter) before the death of guitarist Marko Henriksson in 1995, Rippikoulu (which translates as Confirmation Class) are somewhat representative of the unfulfilled promise of the whole movement.
Although Rippikoulu really only ever alternate between fast thrash, slower chugs and lethargic doom tempos, this fact belies the range of vibes they are able to convey through deftly executed arrangements, ensuring proceedings never become too repetitive over this EP’s six song duration. This is perhaps never more prevalent than on title track ‘Musta Ceremonia’ (translation ‘The Black Ceremony’) whose subtle utilisation of synths and vocals reverbed to high hell leaven the heft with spine-tingling atmosphere.
What’s more, the old school lo-fi productions values really benefit Musta Ceremonia, endowing the guitars in particular with a thick layer of scuzzy grime which modern acts would no doubt pay sound engineers through the nose to achieve. Consequently this EP sounds as if the contents of a thousand smokers’ lungs had been melted into a vat and the music was somehow channelled through the resultant slurry. Throw into the mix Anssi Kartela ‘s deep, scabrous vocals which, sung in Finnish, resemble the occult chantings of a deranged mystic, and you have quite the disconcerting package.
An affecting release, then, which showed signs of great promise from an emerging regional scene upon its original release, but which will now fill many with anticipation as the Finns have recently reunited and recorded their first EP since Musta. Indeed, with the reunions of Rippikoulu, Purtenence bearing recorded fruit, and Demilich doing reunion shows it seems that this still-born genre won’t stay dead…