Monday, May 27, 2013

Haapoja - Haapoja (2013)

Full Length, Self-released / Indepenedent
March 27th, 2013

Genre: Black Metal/Hardcore
Region: Finland

Well this is an interesting transformation. Haapoja had a demo back in 20111 titled Hallitsematonta voimaa that I heard on The Living Doorway back when that dude JGD posted semi-frequently, the sounds emanating from it were stealthily riding the wave of blackened hardcore that was in full force. Except they weren't really "blackened hardcore" ala YAITW et al even on a first pass, instead like Dephosphorus the fluidity of the influences was such that it escaped complete pigeon holing. I liked it a lot and I like this even more.

So for those who don't remember Haapoja are a fairly young four piece from Finland that are play some kind of hardcore. This self-titled doesn't sound quite like the demo — the change is fairly noticable and entirely awesome. The direction is the same one they took in the EP largely, it's just the force behind it that's been supercharged.

Haapoja is just under a half hour so it seems they've sheared their best material in the interim between 2011 and 2013, coming out with nine diverse and equally engrossing, twisty songs. The grooves you heard in between the Rorschach chaos and blackened angularity is overclocked, in this record, speed and intensity is cranked the majority of the record as well. At points in tracks like "Kerosiini" it's the closest any band has come recently to touching what Dephosphorus exposed in their debut Axiom and this is very exciting.

At other points as in "Suurempi, Hallitsematon" or "Takauma" that same approach slows and the feeling the demo had returns but more enticing. The latter is a drifting labyrinthine series of rhythms that are oddly calming even when dissonant, and even with the sonic shredding of the vocalist cutting through the riffs. The drums are a bright pylon and here they toss and hurl between softer and more martial moments. It's a memorable track and one of the stand outs

The rest of their time they find something different to draw out through their style that sounds like Melechesh covered by a French black metal act playing '90's hardcore. Especially the first half of the record: it's not as obvious initially on the opener "Suuren Varjon Alla" until about the halfway marker where theirs a distinct Night Sky Transform vibe but once you hit "Ihmisyyden raja" their new tact reveals itself and it's pretty damn hyonotic. That track takes another turn later in the last quarter I wasn't expecting before circling back to the start.

The groovy and agitated riffs, enraged scratchy screams, crystal clear and fast percussion — all of it is very cohesive and easy to get hooked by. "Elämän Vaihtokauppa", which is definitely a standout for me, is another great example of this comfortable amalgamation of sounds that crushes and soothes all at once. The back end of this track has such a wicked riff, but from the beginning it's not that remarkable. Mid-paced, a little more traditionally thrashy with some proggy twang in there. A few moments where bouncy riffs and violent screams come through show where the song is heading, and once it hits about 2:15 in a truly gripping section ruptures forth and spreads to the end of the track.

They generally manage to stay away from driving something into the ground as well which can be a problem with groovy shit I suppose. For instance that last portion of that previously mentioned track doesn't stick around long despite it being hypnotic. And even in the less frantic, more slowly churning tracks like "Kolmetoista Askelta" or "Takauma" where there's less going on they don't damage them by lingering on one moment; even when particularly enjoyable.

In quicker tracks like "360 Astetta" (or again "Kerosiini", fuckin great shit) they blast through ascending discord over punk and pummeling blackened beats, then will rest momentarily to create excellent harmonious grooves with lots of string skipping. "Ikuistettu" is another example of this and closes the record nicely once showing their controlled harmonic chaos interact with the sounds of Dephosphorus, Converge and death metal.

Haapoja's potential has been given a proper exploration and outlet on this release, confidently approaching the level of excellence that Dephosphorus hold to both quickly and unexpectedly (minus the grind). Recommended. I think if you like Deathspell Omega, Rorschach, Ulcerate, Svart Crown, etc. you should at least give it a spin.

It's up for pay-what-you-want on bandcamp so there's no price other than your time. And lets be honest, if you're reading this you've probably already wasted more time doing something far less entertaining than listening to Haapoja.

DOWNLOAD (Bandcamp)
DOWNLOAD (Mediafire)

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