Inside Monster Mansion: Valosaasteen Sekaan By Musta Huone

The Finnish quartet fuse post-punk, cosmic music, and black metal into a heady brew that just gets weirder and weirder, deeper and deeper, darker and darker, finds Enrico Monacelli

Photo (c)Pietu Arvola

Do you know what an extreme haunted house is? Of course, it’s not a literal haunted house with a bunch of very gory ghosts – but it’s up there as far as scaring me shitless goes. An extreme haunted house is an attraction just like any other haunted house, but with a disquieting spin: while most other haunted houses are centred on jump-scares and eerie costumes, an extreme haunted house is scary because things – mostly people – can and will actually reach out and harm you in some way. Before you go in, you have to sign a contract in which you promise that you’re fine with them basically kicking the living shit out of you. There’s even one famous-on-the-internet-manor-that-shall-not-be-named that goes so far as to torture you – with all that legally and morally entails.

The reason why extreme haunted houses are scary is plain to see: physical harm is scary, obviously. It compromises your very being. It’s undesirable beyond any shadow of a doubt. But why do people go there, then? What’s the appeal that keeps them running in the first place?

My answer would be the absolute sensorial shock. When we subject ourselves to something scary, we more or less know that there’s an implicit boundary. The horror is behind a costume or a screen, it will not grab us by the foot and drag us away. The monster under the bed stays there, and we get to enjoy it from a distance. This cannot be said with extreme haunted houses: the darkness will touch you, and possibly slap you in the face. It breaches that implicit boundary we’ve set up for our horror-related passions and it shocks us out of the habits and patterns we’ve developed to protect ourselves. It is a new experience, in other words, that tests the limits of what we feel.

This might sound intriguing to a lot of people. Who doesn’t like a bit of excitement after all? A good shaking up of the habitual? But, on the other hand, who wants to actually get smacked in the face by a strangely clad stranger? Is there another way?

If you’re willing to breach your sensory limits and test how much you can feel, but there’s no way in heaven or hell that you’ll have some weirdo torture you, I’ve got a perfect substitute: Musta Huone’s new record, Valosaasteen sekaan. Musta Huone’s music, after all, is all about experimenting with sounds and feelings that could only be described as destabilizing, scary, disquieting. It is brain-melting music.

Musta Houne started in the mid-2010s as a post-punk-meets-black-metal duo. Today, they are a four-piece assemble – Ville-Matti Koskiniemi (guitar & vocals), Joonas Paasiala (drums), Santeri Paasiala (bass) and Pietu Arvola (synths and noise) – but they’ve stayed loyal to their roots. Albeit having veered in more psychedelic and free-form territories, incorporating kosmische and noise elements in their mix, their music retains the coldness and ferocity of post-punk and black metal. And if you think that’s a weird mixture, you’re not half wrong! It is. They showcase a real, profound love for brutality and they dabble in all things sick and twisted. And they sound off, way off (in a good way, I’d say, but off).

Well, let’s be completely honest: Valosaasteen sekaan, in many ways, is the quintessence of a record that does not sound ok. It is off-kilter, messed up, wrong. Like one of those extreme haunted houses, it catches you off guard again and again, jumping straight at your ears and throwing all sorts of curveballs right at you.

The record starts with this nifty little intro, ‘Peremmälle sisään’, which is a piece of 1960s mall muzak all mangled up and distorted. And when I first read it in the press sheet I was like: “In a post-vaporwave world? Banal…”. Boy, was I wrong. From the very get-go, it is pure evil. The intro evokes this clown-ish atmosphere that made me so uneasy I had to wonder what the fuck was going to go down next. In a sense, even this rather slim piece of music is black metal frostbitten coldness by other means, something that Musta Huone will do throughout this album. It is demented and dark and disheartening. And I loved it from the very moment I heard it.

From there, it’s all downhill. Or, to put it in more pointed terms: it is a downfall from there on, a descent that keeps getting weirder and weirder. The highlights in this thing are many (most of it is a highlight in my book, actually). The second track, ‘Heijasteet’, is dirge-y kosmische cavalcade. Minimal, tense, loud – it keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole seven-minutes through with these squawking noises assaulting you from all directions. And, just when you think that things couldn’t get any more tense, ‘Aika Valuu Sormien Läpi’ comes on with its ghostly demeanour and out-of-the-blue explosions.

But the most interesting bits of Valosaasteen sekaan are surely those in which the band breaks even its own sinister formula. The track ‘Valosaasteen sekaan’, for example, is an outstanding example of this: it is still a fusion of kosmische, noise and post-punk, but you can clearly hear a major Death Grips influence in the rhythm and structure of the song. Up until it breaks down in this radioactive droning section, of course. Or, again, the grating ten-minutes of ‘Aurinko, Aurinko’ that throws this almost Soft Moon-esque, punked-out dark wave and shoegaze sensibility in the cauldron of VHS ghosts and fear and gloomy psychedelic visions.

It might be banal and even cringe-y, but this record warrants this sort of disclaimer: Valosaasteen sekaan is not for the faint of heart. Not because it’s loud or “excessive”. Anyone can do that in 2023. But because Valosaasteen sekaan is so amphibian in form and sound that it may prove challenging for some, especially in a time of algorithmic homologation and strict adherence to trends and tropes.

Again, it is an audio extreme haunted house. You won’t see it coming.

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