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Höyry-Kone - Huono Parturi CD (album) cover





4.25 | 152 ratings

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5 stars Rating: A+

If you've ever been a student, you've probably heard a teacher say, "I don't give grades, you earn them." That is how I approach music. There are times where this creates some confusion, especially when it comes to five star albums. I may like an album enough to give it a masterpiece rating, but still not feel that it has truly earned such status. Overall, however, this approach has allowed me to achieve a level of selectivity that I take pride in. When an album earns a high rating from me, I know that it deserves all of it.

Hoyry-Kone's Huono Parturi (A Bad Haircut) is one of those albums where there is no doubt whatsoever about how I should rank it. From start to finish, it is one of the most complete albums I have ever heard. It is, in a word, special. What makes it so undeniably special? Perhaps it's their variety. In their music, Hoyry-Kone (Steam Engine) play a strange and enchanting hybrid of hard rock, metal, avant-garde, Gregorian chants, zeuhl, chamber prog, and everything in between. Some people will refer to them as the Finnish King Crimson, but this comparison doesn't do the band justice. The stunning variety that King Crimson needed four or five different phases and line-ups to achieve (and which they never quite perfected) is here accomplished by Hoyry-Kone in one album, and accomplished to perfection (and they don't sound like King Crimson anyway). Or perhaps what makes Hoyry-Kone so special is their uniqueness. Let's face it. Despite comparisons to King Crimson and Hoyry-Kone's good friends Anekdoten (you may have heard of them), Hoyry-Kone are really the only band that, well, sounds like Hoyry-Kone. Even Alamaailman Vasarat (Hammers of the Underworld), the follow-up band to Hoyry-Kone, doesn't sound like Hoyry-Kone.

The most noticeable aspects of the band's sound are the dual lead of guitar and violin/cello and the vocals. It is an otherworldly experience hearing a soaring violin line over a stupendous metallic riff, but that is exactly what Hoyry-Kone achieve (with apparent ease) all across this record. Don't think this makes them formulaic, however; let's not forget all I said about their variety. That amazing duo isn't enough, however, for Hoyry-Kone. Instead, they throw Topi Lehtipuu's incredible vocals into the mix. Combining inhuman technical skill and precision (Lehtipuu is currently enjoying a successful career in the highly selective world of opera) with all-too-human passion, Lehtipuu raises the songs to a whole new level. Still, this isn't enough for these Finnish perfectionists. Behind this is absolutely incredible drum/percussion work, particularly on the song "Karhunkaato." To top things off are one or two extra layers, giving the music a complex feel which fails completely in keeping these songs from being insanely catchy.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a complete album. From start to finish, there is not a weak moment on here, let alone a weak song. Starting with the Gregorian chant of "Beata Viscera," which shows us just how heavenly Topi Lehtipuu's voice is. This doesn't give any indication of what the rest of the album will sound like, but if you doubted what I've written so far about Lehtipuu's voice, this song will disabuse you of such foolish notions. And, of course, in what must be the band's wry sense of humor, the next track on the album is an instrumental, but what an instrumental it is. "Terva-Antti Ku Haihin" opens with screeching guitar and pounding drums, a stark contrast to the previous song, which was reasonably gentle. After that intro, the aforementioned guitar riff/violin line comes and teaches you what's what.

I don't want to turn this into a tedious track by track review, so I'll now only mention the highlights (or songs of particular notice), starting with the mindblowing "Karhunkaato." This song is a contender for my top ten songs of all time. Another perfect example of the guitar/violin lead dual, this time with the best vocal performance Lehtipuu ever gave with the band to back it up, "Karhunkaato" (We Killed the Bear) embodies everything that Hoyry-Kone is, namely: excellent. Two songs later, however, and we are entirely different territory with the quirky "Baksteri." This track contains only instruments played with the mouth (particularly brass instruments) and is nothing if not a bundle of fun. That's really all there is to say about it.

Later on the album, Hoyry-Kone again show their ability to lull you to sleep and then whack you back into reality (as seen in the first two tracks), this time with the duo of "Ullakon Lelut" and "Tottele." Just as you are really starting to feel the sense of peace that comes from the soft, gentle "Ullakon Lelut," WHAM! Out of nowhere comes "Tottele," by far the heaviest song on the album. Whereas the other songs made their point through a tasteful combination of layers, this song takes the equally effective approach of trying it's best to knock half your teeth out. And, after a few more songs, it's time for the closer, "Laina-Ajalla," upon whose end you will be left wondering where the last fifty minutes of your life went. And, in an effort to find out, you will listen to this album again, and again, and again. And, every time, the time will just melt away thanks to this stunning example of perfection. Get this album and immerse yourself in the blissful joy you will feel as you let the perfection emanating from this album seep into your every pore. Nothing but ESSENTIAL!

Pnoom! | 5/5 |


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