Not long after I started listening to Can nearly a decade ago, I started wondering why, for all the hybridization in metal music, nobody had combined heavy, extreme sounds with the krautrock sounds of the 1970s. After all, there are aspects of metal that make fitting bedfellows for krautrock, namely black metal, which not only relies on repetition like Can, Neu!, and Kraftwerk tinkered with, but Oystein Aarseth, the genre’s true progenitor, was a huge Tangerine Dream fan. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I started to find bands that actually meshed black metal and krautrock, with Aluk Todolo’s double album Occult Rock clueing me in that, yes, there were underground bands actually making such music out there. However, it was the Finnish band Oranssi Pazuzu and their third album Velonielu that proved to be even better at it. I have not heard a stronger album this year when it comes to experimentalism in heavy metal: this quintet branches out not only into kraut/psychedelic/space rock territory, but they do it in such a way where it never feels like they’re ripping anyone off, where their influences are distractingly obvious. They’re doing things their own way, exploring textured, ambient sounds and transcendence through repetition, yet incredibly, always remaining true to the tenets of black metal. They try new things, but it’s never a betrayal of the metal side, which always remains the core facet of their sound. And much more than many other albums that came out this year, the harsh, snarled vocals are an exceptional complement to the music, adding an icy layer to the already chilly arrangements on such standouts as “Vino Verso” and “Olen Aukaissut Uuden Silmän”. Because of the sheer volume of extreme metal I have to listen to throughout the year, I often find myself bored with a lot of it, but Valonielu, which aptly translates as “light sinks”, is one of the very few such records that I come back to again and again.