Obligatory Human Destruction (OHD) is the name of the project, the album and by far so much more than only yet another typical black or death metal project name. Nomen es omen; it is the program, the course of events, the cause and thrive of the whole project. Mika Lammassaari’s concept album is a deeply coherent and disturbingly moving Melo Death master piece dealing with cancer.
I can’t help but reach out for my friend and co-Nerditor Friend X: “Hei G.! Mika Lammassaari’s solo album “Obligatory Human Destruction” has finally been released”, I text just when I read the news. “Remember, I asked your opinion on his first single, “Cancer” last summer?” He does and replies like immediately: “Celestial guitar work!”
The result is that today we are honored to have to look at Obligatory Human Destruction. The album contains 10 songs and starts far less despicable than the title of the first track suggests.
Distorted, very dark, very heavy and gloomy guitars, a melodic overlay of the lead guitar resulting in an outbreak of violent and harsh vocals. The speed of the drums carries the song; the constant subliminal melody does its best but after only 2:36 minutes the song is suddenly finished.
The song tells the tale of fighting your demons, explores musically as well as in the lyrics all the voids, rush, hopes and shattered illusions that go with it until the final collapse.
was the first single release (check out the video). The topic is obvious. The aggressive guitars and even more, the vocals make you feel the destruction. They either beg for mercy to end up the endless pain, or eat your flesh or both at the same time. Cancer is the obligatory human life destructing enemy, the inner demon feasting of everything that once defined you. This song is not made to please but to let out the pain.
“in nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti” No Amen! How holy can a man be with a song like this? Slightly slower than the previous track, less aggressive and more melodic guitar work. Catchy even with drums and rhythm guitar hammering their beats and chords into your brain like a steam ram. Or to say so, like monotheistic religions lulling sweetly only to rip your soul out …
Back on the track with more speed, a lot of lead notes played in a very short time, I am sure my ears missed half of them though I was fully concentrated. Nothing bad, it just means, the songs fulfilled its title. Powerful harsh vocals again, they might have deserved a little bit more accentuation but of course this is Death Metal. Of its finest! Another song that is not made to please but appease as it offers a channel to let out all the darkness and all the destructive energy you have or can even think of. You can’t beat the storm but find relieve in its force.
The song starts with a brilliant echo effect of the lead guitar, immediately overwhelmed by a staccato of drums and a doom guitar. Like a Tibetan prayer wheel – this brute duo leads through the song by the break after roughly 2:40 minutes – as if the lead guitar strikes back and regains control. Fantastic interaction of all instruments and the vocals. How much of a “Martyr” is in you, in me, in each of us when we feel our end is near? Do we glorify ourselves to ease the physical pain or do we admit our sins? Don’t we all long to be good people very deep down inside?
“SERVANT OF VIOLENCE”
Can we ever have too many violent chords? Anyway there is more of them, right here! Once more, ‘nomen est omen’ the “Servant Of Violence” hides with very fine guitar work underneath the violent main theme. So is it a master of disguise? Sometimes the guitars don’t even sound like a guitar anymore but some ancient … whatever – just ancient.
The “Servant of Violence” is what cancer makes you. A mere tool of and for suffering. A song full of surprises and transformations. And out of sudden there is a speech, accompanied by the very same lead guitar fading out of the song. “… pathetic little human beings” –says archangel Lucifer breathing heavily but winning in the end!
Acoustic guitars? Wrong album? Wrong genre? A wind whispers through the chords. Any escape ends as abruptly as this intro and after half a minute we are back on the track – not forlorn by all good gods of Death Metal but lifted to the next level of metal wisdom – there can be melody a n d brutal sound at once.
Amidst the groovy main theme a classical heavy metal solo reminds us to the good old times, here reflected by a memory to the 1980s. A dull low hum is all that remains in the end of the song and metaphorically of us when we pass.
I don’t say anything about this song, it comes and goes. Attention whores don’t deserve attention. Well, maybe this song does though. Give it a closer listen, especially to the lead guitar and the solo parts – classic, we’ll come back to it later. Anyway, the song comes to me with the most beautiful guitar solo and on a deeper level with the realization that this one topic will never cease to dominate your consciousness.
“WE ARE EXTINCT”
Are we? Certainly not from this song. Powerful rather spoken than growled vocals right from the beginning, very nice and rolling drumbeats – guitar level ‘as usual’ on this album, nothing more to say about it. Brilliance speaks for itself. “We Are Extinct” surprises with an abrupt blues-rock-like break – echoes in memoriam of Gary Moore – sliding over into a classical metal solo then to be smashed again by the massiveness of core song itself. Overcome it or get extinct.
Spherical sounds open the final track. Everything else is business as usual. Fine lead guitar work supporting the song’s harmonies and completing the vocals.
Some kind of distorted end which is a refreshing contrast to most other songs that simply end. A dramatically long though, it is dominating the second half of the song, full of echoes of the past and full of symbolism. Fitting and worthy final for the OHD album and once more illustrating in an impressive manner the main topic of the lyrics, here for example the memories of the deceased one that remain.
Obligatory Human Destruction is a modern Death Metal album in terms of combining groovy bass lines with sort of mechanic, metronomic drumming, somewhat static harsh vocals and layer over layer of amazing guitars!
Life is what happens while we are busy making plans. And life happened more than once, here. OHD was originally not meant to be a solo project, Mika wanted to make it a band but the musicians he really wanted to join him were playing in other bands already. He would not want to compete with any of them for their time and energy. So Obligatory Human Destruction became more or less a one-man show as he told me, when we spoke last summer [read here]. He also wanted to find a label providing an appropriate release setting for the album. A tough nut to crack and then the life happened again and a certain virus spread. So it took him all the longer as labels had to cope with all the chaos of cancelled shows, tours, festival seasons and consequently many more bands releasing new material.
The OHD album was not really planned to become a concept album. But again or more precisely a first time, life happened. Mika confessed, he noticed only in the end that in one way or another all the lyrics he had written referred to cancer, in particular the battle his father had lost in the end and how all that affected him.
When cancer hits the end of life is at the very least lingering in the minds of all the concerned ones. The patient, the family and friends, everybody who is near will think of it, fears the battle and suffers in one way or another. It changes everything and if not the cancer itself does, the therapy does it. Thus, the end of life not necessarily means losing the war against cancer. This end can be the only possible relieve from inhuman torture. All the same, ingeniously hidden, cancer may feeds on the cells way before pain reveals the ongoing destruction – cell by cell, organ by organ and up to collapsing the entire organism.
Obligatory Human Destruction comes with all the brutal aggression you can think of resulting from the aforementioned scenario. So on the obvious side, the album is loud, heavy, dark and full of unrestrained aggressions that are omnipresent in this context. Mika translated them perfectly into music. He added the moments of hope reflected in bright guitar solos, the lightness of being doped from your pains as sweet as acoustic chords and behind everything a raw and unstoppable force of destruction.
Brutal energy is an instrumental but just as much a vocal motif of the album. Mika screams out his own pain, despair, hate, frustration directly into his microphone. It reflects how extreme the experience of cancer is. Despite some softer and even silent moments, battling cancer is metaphorically loud and questioning each of a person’s characteristics.
Diversity Of Death
Although there is a dominance of distortions and very brutal harsh vocals, the album OHD offers an abundance of diversity. All the more subtle chords and solos are as colorful as life itself, journey from Blues to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, come with metallic Industrial soundscapes, even touching the realms of rap.
The biographical story that lies underneath the whole project ended in death after several tough battles, periods of hope and recoalescence, metamorphosis, remorse and clearing the table. Moments full of pink memories are just as real as blues, green hopes, grey hopelessness, the black end and blank terror.
One thing is unavoidable. Cancer cuts even deeper than the album does in any brute aspect. OHD hits your guts for good or bad. Hard to imagine it will not provoke an emotional reply in the listener. And once more the crown jewels are hidden. Straight, really harsh, sort of steady are the vocals Mika delivers. Growls with few variations but lots of plain aggressions. Hidden behind that sophisticated lyrics illustrate the cancer nightmare, however, also address psychological mechansms and routines working sort of generally in critical situations. The wording and metaphors reflect the socio historical roots, stamped by the dominating role of Christian values but also more regional traits.
“you drown yourself to feel no more tears should flow but your soul is empty old habits die hard, you´re frozen inside” (from “Servant of Violence”)
And Life Goes On
As much as these lines match with my personal cancer experience, they address despair that is not at all limited to facing terminal diseases. It is about the well-known dead-end road of trying end the pain (or whatever else delivers the torture) that actually only numbs perception. So the remaining emptiness is the only sensation left. But then OHD breaks your fall into the void with some catchy and groovy the instrumentals. An invitation to go with the beat, let yourself drift in the flow and forget about the torture. The chorus riff cheats with the sweetness of hope while machine-gun-like drums pave the bridge – just like the hammering pain. And then there is the voice inside your head that poisons your mind even more than the pain ever could – A savage symbiosis.
“Forlorn” opens with sweet seductive acoustics. Can I make it right again by ignoring it? Will escapism get me out of the fatal trap? A natural reflex to protect from a traumatizing momentum. The body’s own chemistry might dope into trance and lightness. As abrupt as the intro ends the battle resumes, however, the unavoidable end is near:
“Yet Another Break of Dawn Another Struggle to carry On You´re Paralized With fear And Slipping Away From Existence.” (form “Forlorn”)
Cyniscm Meets Symbolism
A particular cynicism of cancer is that fighting it requires potentially fatal treatments. Death is not a far-away tiger when getting poisoned in a chemo treatment or radiated. If you want to live, you better take the coin for the ferry man out of your purse already. To comprehend as well as bear this bitterly cynical situation, strong symbols and metaphorical images seem obligatory.
OHD personifies the disease, the battle and death so he can argue with, or that can get a grip on him. Cancer is the seductive (as in “We Are Extinct”), the “Attention Whore” not accepting ignorance but cursing you, the minor being, as in “Despicable”.
OHD also refers to numerous Christian symbols and rituals. There is the “Holy Man” and the “Martyr”, of course and there is Satan in form of the personified disease; confession and judgment day faced by the tortured mind.
“Now confess your sins Admit your lies God will truly not heal” (from “Holy Man”)
The inhuman fight torments not only sanity but also religious believes. And in “Scorn Son”, both is lost to the ultimate force of the disease.
“nothing is sacred the ultimate superior being with limited abilities” (from “Scorn Son”)
In our interview Mika said his father had many traditional Northern Finnish traits. A strong and independent man with Sisu, preferably clouding his emotions. In “Servantof Violence” for example, Mika refers to such highly symbolic stereotypes and how merciless the demonic force of cancer deals with it all the same.
The personification offers the use of another expressive stylistic mean, that of dialogue in various emotional states. The inner fight and the loss of sanity are also reflected in soliloquys.
Harsh vocals have hardly been too pleasing to my ears. Growls and screams and all this make very potential stylistic means – my mind accepted despite my ears’ doubts. Mika’s wording hit my guts like a sledgehammer already, and actually I dare not really follow this thought to its end. Cancer ranges among the most brutal situations I can think of not only for the patients but all their dear ones, too. The mutated cells will very linearly follow their program. Appropriately, Mika’s plain and straight, hard-to-understand growls deliver the lyrics already in the manner of concrete rock weighing at least one ton on my breast. He shouts his own pain, frustration and anger out, too against the whispered question: What if the lyrics came in a different manner? Would they hit even more were they coming in an easy-to-understand clean vocal style? – This question lingers just like the question if the next therapy step was a wise choice. You cannot control this inner conflict, doubts on each oh so little step you do and even more the slightest success?
So I seek advice and ask Friend X for a summary phrase: “Terrific guitars, terrible vocals.” And within the minute we are in the middle of discussing impressions and ideas. Yes, the guitar work outruns the vocals in richness and finesse. But then it matches, even underlines the topic. Seduction and insanity highlighted by female voices be it clean or harsh? … More melodic tunes in the growls to illustrate the ups and downs? … We had numerous ideas and most of all a very cool conversation on a magnificent album and the whole horrific topic. As such the album is way more than music, it is also therapy. Just to make sure, our conversation was not about criticising but about inspiration. Obligatory Human Destruction is just not finished when the final song has ends. Like cancer it does not simply end.