Umpikuja is a young punk-band from Finland, and this untitled slab is their debut demo. The soundscape is indeed somewhat damp and demo-like, but still rough enough to be well enjoyable. My guess is that the songs were recorded live, but don't quote me on it.

The ten actual songs presented here showcase the band's style and skill splendidly. The songs are raw and simplistic hardcore punk in their core, but they're coated with well enough nuances to keep this demo enjoyable for a multitude of spins. I'll throw in some examples: "Lääkkeiden Orjana" features a really neat guitar solo, "No Talent" has such mid-tempo groove that it's almost a rock song, and... well, the rest is actually more about the overall performance than just an individual gimmick here or there. The vocals are raw and relentless, the drumming is lively and skilled but doesn't steal too much attention to itself, and the string department has enough attitude to do the songs justice. Also, the bass guitar can actually be heard easily, which I tend to take to account as a big bonus.

Something that surprised me was that pretty much all of the songs have some personal trait that makes them stand as individual killers amongs the rest; be it a shout-choir in the chorus, some brief guitar break or just downright catchiness and raw appeal such as on the Lapinpolthajat-reminiscent track "Oksennuksen Katku."

I'm not quite sure what purpose the rough-sounding hidden jamming track has, unless it's some kind of a teaser for the band's future works. Time will tell whether that's the case. One other thing I'm wondering about is that why the band uses both Finnish and English to deliver their lyrics.

I've given the demo quite a few repeated listens, and it's yet to bore me. The overall sound and the instruments' balance needs fixing and I'm sure that the vocals will rub some people the wrong way, but other than that I can only recommend the band to stick with what they're already doing and keep on improving their skills and craft. I'd be happy to hear more from the band in the future, and to see them play live as well.

4+ / 5