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Like almost all of my favourite bands, the enigmatic French black metallers Deathspell Omega have witnessed a great change in their sound from the early days. Arguably beginning in earnest with their third record 'Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice', Deathspell Omega set themselves very far apart from the typical black metal act through an avant-garde and distinctly progressive direction. Considered by the band to be an 'appendix' to that album, Deathspell's 'Kénôse' EP stands its own ground as yet another fantastic addition to this band's discography. Although it may certainly scare away most of black metal's puritanical elements, 'Kénôse' is a considerable chunk of thinking man's metal that exemplifies Deathspell Omega's inhuman grasp of controlled madness.
The most memorable aspect of this EP takes place at the very beginning, which may very well be considered 'satanic classical music'. A slow build-up uses a recurring theme, which eerie far eastern percussion in the background to create an ominous feeling long before the black metal instrumentation comes in. The build-up is done in such a way where it leads the listener to become very tense, wondering just when the band will break out into the inevitable metal slaughter. Then, using a dissonant and pleasantly horrific classical choral section as a segue, things erupt into a half hour surge of blast beats, oddly timed grooves, malefic snarls and highly unconventional composition.
One thing about Deathspell Omega is that much of their heavier music may be construed as noise to some, and this is no different with 'Kénôse'. The riffs are often so technical and fast, most black metal listeners will not be accustomed to such high intensity musicianship. However, the band remains uncompromising, letting their frightening and demonic sound mellow out only for some dissonant and chromatic pluckings here and there to create dynamic. It's actually in the less heavy sections here that Deathspell shines the best. Although they are masters of technical black metal and have a very unique sound, it often feels like there is too much being thrown at the listener at once, making it very difficult to make out any particular riff or musical idea without concentrating very steadily. Still, the extended five minute introduction to the world of 'Kénôse' is among the most powerful I have ever heard, and rivals any classical music I can think of in terms of its class and razor sharp intention.
A very challenging listen, but this EP is greatly rewarding to those that manage to hear through the seemingly muffled noise and into the wealth of grooves and bone-chilling atmosphere that Deathspell Omega enjoys here. Not recommended for the faint of heart.
Deathspell Omega is 100% form and 0% content. This has all the flashy surface-decorators: slow/fast, soft/LOUD, and harmonic dissonance/melodic consonance contrasts. These are employed without any artistic purpose behind the techniques. The chords are complex and weird, only for the sake of sounding different - and they sound like a joke. Instead of creating any distorted or frightening atmosphere, which might be expected from the way the band is marketed, the chords sound ironically happy. In an attempt to conceal the internal artistic void, they make the surface aesthetic very chaotic, with disjointed technical riffs and dissonant arpeggios all over the place. This is really like any other tech death, except that it has a different imagery and the slow, quiet parts to ensure the fanboys that it is something "innovative" and "deep." (To the dimwits who claim this is "black metal": there is only one black metal riff on the EP - the one that opens the third song.) The production is, of course, polished and sterile, since that would further differentiate the band from real black metal, increasing the hipster appeal. If Xasthur is emo, then Deathspell Omega is indie. In fact, we could get rid of the "if" part without sacrificing much accuracy. Xasthur is emo. Deathspell Omega is indie. If this is pushing the sonic and intellectual envelopes of black metal, then Metallica's self-titled pushed the sonic and intellectual envelopes of thrash metal.
Deathspell Omega is a band that has a certain amount of mystery around it. The (newer) lyrical themes and abstract album concepts have always been a cause for intrigue. The members are unknown though it is pretty clear that Mikko from Clandestine Blaze joined DSO before the release of this EP. Being a band that delivers on all fronts, not just music it is rather important to actually own a DSO release, not just have mp3s. The booklet for this, which is rather long contains perverse images, often modifications and grotesque takes on religious images typical of Deathspell Omega. Lyrics are revealed as being noting more than extracts from sources like the Bible and various quotes which one most piece together in order understand the conceptual side of things.
The songs have no titles, simply I, II, and III. Musically DSO is rather diverse and almost technical (in a rhythmic and calculating way, not a fast solo-ish way). The music revolves almost entirely on the tritone, the devils interval as it was called in medieval times. This makes the music extremely unsettling and tense with no real resolution. Slow arpeggiated passages, fast riffs, and even the occasional acoustic break are all found within the first few minutes. Vocals tend to be slow with no pattern or rhythmic hook (due to the nature of the lyrics). Vocals are also pretty low, not the typical shriek, more guttural and from the stomach than the back of the throat.
The music struggles to hold interest being almost entirely based on dissonance and ugliness which can be a cause for boredom (which is why an EP is about all I can listen to all the way through by DSO). That's why it is important to add the element of lyrics and visuals to the equation, giving deeper implications to the somewhat shallow music. This works but it is debatable whether or not this is simply a ploy to cover up the mediocre music. If you introduced the typical black metal lyrics and corpse paint band photos this album would probably be horribly mediocre.
To the bands credit they do try to create some interesting passages, adding things like church choirs and interesting instrument combinations. It is an odd thing hearing a slower bass/drum/acoustic guitar break in the music, especially with non-standard drum patterns. These moments are far too few though, it just seems as if the band can't get out of the pattern of making extremely tritone oriented arpeggio riffs. There's probably a reason for all of the sections musical styles as they are meant to work with the lyrics in a certain fashion, but I haven't taken the time to read the lyrics in the context of hearing the music while they're being sung, something which is probably a good thing to do to get the whole message across.
As you probably know by now this is NOT easy listening. The songs over little harmonic satisfaction, no resolve, and leave you with little to remember besides a ton of dissonance. I think the whole metaphysical side of the lyrics and art is worth trying to understand but the band should mainly be working with making good music. the album is a bit to conceptual and almost pretentious for me, others may however find it fascinating. It is very likely that others will be bored with it as well.
"Kénôse" signifies the act of Jesus Christ degrading from his divine traits to a simple, mortal being by having the mission to rejoice with humanity. For this, he has to obey faith and live until his death by crucifixion.
Deathspell Omega's recent extended play record, with the same name, portrays this in an astonishing way. However, they have reinvented this with luciferian and metaphysical principles. It is the man trying to establish a relationship between God and Satan. A balance, an equilibrium between the two deities if I can put it this way. The three tracks of this album are not ordinary songs. In fact, they are citations that Deathspell Omega might have invented. I am unsure if the lyrical content is either pure ingeniosity or simply taken from historic books about Lucifer. None-the-less, it is simply incredible. Here are examples from each tracks :
"Kenosis, O theory of great peril! Blinded, sanguineous eyes and with a trembling hand..." (Taken from the first song.)
"Instigating manifold quadrants of industrialised death, an avid Moloch, never satiated, an endless Feast..." (Taken from the second song.)
"The fruit that is forbidden holds the greatest potential for providing infinite knowledge..." (Taken from the final song.)
On a musical and professional aspect, the members are unknown. They refuse almost all interviews, which is surprising for a brilliant band such as Deathspell Omega. The music, simply put, is not your ordinary type of black metal. Hailing from Paris, France, this black metal outfit modernizes black metal and makes it more mysterious and enigmatic, which where the artwork displayed in the booklet comes in. The painter is clearly a talented one. Truely bizarre and sinister, you can have a small clue to what he is referring to. The 40-page booklet displays citations, quotes from the Bible, famous authors and even existential quotes.
Back to the musical aspect, the first track begins with the cymbals reflecting slowly, beat by beat and then, the guitar riffs appear on a frightening, slow pace, which reminisce the works of Neurosis and Cult Of Luna but in Deathspell Omega's own twisted, blackened version. Four minutes after this, you can hear an opera sample and then, this is where things get tense. Pure raw black metal making its way in the track, making Darkthrone proud. The second track is more psychedelic and technical than the precedent one. The final track is what black metal is about. Violent, sinister and decadent but a little bit more melodic. At the end of the track, the sound gets more of an ambient touch, almost transforming into doom metal with Sunn O))) as the background musicians.
Overall, Deathspell Omega have proven to be the most unpredictable and the most mysterious black metal band to have ever walked this planet. At this moment, I would consider this band to be on the top of the mountain in black metal. Why? Three reasons, their musicianship is undeniable, the sound is more intense than usual black metal and the main theme displayed both in the album and in the artwork, all credits sent to the painter and creator of the booklet by the way, is more developed than before. Deathspell Omega might be a "religious" band. However, do not waste your money on Satyricon's new record, with all due respect to this band. They might be and will be a good run for your money.
Deathspell Omega makes an amazing EP showing why they are the elite of Black Metal today. Mikko Aspa’s diverse and powerful vocals and the bands heavy and fast riffs take you for the ride of your fucking life as DSO brings you black metal, as it should be.
I – Builds up with a slow, eerie riff preparing you for a full wave a heavy guitar riffs and blast beat filled, kvlt black metal. Filled with great breakdowns and changing riffs this nearly 16 minute song is worth every second of its play time.
II – The beginning is excellent, commencing with a medium paced riff with Mikko’s vocals setting the tone for the song’s atmosphere. At about 8:12, the song goes into about a 45 second breakdown that almost seems out of place at first, but definitely fits the song in adding to its diversity and musical merit. Outstanding!
III – Heavy at the very beginning and very doom oriented after about 1:52 seconds. Extremely mood changing and atmosphere setting, this song sends you into the very pit of your soul searching for the most primitive and evil aspects of yourself. Mikko’s grim and deep vocals darken this song even more (all the way to the finish). Definitely worth every second of its play time, if not more!
In Closing – This release, with its good quality production, technical and outstanding musicianship and amazing lyrics shows the world what the standard of Black Metal should be held at [and the fact that intelligent and musically gifted individuals took the time and went the extra mile for this release]. Deathspell Omega is the great Black Metal band of our time. Kénôse is a “can’t live without” purchase.
After that highly overrated black metal piece which Si Monumentum had been, Deathspell have finally refined the main weapon behind their fame, meaning the concept. The blasphemous images have not disappeared from the music (no wonder), but they serve much better for drawing the line of the band ideology of katharsis (no pun intended), death, revival and faithfulness, and the search for the "deus ignotus" whom they mentioned in their interviews.
To my pleasure, I noticed that those annoying "prayer" moments are gone, so the pieces flow much better as three complex multi-dimensional epics. The band has obviously mastered more of the risky (and often failing on SMRC) atonal riff tactic. Not only the riffs got faster, but they fit in better along with the rhythm. Very cool album until now, a must have, the epitome of epitomes of black metal... Wait a fucking second, here come the ugly ducklings. The quieter moments are extremely uninspired, take for example the beginning of the first track, which consists of dissonant bass accompanied by a slow drum rumble. These kind of moments are pathetic in their attempt to be mysterious and dark, not to mention a sloppy feeling in the dissonance. Actually, when it comes to slower and more plodding riffs, things get weaker (except maybe the beginning of track 2). Not to mention the breakdowns, which leave me sometimes very disappointed, like in the first track. Man, that riff coming after the first fast part is devastating. Gather Jenna Jameson, Britney Spears, Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton and they would not manage to suck as much as that riff does. Korn would take it as a mediocre riff. Doom metal tendencies have become more obvious, but in track 2 the band shines, as the tempos simply change from blasting to hammering slow pace in quite small intervals, proving a great sense of progression and tempo shifting.
Track 3 seemed to me an unadequate and ridiculously anticlimactic end. It all starts with the quasi-religious type of riff used so much on SMRC, but it is being played more monotonously. After this part ends, everything gets very chaotic. Whispers about apocalyptic devastation and things like that, over a ritualistic progression with slow riffing. This sounds to me more like random chords forming a discordant line, and the vocals simply piss me off. Growls get louder and louder, impossibly loud, considering that on the other tracks vocals were barely audible (lyric sheets are the keyword, boys) and the ending is damn abrupt.
An album above average, in my opinion, and the proof that DSO are perfecting their compositional style and possess the chance to become one of the bands in the future of the black metal genre.
This is among the best and most tastefully innovative black metal releases ever recorded.
Clearly, "Si Monvmentvm..." was a step in a new (and favorable) direction for this band as the first part of their trilogy. Though this album is not another entirely new direction for this band, it is quite an evolution. While maintaining the sophisticatedly satanic atmosphere of its predecessor, “Kénôse” deviates greatly structurally and stylistically. While 4/4 blasting prevailed on "Si Monvmentvm...," anything goes on this album. The time signatures are less standard and far more erratic. The drums are constantly changing and have a wide assortment of beats and grooves. Some sections are even dominated by jazzy, proggish(?) drum parts that add to the unpredictability that this album maintains until the very end. The guitar riffs alternate between the quickly strummed and arpeggiated chord patterns that remind the listener of "Si Monvmentvm...," but occasionally venture onto higher strings and are executed through more bizarre chords. Also, some sections include more doomy and droney riffs (particularly on track 3) while others are more old school and thrashy. The majority of the chords used on this album are very dissonant, which provides for an extremely evil atmosphere. The bass lines usually follow the guitar roots, but often deviate from them and stand as a riff of their own. The vocals follow the same basic style from "Si Monvmentvm..." but are more frequently layered and often reach to higher pitches. While every instrument on this album seems to be constantly mutating, no one part is ever too intruding or distracting. A perfect balance is maintained throughout the album between all the dynamic elements and stylistic textures.
To sum it up, this album is very dynamic and unpredictable. Every riff is amazing and fresh and every change is seamless yet strange.
Technicality seems to be more apparent on this album than in previous DSO releases, but the atmosphere still remains to be as strong and evil as ever before. If this release serves as merely an "appendix" in the trilogy, then who knows where part II will take us. I would give this release a lower rating if it were considered a full-length because it is somewhat unfulfilling in its brevity, but as an EP, this is a perfect release.