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When Deathspell Omega unleashed the third instalment of their defining "trilogy" in the second-to-last month of 2010, I honestly didn't know what to think. Though they've since become one of the most important staples in my listening diet, my experience of their works at the time was limited to a few cursory spins of Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, an album I now consider to be the largely unrivalled pinnacle of black metal as an artform. I also knew they had once approximated the lo-fi sounds of Darkthrone at some earlier point, not that you'd be able to guess that based upon a single riff of Paracletus. It was an aggressive, overwhelmingly chaotic-- dare I say it, religious experience; this wasn't like anything was then-familiar with in metal or otherwise. Nevertheless, Paracletus shocked me as any forward-thinking masterpiece would.
It still does. Now that I know precisely how it fits in with the rest of Deathspell Omega's adventurous arc, I think I'm impressed more than ever. Arguably with nothing but the Wagnerian pomp of The Ruins of Beverast to rival it, DSO's trilogy is the most impressive testament yet achieved in black metal. Their third full-length Si Monvmentvm Requires, Circvmspice began this trilogy with a revelation for the genre, not only by its progressive amplification of musical conventions, but lyrically as well; though Satan's been no stranger to the black metal genre, seldom has He been afforded the intellectual weight Deathspell Omega invested in their lyrics, which appeared a greater part philosophical tract than musical accompaniment. By the point of Fas come 2007, their music became enlightened to the point where it seemed like there would be no way to take it further, lest the enigmatic souls behind this work dare imbalance the terrible perfection they unveiled three years prior to Paracletus... Had I known then what I know now, I would have been all the more intrigued to see how such an uncompromising cabal of musicians would tackle the insurmountable task of following up an album like Fas.
Upon reaching an artistic peak, the usual thing for bands to do is recoil their sound to some previous, safer incarnation. Bands' EPKs usually call this a "return to their roots", but you always know they're full of shit. Whether it's Yes, Blind Guardian, Metallica or a hundred-thousand other sorry cases, this transformation often results in a greater focus on melody and precision in the place of their past ambitions. In virtually every case, this is a death knell for a band's career, except in the case of Deathspell Omega. With Paracletus, not only did they follow-up on the madness of Fas without missing a beat; they infused that existing carnage with the economical precision and, yes, the melody that may have otherwise made its predecessor unpalatable. Paracletus seeks to overwhelm, puzzle, and immerse its listener as much as anything else offered in black metal. So long following its release, to call it a masterpiece feels oddly redundant. Calling it a modern classic might be more suitable; much like its predecessor, this album is one of the few metal records of the current decade that will continue to be listened to, will continue to shock and even offend listeners decades following its release.
The songs on Paracletus are much more to-the-point and spontaneous than those on Fas. Where DSO's previous album took a few minutes to get warmed up, Paracletus immediately bursts out with tech metal drumming and unsettling guitars. Within two minutes of that, they're crushing at their fullest speed. Paracletus immediately demonstrates itself as a more guitar-based effort than the band's past works. Although the song lengths suggest a more decentralized approach to albumcraft, Paracletus takes the prog-rock approach of making each track one part of a seamless whole. Although many of the songs are individually identifiable (with "Wings of Predation", "Abscission", the two "Epiklesis" segments and the post-rock rupture of closing track "Apokatastasis Pantôn" shining brightest of all), Paracletus gives off the impression of being one long, chaotic, misanthropic descent into avant-metal hell.
Even if Deathspell Omega cut back on the calculated chaos of their style, they make for it with the most memorable riffs of their career. I'm constantly taken aback every time I hear the way Hasjarl's guitar on "Wings of Predation" imparts such vicious urgency, or the way a dismally atonal melody opens up "Abscission" in contrast with the brushfire drumming. Atop all this, the vocals (now more multi-lingual than ever) are crushingly incorporated into the mix. Whether DSO are singing in English, Latin, or French (Spica of their splitmates S.V.E.S.T helps out with that last part) the lyrics are a biting, intellectual mockery of Christian orthodoxy. Contrast that with the glorification of Satan they espoused on the first two albums-- with the third chapter of their trilogy, Deathspell Omega have gone on the offensive with their lyrics. 'Tis not enough for them to uphold their own beliefs, it seems; they must prove the folly in others. I have personally found myself fascinated in DSO's lyrical content, and Paracletus is no exception. Considering how tired Satanic imagery in black metal should feel, it is wholly refreshing that Deathspell Omega manage to inject a rare seriousness into the subject matter.
The album isn't perfect. "Have You Beheld the Fevers?" always seemed a little too straightforward for the rest of the album, as if they were trying to fulfill the role "Drink The Devil's Blood" played in their work two albums past. In spite of the thickness of its groove, "Dearth" feels less engaging in light of the three furies that erupted before it. Paracletus may not have achieved the outright perfection of Fas - Ite, Maledicti in Ignem Aeternum a second time around, but it would be folly to think of their trilogy's closing statement as anything short of a masterwork. As once a neophyte, and now a well-fevered fan of most of their work, Paracletus has lost none of its ability to amaze and immerse. The question remains, of course, whether DSO will return to follow-up on the astounding testament of this trilogy now that it's over. It's been almost five years since this album came out, and my fingers remain crossed.
Deathspell Omega started, as a band that worshipped Darkthrone and their cult black metal releases, in 1998. Their first works, were quite simple and not complex at all, as most of the band's compositions were bland and mediocre. Everything changed in 2004, when they released the monumental "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice", an album that, while maintaining the black metal style that the band played, was also experimental at some points. After three years, two splits and one EP, they came back with "Fas - Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum". The album was nothing like "Si..." or anything Deathspell, or any other band, had done before. While the influences on this album are countless and very versatile, they are all utilized to invigorate Deathspell's black metal sound and not spoil it. "Fas..." was, and still is, one of the most dense, dark and intense albums to be released by any artist, ever. Another three years passed, with one split, one EP and two compilation albums. And then Deathspell announced that "Paracletus", the final part of their conceptual trilogy, was finished.
Paracletus consists of ten tracks and its total length reaches 42 minutes, making it the shortest part of the trilogy. However it is a highly rewarding listen, perhaps even more than it's predecessors. With every spin, new details will be unveiled to you, as long as you give the album your full attention.
The album differs from "Si..." and "Fas..." in many ways. First of all, the music is continuous and actual pauses between the tracks are rare. The first half of the album is more melodic and touching than the second half, which features some extremely fast and dissonant parts, with the exception of the final track, "Apokatastasis Panton". Many passages are quite emotional, something that Deathspell have done again in their 2008 track; "Chaining the Katechon".
The guitars have a cleaner production and this time, you can actually tell what has Hasjarl is doing. His playing is unique and easily recognizable. In Paracletus he uses his innovative dissonant riffs again, as well as some slower and more touching guitar lines that make Paracletus more versatile and interesting. The bass lines, written by Khaos, are heavy and sometimes distorted but he also plays softly at times, like, for example, in the outro of "Phosphene". It is unclear whether the band has been using a drum programming machine, or if there is an actual drummer playing in their albums. In Paracletus it's even harder to decide, as their sound feels natural and not created by a computer. Instead of constant blast-beats, there are some slower parts that add to the album's eerie atmosphere. Mikko's vocals also vary from song to song. His vocals range from tortured to ecstatic, while he utilizes various styles, such as screaming, howling and growling. A guest appearance is made by the French black metal vocalist Spica (who plays in S.V.E.S.T.) in "Dearth".
Deathspell's lyrics have always been one of their strongest points. The lyrics in Paracletus seem to follow what the band did in "Fas...", but they aren't written in the same way. The lyrics in Paracletus are less philosophical and dense than the lyrics in "Fas..." whereas they still are fascinating and interesting. They are probably written by Hasjarl, judging from the writing style, which quite similar with the style of their previous works. They carry a lot of emotions, like anguish and pain, but also joy, or anger. The final words of the album are quite depressing as the band claims that, all this time, we were alone, and that all of our hopes were false.
Paracletus is Deathspell Omega's best work by far. The production is amazing since, everything, even the slightest detail has been mixed carefully and the final product doesn't feel rushed at all. Most album trilogies follow a certain motif where the first album sounds great , the second is decent and the last one leaves the listener indifferent at best, dissapointed at worst. Deathspell Omega didn't fall in that trap. By evolving their sound and never doing the same album twice, they established themselves as one of the most forward-thinking bands of our time, always daring to experiment and incorporate new elements into their sound. This is their greatest achievement, as well as one of the greatest achievements in black metal and metal in general. When I first listened to it, I knew that I would be stuck with the band and the album for a long time. And that's how it is, because I'm pretty sure that I will be listening to this album for a very, very long time. This is also, Deathspell Omega's last full-length release up to this day and, even if I hope that one day they will return, if they don't then they will have ended their carreer with one of the best black metal albums of all time.
Favorite tracks: All of them.
I recently started to love Deathspell Omega since I checked out the Fas... album. That album completely blew me away with it's eerie sound, brilliant arrangements and powerful use of ambience. The extreme flurry of technicality was actually incredibly tastefully used and not just thrown in for good measure ending up lifeless and sterile. But I suppose we are not here to talk about that album.
Here we have Paracletus, the last of the 3 concept albums created by D.O. and this may be entirely down to taste but for me it didn't quite match up. The controlled chaos feel is almost entirely gone in favour of an approach pioneered by "mathcore" bands of today with unfortunately rather predictable patterns and unnecessary repetitions of forgettable verses. The ambience also seems to be pushed to the back with this album and brought in at almost random times and ends up sounding like it was thrown in there simply because they felt as though they needed to.
I can also see that the vocalist is attempting to try out some new techniques and although I applaud the attempt as the vocals on Fas... did occasionally get a bit grating, I actually prefer the poetic, monotone approach over the vocals on this album. It appears that he is going for a more tortured style but the cracking in his voice is very evident and it ends up spoiling the already rather thin atmosphere rather than adding to it.
From start to finish, I felt like D.O. were flogging a dead horse using the same riffs ideas, structures, constant blasting and lack of atmosphere. Wings of Predation and Abscission are so similar that I actually thought the former was playing through again when the latter came on.
It must seem like I am being incredibly harsh in the writing of this review considering I haven't actually rated the album that low, but I feel I must express my disappointment because there are some great parts of this album that do show what D.O. can do butt hey are incredibly fleeting and end up falling off when the next riff can't follow up properly. Phosphene has some interesting moments and Malconfort has some rather chaotic stuff going on about halfway through, but it's all too transparent and it's obvious that the songwriting in comparison to Fas... is just lazy.
So in conclusion, in my opinion this album is essentially the band badly ripping themselves as well as Blut aus Nord off. Sie... was a brilliant change in direction from the straight up necro black that took the metal world by storm, Fas... was an incredible build furthering of that style with extreme artistic precision but Paracletus falls short ending up with maybe slightly more memorable riffs due to a lack of attention to detail.
Thank you for reading.
Satan: "So, you guys seem to really like math rock."
DSO: "Math... what..."
Satan: "You lying motherfuckers, get back in your studio."
After this brief dialogue, DSO pull their panties and proceed to release their new platter of ferocity, conceived as a tribute to Paracletus Klump from The Nutty Professor, sticking to the math black formula that they patented on Fas. Right from the beginning, they go to the throat with Epiklesis, a prelude dominated by a one-two (or two-three?) beat way too reminiscent of Don Caballero, phooey. Guaranteed to make a spotlight in the Sissy Black Metal Encyclopedia. The volume and audibility of individual instruments, bass crunch included, has been pumped up a notch compared to the previous releases - not that the previous recordings lacked pizzazz but this one is even more booming - and the ringing guitars and persistently dissonant acrobatics are ripped straight from the book of Blut Aus Nord in The Work..., or Averse Sefira's Tetragrammatical Astygmata... or even from math rock tunes delivered by the likes of the Dillinger Escape Plan and U.S. Maple. Nonetheless, alt-rock pathos rears its pointed ugly head in unhealthy doses on DSO's litanies to the "Deus Ignotusse".
Wings Of Predation greets the listener with a barrage of riffs found somewhere between the Dillingers and Django Reinhardt (if he was possessed), ending in melancholic flurries of notes that are not quite unlike the beginning of Mjolnir's Walpurgisfeuer. The drummer, bwoy, is he determined - he does not miss one single beat, and the frenzied blastbeats and over-the-top fills propel the band towards the stratosphere. Without reaching it, though. But even when he slows things down, he still sounds like a darn rabbitcore drummer. Abscission starts with a high-pitched (of course) cyclic riff that would be quite okay by itself, yet the guys start inserting dramatic sequences that could be mistaken for Placebo leftovers. Dearth is Ye Olde Sorrowful (And Insipid) Interlude during which they french things up about the Ghetsemani grocery store and shit like that. It almost gets out of its tedious coating towards the sinister ending, but it remains a disposable track.
Phosphene - fortunately, this is where DSO get truly hectic, and that is saying something. The riffs are again similar in intent to stuff that bands like Shamelady or Today Is The Day would put out, except they are so fucking fast. The notes are flying high, with meticulous progressions that coagulate into spine-cracking, ear-shattering, muscle-twisting riffage, the drummer gets again to blast his ass off and also shows his skills with more off-kilter signatures. The second half of the song gets its foot in the shit tank with the mandatory sorrowful passage. As for the vocal part, and this goes for almost the whole album, it only makes me curious about how the vocalist got through his whole shit - did he read all that, did he make it up spontaneously or did he memorize it like a nut? During the whole album, he is just groaning and yelling (oh Ghod, they really diversified their vocal arsenal) his way out without any sort of cadence and his performance feels anything but dissociated from the rest of the band, as if they recorded in two separate studios. He is competent, but the result is not too imposing. Epiklesis, the 2nd, sounds suspiciously close to the Prayers from their Si Monvmentvm..., and yes, though it's not a real rehash and fans will argue that "this is their original sound that they have forged over N albums", DSO often have their attitude problem: they strive for a balance between flat-out aggressive and emotional, but they fail to find it. Malconfort returns to the established blast/dissonance formula, while sounding eerily lazy in terms of riffing in comparison to Phosphene or even Wings Of Predation (though reproducing an orchestra of crickets quite well during the last minutes), and the drummer sticks to a cooler groove...
...and also starts Have You Beheld The Fevers with a contrived rocky rhythm, discarded after the first minute for the good old blastbeat. Frankly, this song goes as another gem that managed to almost make me not give a fuck, save for the rumbling disharmonic riff in the ending, briefly repeated in Devouring Famine. This one is probably the most consistent track on the album, that stays unmarred by stoopid emotional riffing, yet it somehow gains an impact during its ending part with an almost classical sounding solemn riff gliding above the percussion massacre. Epiklesis (the 3rd! they really liked this title) borrows the theme from the 2nd and re-develops it in a more teary-eyed way, via well executed ritualistic percussion and lots of high notes in those riffs.
This album presents an often cinematic style of music, and a band that really loves to play. Some might complain about the technical approach, but it's no crime to love playing your stuff and actually be a pro. They are having fun too: maybe their lyrical content does not sound like "fun", but they sure play their asses off, and nobody plays unless he/she has fun doing it. The Shaggs had fun, Belketre had fun, Dark Angel had fun, and DSO are praiseworthy for their conviction. And despite the flawless musicianship and their refusal to compromise, to me they still are one of the least likable bands ever, mainly because of the incompetent compositional style. They have a certain formula that they squeeze to the max, they are way too contrived and they are surprisingly unsubtle and unappealing in their riffing and in the sound of the band as a whole. It might be awesome studio practice, save for the alt-black bits, but their rather highbrow conceptions don't mix too well with the savage stomp that they deliver. Definitely more challenging, more complex, more thoughtful and more ineffective than many albums delivered by many black metal acts, this is not a bad album but an unsubstantial one, incapable of delivering truly memorable tunes that would make one say "so these guys had that (at least one) particular great song on this album that I'm talking about".
Paracletus is the final album in Deathspell's trilogy of forward thinking black metal albums about the relationship between man, god, and other things. It is an extremely dense album that constantly throws new ideas at you that are difficult to digest upon the first listen, but in the end are very clever and thoughtful.
One thing that immediately jumps out about this album is the performance of the instrumental band members. The guitar work is very cathartic and rapid with many baroque and post-renaissance tendencies of polyphony, which is not too surprising since it has been around since the Kenose ep. What is interesting is the guitarists use of arpeggiating guitar chords across strings and not up and down the neck in exercises of self wankery. Doing so creates great contrasts in texture and colour as chords and riffs weave in and out of each other. This is something that is usually the mark of a classical guitar piece, and the guitarist's techniques are reminiscent of those you would hear just as often on a Christopher Parkening or Andes Segovia performance.
The drum work is relentless and energetic, often feeling like an effect of intensity instead of a beat. When the blast beats kick in, the drumming stays intense and all of the crashes and hi-hats feel like they are being attacked instead of just lightly struck like with some technical death metal bands who play at extreme speeds and have to EQ the shit out of their drums because of their uneven sound. The drumming never sounds thin, pathetic, or out of place; every beat and fill and gravity blast is purposefully executed to create an overwhelmingly stellar performance that just drives the overall ensemble's performance to new heights.
The vocals are also interesting and thoroughly engaging. If we were to divide the range of screams into the four main vocal ranges of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, the vocals here are mostly screamed in tenor. There is lots of backmasking and doubling of vocal performances, but it is fresh and unique because while one track may have the vocalist screaming his head off, the other vocal track might have him ebbing and flowing in creepy whispers. What is also cool is that when this effect is being used, the vocals do not line up. In fact, the vocals never even line up with any of the other performances of the album. While some might find this a nuisance and think that the vocalist is being careless, this makes the vocals (which really do seem to be in their own world most of the time) feel more like a narration of a poem or a book that only worries about its own proper phrasing instead of the phrasing of the music itself. However, there are times when the vocal performance and the instrument and rhythm performances all synchronize, and these moments (like those of the tracks Abcission, Phosphene, and Have You Beheld the Fevers) are extremely powerful and memorable. However, sometimes it is hard to understand the lyrics, so reading them in the booklet helps a lot (it also puts the music into a dark and Satanical religious perspective that will really create vivid pictures along with the music).
The production of this album is fantastic. Without giving up the thick and mythic atmosphere and tone of Deathspell's other works, the production allows for more of the guitar textures to jump out. The drums sound clearer than ever, but never overproduced. The bass is brought up some from their previous releases and creates a buzzing low register that now feels like it was missing from previous releases. The vocals are just as snarled as before, but they are more colorful this time around and clearer (once again without killing the vibe that they are known for). This production wreaks of individuality, clarity, and atmosphere without feeling overproduced or weak because of the touch-ups made. Everything great about their previous albums' productions is retained while raising the standard for their future releases.
Deathspell Omega has always been one of the most extreme black metal bands to date. On other albums, their intensity and complexity has always been impressive, but they did not always demonstrate the best pace. This album works much better as a whole than their previous two lp releases because they create a great pace and more intricate melodies. There are a few melodic passages throughout the album that repeat from track to track, and these act as a relief from the constant bombarding upon the listener and allow for great reflection. However, they are hardly periods of dead time as the phrasing and music are still impressive. This change of pace prevents tedium from setting in. The album ends on a high note, with a mostly instrumental closer that escalates above all of the rest of the album in a grand sweeping piece. It brings the album trilogy to a fitting close.
Overall, this is an all beef, no fat ordeal that delivers intellectual, vivid, and inspiring black metal. It is a fresh take on a genre that often sees innovation while remaining extreme and on the fringe. This release does all of that, yet stands above the rest because of its drive and purpose and technical mastery. It does not rely on a gimmick like the last lp Fas, Ite, Maledict, In Ignem Aeternum, which only worked to the extent it did because of its loud-silence-loud structure. This is the best individual effort of Deathspell Omega's career thus far, especially since their brilliant ep, Kenose (2005). Everything is upped in this conclusive album. The performances, imagery, songwriting, and cohesiveness all come together to create a once in a lifetime kind of album. Paracletus can not be summed up in words because any attempt to describe it can not do the same justice as listening to it can. It must be heard many times to be understood. A must get.
2007’s “Fas…”, despite being as eerie as it was volatile, was merely the musical depiction of Satan’s fall from grace towards the unending pit. “Paracletus,” on the other hand, is the musical portrayal of the pit itself. The album provides an ephemeral glimpse into a desolate and forsaken wasteland simply through the use of sound. Everything from the vocals to the cacophonous guitars creates a tangible atmosphere in which anguish is the only friend you have as you take a sojourn into the abyss.
In comparison to “Fas…”, “Paracletus” feels much more compact. The songs are noticeably more succinct, never getting anywhere close to the 10 minute monstrosities of the 2007 album. This attribute is mainly due to the lack of prolonged, near silent passages. For fans of the band that were less than ecstatic about Deathspell Omega’s previous full-length, due to the more torpid moments, this album will be far more pleasing. While the album does contain some measure of slower moments, guitars are always there to fill in any unwanted silence.
Speaking of guitars, this album unveils more of Deathspell Omega’s wanton use of technicality. Despite technicality being nothing new in the band’s repertoire of qualities, the guitar-work here feels fresh and doesn’t lack any ardor. For anyone annoyed by the constant use of tremolo picking and blast beats plaguing most black metal, you will be pleased to find that both of the aforementioned characteristics are non-existent on this album. Another welcome addition to the turbid lead guitars is the use of an audible bass guitar. More often than not, the bass is obstructed by the other instruments in all too many black metal bands, but it is not so here. Tracks like “Dearth” and “Phosphene” see the bass guitar have its own moments to shine. These moments are not at all flaccid, and the bass only adds to the murky, loutish density of the album. The drumming provides a supplementary amount of technicality, and manages to distance itself from any lackluster moments.
Even Mikko is in top condition on this album. With “Phosphene,” he lets loose some of the most blood-curdling screams as though he were one of the many souls crying out in torment from the depths. The remainder of the time is made up of declaiming some very intelligently written lyrical content, meant to disclose more of the bands’ beliefs, in the form of gruesome, authoritative growls.
For anyone looking for an unpretentious explanation of the album, the cover artwork prefigures what you’re in for quite well. The writhing mass of darkness, raging about in the nadirs of eternal fire, is rather representative of the twisting guitars assailing your aural senses whilst the dark atmosphere, laden with the sounds of strife and dissonance, hunts after the inmost portion of your being and simultaneously strikes terror into your soul. To date, this is Deathspell’s magnum opus, and despite its rather unnerving display, it has moments which provide an almost despondent beauty. Only an album as charismatic as this one could make utter darkness seem attractive. In my humble opinion, I believe this album to be the quintessential embodiment of black metal, and it is my hope that anyone else who undergoes being rapt in this auditory nightmare shall see this album as a gem of modern music.
Deathspell Omega are an odd bunch. The French trio play a bizarre form of experimental black metal that progresses so supremely as to still please the elitist "tr00". Paracletus is no different.
Actually, that's a lie. That's a huge lie.
Paracletus is far and away different than other Deathspell works. While previous DSO albums often flew off into abstract tangents, Paracletus showcases a band newly refined. The tracks all clock in under 7 minutes (some just barely) and have a considerably improved sense of structure. Whereas formerly Deathspell inserted several minimalist noise passages into their songs, the ambience presented here is much more restrained. The sounds involved are more audible, generally consisting of chants and melo-doom riffs, rather than blank slabs of empty noise. Slower, doomier tracks like the two "Epiklesis" songs and "Dearth" also manage to stay within accessible experimental bounds, utilizing occasional melodic changes and appropriate track lengths. No Burzum-style 25-minute loops. This gives Paracletus such an excellent sense of newfound focus, keeping the listener enraptured.
Of course encircling these intelligently-crafted pieces are some of DSO's trademark chaotic blasts of black metal with a death metal crunch. The band creates sounds of a frightening nature, augmenting them with Mikko Aspa's vocals, which weave seamlessly into the dark, shifting from chants to rasps to outright shrieks of pain. Songs like "Wings of Predation" and the excellent "Have You Beheld the Fevers?" display Deathspell's uncanny ability to pair black metal with dense technical riffage. Others like "Devouring Famine" and "Abscission" are longer, and incorporate more of the trebly, eerie sounds to contrast the hellish cacophony. The longest track, "Phosphene", kicks off of the crescendo of "Dearth" straight into a pulverizing fray of vocal rasps and a whirlwind of machine-gun riffs and drums. Deathspell continue to expand upon this chaos until the opus climaxes in an epic semi-melodic doom metal cadence.
Deathspell Omega have outdone themselves, simply by focusing their noise. DSO have created a brilliant album of viscous yet compact black metal, rounding out their trilogy disgustingly well.
-originally written for www.sputnikmusic.com
After releasing the phenomenal “Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum”, Deathspell Omega faced the impossible task of creating a worthy follow up. Astonishingly enough, they have created an album of equal quality. “Paracletus” is composed of the same elements as “Fas…”, yet it deploys them in a completely different manner. The core of the album is still a maelstrom of hybrid technical death/ black metal riffs played at a relentless pace. These are still contrasted with a number of softer, melodic passages. Again, there is nothing resembling a verse or a chorus (though there are a few motifs) anywhere on the album. However, whereas “Fas…” was an album of sharp contrast and tension, “Paracletus” is a tightknit and cohesive work.
“Fas…” is a big and sprawling album. Lyrically it is oriented from a first person perspective. The music reflects this, building tension through the unexpected, constantly arriving at shocking moments. In contrast, the lyrics of “Paracletus” take the omnipotent third person perspective. Appropriately, the music is of a controlled, directed and focused nature. From the opening moment, “Paracletus” grabs the listener and drags them into its scorching world, not letting go until the final note.
In the past, Deathspell Omega have shown interest in creating long, fluid pieces of music, writing twenty minute epics like “Mass Grave Aesthetics” and “Chaining the Katechon”. “Paracletus” stands as their most daring and awesome work of this sort; the ten tracks flow into each other with ease, ultimately becoming a single, epic piece of music. Like any great epic, “Paracletus” is full of ups and downs. Blistering blackened death passages build to feverish heights, until climaxing in hellish bursts of fury. These passages are followed by a wide array of clean, melodious passages. The clean passages contain some of the most addictive, dare I say catchy melodies Deathspell Omega have ever written. Having already perfected the art of controlled chaos, Deathspell Omega is now growing by leaps and bounds in their capacity for melody.
Another highlight of the album is Mikko Aspa’s vocals. Mikko deploys everything from guttural growls to hollow chants to howling shrieks. He effectively uses three languages: French, English and Latin. The French passages are especially enjoyable. Mikko capitalizes on the sophisticated, fluid sound of the language to great effect in the spoken passage of “Dearth”. Elsewhere, French intonations make his reptilian growls sound extra sinister.
It is unfair to pick a highlight from an album that is so powerful from start to finish, but the closing piece, “Apokatastasis Pantôn”, especially captures Deathspell Omega’s unique metaphysical perspective. The song starts by repeating a sorrowful motif from “Epiklesis II”. The lyrics condemn all hope for an afterlife; death is nothing more than silence. However, what follows is not a moment of darkness, but rather a moment of catharsis. The motif bursts into an ocean of ecstatic shimmering guitars reaching visceral peaks, one after another. It is this stunning moment of inversion that reveals the great wonder of Deahtspell Omega. The darkest truths are also the most powerful.
At the moment, Deathspell Omega is at the height of its powers, having released back to back masterworks. “Fas…” is vast, subjective, tense and unpredictable. “Paracletus” is tight, controlled and omnipotent. Collectively we have the best back to back releases in the black metal genre since Burzum’s release of “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and “Filosofem”. In the same way that those albums set the standard for the past generation, “Fas” and “Paracletus” have done so for the generation to come. The songwriting, composition and musicianship displayed on these two albums will be the measure by which future black metal albums are judged. Whether or not other bands (or Deathspell Omega themselves, for that matter) manage to reach such heights remains to be seen. Regardless, Deathspell Omega has provided us with two infinitely intriguing albums and a dark, harrowing and yet somehow invigorating metaphysical vision of life and death.
(Originally written for http://listenwell-nocturnal.blogspot.com)
This is not your normal God-hating, Satan-praising, Jew-bashing black metal. What this is, is a majestic conclusion to a musical journey which started with the mock-religiousness of SMRC, going on to the calculated madness of Fas, ..., and finally coming to the cold beauty of Paracletus. Deathspell Omega have established a very strong following due to the relative obscurity of its members coupled with their music, which takes a very experimental and avant-garde approach to metal, albeit with the “blackness”. While SMRC was heavily influenced by the parody (or not) of the Roman Catholic Church and Fas, with its long and complex song structures and a general air of insanity, which you get or don’t get (the latter for me). Paracletus is seems is neither an amalgamation of the previous two ventures, neither is it a separate entity by itself.
The album itself consists of 10 songs, with none greater than 7 minutes and each song has the ability to combine the effects of dread, awe and just sheer majesty. The one commonality this album has with all of DsO’s releases is the controlled aggression of its songs, both in the lyrics (which are a confusing mix of French, English and Latin), down to how the instruments are played and screaming and sometimes chanting of the vocals. The guitars have a dissonant and very sharp feel to it and all in all it’s a package and a half. The songs Epiklesis I, II and Apokatastasis Panton form some form of internal trilogy where the music is a continuation of the preceding song. Although not a long album, it does take the listener through highs and lows with songs like Dearth and Malconfort, radiating musical genius and the final capitulation is Apokatastasis Panton which is in equal parts madness, brilliance and beauty. With the vocals shearing off fairly early in the song all we have left is the music which like a wave, reaches the pinnacle and then recedes, never marking the end but rather a never-ending state of being. This is something worth listening to. Apokatastasis is the perfect end to the trilogy marking the restoration to the original state of being (thank you Wikipedia).
The production is of the highest quality and the package is a bit different from the previous two albums. It has a simpler approach to its presentation with none of the gaudy artwork of SMRC, something akin to Fas. Deathspell Omega is an acquired taste which takes a while to develop, but when it does you will see the beauty in their music and their thinking. Rather than the usual God-hating tripe that was the first wave of BM, DsO makes you think about it. It gives the idea that there is present in all an inner Satan, and something else which I still haven’t really figured out. But what makes Deathspell Omega is the fact they combine their lyrical themes expertly with their music. And that is what makes them a band to behold.
The band Deathspell Omega has gained a certain cult status in the black metal "community". With their unknown members (as far as we know) and their tendency to not tour has created something that is in mystery to the general public. Although we do not know much about them, what we do know is that they are a force to be reckoned with in modern metal. Combining avant garde, experimental, and bombastic melodies, it has created something that inundates the listener with their utter most darkest fears, and horrors. That being said, it also creates something of beauty, not just in the context of pure aggression. But of what we have to face. Thus, this all accumulates to a masterpiece of modern music. Paracletus should be what bands strive for in terms of how they end a "trilogy".
As you look at the cover you see something of just chaos-a pure black background with snakes and fire. This demonstrates a couple things. One: it establishes what you're going to be listening to for the next forty three minutes, cathartic almost maudlin musicianship. Secondly, it gives you the sense that this isn't going to be a "walk in the park", but this is going to be pure anarchy to your ears. Lastly, it gives you a sense of dread. And what do all of these things have in common? They all deal with what we run away from-death, darkness, and chaos.
The production quality can be best described as, superb. It's like you're being thrown in their hell. You can here every blast beat, hellish scream, and just an atmospheric cacophonous experience. That said, it's controlled chaos. Which is the most amazing part of this release, due to the amount of complexity, and originality.
Lyrically, this was the most shocking aspect of the album. I say that because when you listen to people (in general) who speak of "black metal" they usually come to a conclusion that it's just pure screams and loud distorted guitars. But, it is much deeper than what you really view it as. I can not think of any other band that can combine English and Latin together with some French. This is still the strongest "aspect" to this album.
Conclusion: Although this is a tough band to listen to at first (which is the only gripe I can think of), it'll grow on you. On the other hand, if you're not familiar with this band or the style of music, you'll just hate it at first. But, don't give up on it based off of that barrier-chaotic hell. This is not just a metal release, it's also "progressive" and experimental. Have an open mind when approaching this. It's an epic 43 minutes that will shock, move, and make you think at times.
The world seems to take notice of DsO. After quite some EP’s, splits and a handful albums DsO’s is lifted to the highest realms of the orthodox black metal scene. As expected this well deserved attention isn’t appreciated be a growing group of black metal elitists, as if success would put France greatest in disgrace. Fact, DsO isn’t that firm in one’s principle – Like they claimed only to release vinyl. Or like they said never to release any merchandise (and in fact sell DsO clothing higher than the usual) according to an old interview in the second issue of Northern Heritage. But those silly remarks come from their pre-Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice age, when DsO still played uninspired, trendy and thirteen in a dozen black metal.
Paracletus stands above it all. From Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice on the band’s sound evolved drastically. Highly technical, dissonant and even jazzy parts made DsO the most extreme avant-garde black metal band. Of all previous new era releases Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum was the most extreme, but also the most incomprehensible album. It was like over the top controlled chaos, made by top notch musicians. The two lengthy EP’s released afterwards were more melodic and less chaotic, but still typically DsO. The big question is: does Paracletus sound like the über technical Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, or does it sound more accessible? Well, Paracletus does sound a lot more accessible. The songs are way shorter and stick to your mind, without losing the famous enigmatic and obscure touch of before. The very clear sound makes every single detail (and believe me, try to follow the bass lines) audible. Hasjarl love for post-rock sips in the music more and more. For instance just listen to Abscission or the magnificent Apokastatasis Pantôn (especially this one, it’s more like post rock than black metal). Mikko Aspa’s deep screams may have slightly changed bit less extreme, but the way he uses different voices shows off a wide scale of vocal variety.
Paracletus doesn’t let you go and proves DsO to be one of the most innovative black metal band on the globe: not of this world songwriting, obscure atmosphere, intelligent lyrics, outstanding raspy vocals, high precision drum artillery and perfect artwork. Paracletus has got it all!
Its hard to decide if this is a good album or not. On one hand, some moments on this album are brilliant, creating a truly unique feel. On the other hand, some moments completely lack direction and end up bordering on irritating. On "Epiklesis I", the album's first song, the drawbacks to this release become immediately apparent. Groundless dissonant notes loiter, but never really go anywhere. On other songs, they tone the chaos down, and a good balance between aggression and beauty is reached.
The guitarist is the main culprit that drags this release down. The drummer is amazing, playing with both accuracy and attention to detail. His creative drum fills are one of the best things about this album. The bass player is more than competent, adding much texture to the songs. While sometimes repetitive, the vocalist's gritty rasps add a great deal of intensity. While the guitarist is no hack, he chooses to play predominantly in a style that is not very aesthetically pleasing. When he breaks free from that style, it becomes apparent that he can be amazing when he wants to be. It really is a shame that so much of the guitar is played in such a harsh, grating style.
Despite all the songs where the guitar is lacking, there are three breathtaking songs where the guitarist redeems himself. A beautiful repeating melody is played throughout the majority of "Dearth." The drummer shows an astounding amount of creativity with an array of interesting patterns. This song showcases the bassist's talents. The bass is highly audible and adds a gritty layer of texture. "Epikleses II" is much better than its counterpart. It features a beautiful haunting melody that resonates throughout the song. The vocals are very low in the mix, allowing the melody to shine through. This song has many layers, that culminate into a beautiful masterpiece. "Apokatastasis Pantôn" starts off where "Epiklesis II" leaves off. It features the same melody, but uses it in a completely different way. This song is the perfect way to end this album. It is grimy and beautiful at the same time. The build-up and release in this song features a vast amount of emotion, something much of this album lacks. It starts off with deep voice and after that vocals are completely omitted. The atmosphere in this song is so rich that vocals are not needed.
As for the rest of the album, the same amount of praise can't be given. While there are brief moments of brilliance, as a whole, it seems directionless. In future releases, it would be wise if the guitarist reconsidered the pointless meandering dissonance. Thankfully, these parts are not relentless, but they are featured far too often. If they had chosen to ditch the rootless chaos, then this album could have been the masterpiece that it is so often praised as. This record showed a lot of potential, but that potential was by no means reached to its fullest extent. Deathspell Omega has done better.
From start to finish, the third instalment in the DSO trilogy that began with "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" and "Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum" is a complex and intense salb of aggressive black metal mixed with elements of post-rock, death metal and melodic music, all shot through with twisting spidery guitar filaments that sound a little Middle Eastern and an impossible array of blast beats and rhythms that change often in pace and structure. The band's sound is complex and contradictory as well, at once clean, sharp, sometimes sparkling and clear yet dirty and grinding. The music is dense and demands to be heard several times before it will yield its full richness and depth. Casual listening reveals a blurry roar that seems one-dimensional: you need to be an active listener to appreciate this album. (That's possibly a major drawback for the album; great records should sound great even if you have one ear trained on it.) The only aspect of the recording that remains constant throughout is the gruff, gravelly singing.
After a steady swinging warm-up intro, DSO dives straight into the deep end with "Wings of Predation", a slashing blast of choppy percussion, growling bass and a writhing nest of guitar lines worming their individual paths through the track. Progressing through tracks 3 and 4, I find one big surprise is how much emotion and drama are present here, especially in track 4 "Dearth" which falls almost into intensely moody post-rock territory. Rounding out the first set of five songs, "Phosphene" verges on operatic when the music breaks down early and a series of death cries, howls and screams punctuate the loping rhythm that follows: the song itself becomes a mini-opera with at least four movements, distinguished by differences in pace, all of them very busy and intense.
"Epiklesis II" offers a breather with a repeating guitar riff that becomes the album's motif in its second half; later it becomes a mighty monster with a synth-orchestral arrangement coming close near the end. We coast along until we reach "Have You Beheld the Fevers?", featuring a tight, punchy rhythm texture early on before hitting a turbulent section of guitar chaos that loosens up the music. "Devouring Famine" is a sometimes complex piece beneath blasts of frenzied whipped guitar and drumming that weaves deranged singing and drunken melodies into its tapestry. At last we get "Apokatastasis Panton" (say that again?) which repeats the riff from "Epiklesis II" over which a deep bass voice pronounces the "reward" for the Christian religious faithful, after which the piece plays like a melancholy black metal / post-rock pop melody farewell, quite wistful in a way, with some of that crisp tightness from "... Fevers?", building constantly to a climax again and again but never quite getting there.
The air of artificiality that was present on the second album has been replaced by a frenzy that is barely contained on some tracks here and which is matched by lurid and demented lyrics that might have been inspired by a mad and bad dream. The followers of Christianity celebrate their religion's central rite - ingesting the substance of Christ, usually represented by bread and red wine - only to be received themselves in a glory greater - and thus worse - than death.
The album isn't long but it's compact for its size, taking the listener up high and down low through varied episodes of blast-beat flagellation, sonic collapses that might suggest wavering faith and seething mood melodies. Sometimes the musicians play as a super-tight unit and at other times they are loose to the point of collapse. The album is epic and dramatic, relentlessly pushing listeners on and on to the work's bitter conclusion. If people have a gripe about the record, it might be that it seems too rushed and has very little let-up but that's the album's point: among other things, it points out how deranged, irrational and wild religious fervour can be, sweeping people up and on into existential chaos.
Of the three albums dedicated to exploring religion and its connection to evil, and how humans fit in, "Paracletus" perhaps succeeds better than the others in combining its subject and the music: it has the right balance of clean and gritty musical elements and the cerebral approach meets its match in the music's emotional intensity. "Paracletus" sounds so complete in itself, it could stand alone as a concept album in its own right. The subject matter may not be very original - the idea that Heaven actually holds worse terrors than Hell does must have been done over in art, literature and music many times - but here the theme is invested with energy, passion and extremes in sonic and lyrical expression. Some of the music and lyrics can go overboard on the histrionics and the pomp in tracks like "Phosphene" and "Epiklesis II" but these moments don't last long on the album.
I only wish that DSO could have experimented with the music more as its scope seems less expansive than the earlier albums; the concentrated musical package that is "Paracletus" seems shrunken in musical ambition and experimentation. This becomes obvious if you play "Paracletus" straight after "Fas - Ite ..." which has soft, cold ambient pauses between tracks, giving the music a sculptured quality. The music on "Paracletus" doesn't have that sonic 3-D quality and dynamic which might explain why it seems one-dimensional and blurry to some listeners.
Even from their earliest incarnation, despite adding up to little more than your regular Darkthrone-worshipping horde, there was still something starkly pertinent on their first two full-lengths, Infernal Battles and Inquisitors of Satan. A bold and uncompromising ideology lifted them from the ranks of dross apparent in the stagnation of late 90s black metal and with a brutal take on Satanism that bordered on religious fervour, Deathspell Omega plucked a cultish following from metal fans across the world, dissatisfied with the commercial decadence and pantomime that much of the Second Wave would inevitably fall into.
Paracletus is the crowning achievement of this unholy triumvirate. It also logically had to be. With each step into this mammoth project, the band has improved boundlessly. While SRMC was a relatively straight-forward and incredibly well-honed step into the trilogy, Fas was defiant, uncontrollable and chaotic. Now, with Paracletus, Deathspell Omega have pinned down their incredibly complex song writing style: Nothing sounds out of place or throw-away. Every blasting second, every drum strike, every discordant or melodic guitar phrase, every obombrous bassline (yes, there is BASS here)… All are disturbingly calculated to the finest detail, conjuring a cacophony that is simply unprecedented.
But as explored above, the discerning listener and true follower of Deathspell Omega must also immerse themselves in what the album means. To pay no heed to the ideology behind these forceful visions is to miss the point entirely. I will avoid direct interpretations but instead give some pointers that may help with your understanding of the record when it is released in the next couple of days. The album is thick with archaic religious imagery, as we have all come to expect:
• Paracletus – This is from the Greek ‘parāclītus’ which means advocate, defender or comforter. In the Gnostic tradition, the various emanations of the Monad or Godhead (not the ‘demiurge’ who is widely identified as the Semitic god) had different roles. Paracletus, the comforter, is one of these emanations. The album is far from a comforting experience however.
• Epiklesis – Another Ancient Greek word in need of translation. There are two songs on the album with this title, both with a repetitive mantra of a riff. In terms of Christianity, it is ‘the part of the Catholic mass in which the celebrant invokes the Holy Spirit to bless the participants,’ an invocation or ‘calling something down from high’.
The album is introduced by one of these foul invocations: ‘Come, Thou Sanctifier, almighty and eternal God, and bless this sacrifice prepared for the glory of Thy Holy Name.’ It’s a chilling pandemonium of an opening track; short and sharp yet restrained and repetitive. But with second track ‘Wings of Predation’, the familiar, almost-death-metal assault of the Fas-era rears its head again, yet more focussed and malignant than ever. Hectic blasting trades off with moments of pure beauty and clarity. A bizarre melody winds its way in to the song that sounds unlike anything you have EVER heard before.
What quickly becomes apparent with Paracletus is that elements from all their second phase work have been coalesced into one body. Deathspell continue to invert the tonal atmosphere of Gregorian chants that was explored on SRMC with a unique and startling melodicism. This is constantly threatened, however, by the sheer aggression that ploughs through the entirety of the album. Sections of Fas-like chaos and repulsive riffing rape and pillage at any given opportunity, but often give way into incredibly rewarding pieces of music. It is this dichotomy that makes the record such a thrilling journey.
The pace of the album is strictly monitored and flows beautifully. The toned-down drudgery of ‘Dearth’ is a welcome refuge from the cumulative ten minute assault that Deathspell inflicts through ‘Wings of Predation’ and the inhuman guitar playing of ‘Abscission’. A spoken-word French verse weaves itself through the slow, mournful riff: “La mince clameur de ces etres iniques et inabsous. Plearant a la sortie du monde. Se perd dans ce royaume d’effroi et de cendres. Sinistre Abscission…Et la solitude du jardin de Gethsémani en partage!” It’s a delicate and thoughtful piece of music that works well with the French, a language that has been neglected by the band until Paracletus, despite being their mother tongue.
Following that is ‘Phosphene’, hands down the most brutal track on the album. As the longest song, it forms the centrepiece of Paracletus. Pummelling bass-led sections, terrifying vocals and an odd rhythmic structure form its basis. Another first for Deathspell is the inclusion of haggard sung vocals. It is not overwrought nor does it sound out of place. This is the Omega at their most virulent and best.
‘Epiklesis II’ works as a fantastic segue. It’s similar to its introductory counterpart, yet more restrained and pensive. From these tentative notes, it is straight in to the deep end with ‘Malconfort’, a French word that echoes the uneasy atmosphere of the song. Thrashy power chords meet with the signature Deathspell Omega arpeggios and angular riffing. Another hefty bass-led riff brings the track to its conclusion, with delicate discordant guitars darting around the upper frequencies.
The shortest proper track on the album, ‘Have You Beheld the Fever’ is a feverish and delirious assault on the senses. A driving rhythm section underpins completely insane guitar work. It is mind-boggling as to how far the members of Deathspell Omega have managed to push their instruments. Not only have they set a new precedent for black metal, but they have also redrawn the boundaries for extremity as a whole and the entire approach to avant-garde guitar. The imagination and inspiration that is driven into these songs is otherworldly, bewildering and wholly satisfying.
As the album draws nearer to its end and begins to conclude the trilogy, there are absolutely no signs of the band letting up its compositional skills. ‘Devouring Famine’ sounds like the howling of an unsavoury demiurge as its creation revolts against all its obvious imperfections. Closer ‘Apokatastasis Panton’ reprises the magnificent guitar work displayed on ‘Epiklesis II’, building it into a fuller song and perhaps the most directly ‘black metal’ track of the album. Driving, straight-forward rhythms form the attack here with not a spazzy, jazz-infused time signature in sight. Melodic tremolos seem to hark back Deathspell’s earlier forms. Appropriate perhaps as ‘apokatastasis’ seems to root from the Greek for ‘reconstitution, restitution or restoration to the original or primordial condition’.
Then silence. It is over. The trilogy has come full circle and Deathspell Omega have completed their masterwork after six years of labour. Paracletus explores so many horrifying vistas and glimpses into the unknown that you will feel completely drained. But rest assured, that will not stop you from spinning the album constantly on repeat. Engage and imbibe Deathspell’s esoteric majesty because it does not get any better than this. They are a band of OUR generation and one that will go down in history for revolutionising music whether they like it or not. No longer can anachronistic idiots hail the Norwegian Second Wave like it has never been bettered. It has been topped numerous times since and Deathspell Omega have finally nailed the coffin shut.
Deathspell Omega is a French avant-garde black metal band that's been around for a decade. Their fifth full-length, Paracletus, is a bit of a strange listen for me, but I kept giving it more chances because of the nearly-universal praise heaped on the album. The first time I listened to it, I had no idea what to think about it. The second time, I hated it. I gave it another shot anyway, and the third time I started to think they might be onto something. And now, I realize they may be onto something, but they haven't quite got a handle on it themselves.
Most of the album is high-speed, repetitive, dissonant guitar riffs played over blast beats. In fact, the blast beats don't let up from the start until more than 4 minutes into the third song. The vocals are all over the black metal map, including spoken word, rasps, growls, and pained screams. The guitars have a relatively clean tone, and the drums sound just fine (except on "Abscission", where some of them get blown out). The bass has an excellent, very enjoyable tone which contrasts nicely with the high-pitched dissonance of the guitars.
When they play at high speeds, it just sounds like controlled chaos. Sure, they play tighter than an (insert vulgar joke here), but when all you have are dissonant riffs--without anything to ground them--then it doesn't make any sense.
When they finally slow things down (which happens a few times on the album, such as on "Dearth"), you can actually notice the bass and its excellent contrast with the guitars. The fast parts somehow seem to work on "Phosphene", but that track has slower bass-heavy parts, and the guitars actually play tonal chords every now and then. So, it seems what they're doing just needs some kind of anchor to hold it down, and most of the time they neglected to provide that grounding. The "Epiklesis" trilogy (rounded out by album closer "Apokatastasis Pantôn") works well enough, but "Malconfort" is just plain annoying, and by the time "Have You Beheld the Fevers?" comes around, the whole approach is just tiresome. I love crazy music like Portal and Mitochondrion, but this doesn't do it for me.
The Verdict: There are moments of near-genius here, but no more than fleeting glimpses. Most of it fails simply because there's nothing to ground the dissonance, and it just comes off sounding like well-orchestrated noise.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
For many, orthodox black metal cliché has become too much; Basement dwellers in corpse paint thrashing at top speed with the fire and fury of hell. As the genre developed, bands stopped beating away at the barriers of social acceptability and musical innovation, and instead, started beating a dead horse. Minimalist blasting over treble picked diminished fifths can only be rewritten so many times, but that doesn't seem to stop anybody from trying. For a genre that once existed on the outer limits of extremity, its edge has dulled considerably. Sure its members still possess the same misanthropic elitism and overwhelming pretension. Sure, they still draw upon Christian images and ideas to paint their portrait of Satan, but the fear and foreboding are gone, the challenging, genre-bending musical structures have morphed into rigidly controlled definitional barriers. To venture beyond these walls is to renounce your "kvlt" status and join the “trend scum” who pollute black metal purity. Many bands in the foggy realm of black metal who have left the walls behind, have also left behind Satanism, leaving the epitome of fear and darkness to languish in the tired triteness of the “tr00.”
Enter Deathspell Omega. At one time an embodiment of black metal pastiche, their previous two releases, Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice, Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum and now Paracletus, the crown jewel of the DsO catalogue, have combined to construct a trilogy that obliterates the rigid walls of orthodox black metal, unleashing the beast, and teaching us once again what it is to hate, to fear, and to suffer.
On first listen, Paracletus is a violent cacophony, contorting rhythms, melodies, and time signatures with painful urgency and focus. Yet the contortions transcend music and become almost visceral, as if Satan himself sought to experiment with the limits of humanity. How far can the human body bend? How much can the human mind bear? A hurricane of splintering dissonance swirls as jagged, sputtering drums beat relentlessly, keeping time in some otherworldly march. Angular guitar riffs wind harshly around spastic bass lines. The vocal performance borders on the inhuman as DsO executes shrieks of terror and pain, wails of sorrow and agony, and guttural fits of spitting blasphemy. Its torturous and frighteningly real. Paracletus is ugly, covered with filth, and completely uncompromising. Most of all though, Paracletus is terrifying. Ominous voice overs, chants, shrieks and screams juxtaposed against the clanking and jerking of wicked instruments force the hair on the back of your neck to stand on end while DsO's signature arpeggios, chromatic melodies, and unexpected, almost random snare drum cracks create an atmosphere of unease. Nothing about Paracletus is comfortable or familiar. Rather, Paracletus offers 42 minutes of turbulence and terror.
Yet, on subsequent listens, Paracletus reveals its immense depth. Sprinkled throughout the albums are moments of beautifully crafted haunting. "Epiklesis I and II", "Dearth", and Paracletus's utterly brilliant closer, "Apokatastasis Panton", feature astounding grace. The dissonance rolls harmoniously in innovative patterns, while melodies float atop with simplicity and elegance. Even the brashest of tracks ("Phosphene", "Wings of Predation", "Abscission", "Malcontent") feature thoughtfully composed melodies and harmonies. Amidst the overwhelming ugliness and terror, Paracletus is beautiful and fascinating, a reflection of DsO's view that beauty exists in suffering. Beneath the apparent chaos are a rich and innovative musical structures as well as a slew of unbelievable feats in musicianship. I have no doubt Paracletus was as difficult to compose and perform as it is to listen to and unpack.
On the production end, Paracletus is completely sterile. Cleanly compressed and masterfully mixed, every dissonant note, every grunt, and every cymbal crash is noticeably clear without sounding artificial. , Paracletus demonstrates that evil doesn't have to sound "necro," and power doesn't have to result from over compression and unnecessary EQ boosts.
While Paracletus deserves its musical accolades, one must not forget that this album, and the entire trilogy for that matter, is religious music. It is Satanism's Sei Gegrüsset. Overflowing with symbolism, largely extracted from Christian ideology, DsO wrestles with their interpretation of a metaphysical Satan. As such, the entire presentation reeks of unbearable pretension. The lyrics are an amalgam of Greek, Latin, French and English cobbled together in deeply coded and often unintelligible metaphors. The imagery is vivid, if not overly so. Despite its confounding nature and pretension, its hard not to be intrigued by DsO's zealous fanaticism, and the ideology which drives them to innovate and create in such unique ways.
Paracletus has proved that the boundaries of black metal have yet to ossify. Rather, they can and should be pushed, and when they are, black metal can still terrify and haunt. It can transcend the cliche and pastiche that have led to years of stagnation. The blunted blade of black metal has been sharpened, and Deathspell Omega wield it with the skill and ferocity to make it dangerous once again.
Originally posted at http://www.tracksrocks.com/tracksblog
The final chapter of Deathspell Omega’s album trilogy has been realized in the form of Paracletus. It is, to put it quite simply, amazing, a monumental construction of darkness, dissonance, and at times, even beauty. Deathspell Omega’s trilogy exploring Satan, God, and Man began when Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice (SMRC) blasted onto the scene in 2004, a completely new incarnation in respect to their previous works, which were raw, repetitive black metal. Then came Fas- Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum in 2007, taking the metal world completely by surprise with its avant-garde abrasiveness, and its machine-like intensity.
Nothing prepared me for the experience of listening to Fas, not even the mighty Obscura by the Canadian band Gorguts, the technical death metal masterpiece long prized for its weirdness and chaos. Fas was a sonic odyssey through darkness, a long fall into the abyss, dragging the listener to the brink of madness along the way. Yes, Deathspell Omega left typical black metal behind a long time ago, endeavoring to craft music never before imagined; they have succeeded.
A handful of splits and EPs were released in between different chapters of the trilogy, furthering the exploration of sound they have undergone, and it was one of these which originally introduced me to Deathspell Omega. I picked up Veritas Diaboli Manet in Aeternum- Chaining the Katechon shortly after it came out in 2008, having heard a lot of things about the band that aroused my interest: they lacked of an official website, the only known member is vocalist Mikko Aspa, because his voice is so recognizable. They prefer anonymity, and let their music and lyrics speak for themselves. Chaining the Katechon showcased Deathspell’s intense dissonant sound, and their thick, spiteful atmosphere; for whatever reason though I just couldn’t get into it at first. Later I acquired SMRC, which really struck a chord with me, and I officially began my journey into the darkness of Deathspell Omega.
Now, at last, we come to Paracletus. Like the other chapters of the trilogy, the title is Latin, and the word Paracletus is most commonly used to refer to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. It is a worthy continuation of their great experiment, almost like a cauldron into which all that has been learned on the journey thus far has been poured, and out has come this dripping new entity. The complex, dissonant riffing and cyclonic drumming of Fas are present, as well as new elements of melody.
The voice of Mikko Aspa as always cuts venomously through the mix, dripping with malice and spiteful clamor. The vocals are much more varied on Paracletus than in the past works, which becomes evident very quickly; the spoken word passages in French, mad whisperings, piercing shrieks, and untamed, desperate yelling in addition to Mikko’s trademark growls really add flavor to the tracks. The album is divided into 10 songs, only a couple extending past six minutes, a departure from the very long track style of Fas and Kénôse; but the songs still flow into each other as if they could have been arranged as such.
The album opens with Epiklesis I, a short track, also faster than I expected as a first song, starting the journey at a brisk stroll. Both First Prayer and Obombration on the previous two records were slower, more drawn out introductions. Already we can see the use of repetition with this track, something that was displayed very little in the linear construction of Fas and other works since SMRC. Beautiful lead guitar lines are highlights of tracks like Wings of Predation and Epiklesis II, riding starkly above sections of both tempest and calm, beauty that I don’t think I’ve before witnessed in Deathspell Omega. There are so many great moments in this album, it’s nigh unbelievable; moments of reeling fever, moments of furious intensity, dizzying, demented guitars, moments when the rhythm section emerges and the growling bass rises above the fray like never before.Songs like Phosphene, Have You Beheld the Fevers, and Devouring Famine are epic, blasting, abrasive manifestations of true insanity, at times broken by spells of solemn, hypnotic and mournful passages.The closer, Apokatastasis Pantôn, starts with the same guitar line as Epiklesis II until the last words of the album are spoken:
“You were seeking strength, justice, splendour! You were seeking love!
Here is the pit, here is your pit! Its name is SILENCE…”
The guitar work is simply beautiful afterwards, mostly simple tremolo picked lines, a more traditional sound, seldom heard in Deathspell anymore. It all combines to craft an incredibly epic four minutes, the bass plodding mournfully alongside the drums, all the while the guitars rising and rising; it feels as though you’re about to reach the crest, the climax… and it falls away, just out of reach. The journey is over. Looking over the trilogy as a whole, I feel almost as though on this odyssey of increasing madness, we have emerged somehow with sense of coherence and sanity. The inevitable embrace of the Abyss is accepted.
Here it is – the French masters are back with what may very well be the most hotly anticipated album of the year. And with good reason, since 2004's “Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice” and 2007's “Fas – Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum” are both regarded as milestones not only in the band's discography, but in the history of black metal as a whole. The former opened the floodgates of religious black metal, a different kind of black metal, less normative, less conventional, with a religious fervour that can be felt and lyrics that finally pushed the boundaries of the rather stagnant scene, proving that black metal can and indeed does better than “Christraping Black Metal” and “Fistfucking God's Planet”. The latter introduced the world to the concept of entirely dissonant riffs, further shunning the conventional song structure and bringing into the scene what seems as complete chaos at first. While DSO haven't exactly invented any of these two features, they've managed to approach and merge them so well that they remain the benchmark for avantgarde black metal to this day. With all this in mind, how could anyone not barely wait for the break of the three-year silence from the band?
If you've heard the band's previous output, then it should be fairly easy to break this album the following way – 70% Fas, 20% SMRC and 10% of new elements. If you haven't, what the bloody hell are you waiting for?! The band is more chaotic than ever, the entire album basically being a single long track, but with riffs coming and going, repeating in various time signatures, intertwining, sweeping one over another... Yet in all this chaos, one discerns a very strong coherence. That's the beauty of this album – it takes all the classic DSO ingredients and makes a perfect mix out of them. The crystal clear production found with Kénôse, the erratic riffs of Fas, the melancholic passages of SMRC... It's all thrown in for good measure. While the guitars have remained largely the same over the years, the vocals and drumming haven't. The vocal style is similar throughout most of the album, but still more varied than ever before, with parts in Latin, English and French, sung either in deep growls, vibrant rasps or clear chants. The drumming has improved in particular – well, more than enough to actually notice them separately, which wasn't the case before. The overall flow is so good that you'll feel the need to spin the album again as soon as it reaches its end, which wasn't the case with Fas, for example, despite sharing almost exactly the same length. Influences are too numerous to even discern, let alone classify in a review, but it's certain that this is the most progressive and varied release of the band so far, the track “Dearth” being the perfect example thereof. The lyrical content remains cryptic, but worth having a look at, since it's miles ahead of your standard black metal fare, as usual for the band.
All in all, this album has surpassed my expectations, if I could even say I had any. The progression leap is nowhere near as drastic as SMRC –> Fas, but that's nothing negative with such a high-quality release overall. Not only is this the album of the year 2010, but I'm firmly convinced that this will remain as one of the most relevant black metal albums in history. And before bashing me for making over-the-top statements, spin the album, and as “Apokatastasis Pantôn” draws to its end, just dare tell me I'm wrong.
(originally written for http://www.metal-sound.net)
I hate silences. By that I don't mean I feel the need to fill every waking moment of my life with music, noise or words. Some silences are welcome. Some silences are of use. The silences I hate are the ones that introduce their unapologetic presence in the most desperate times of life. The tense awaiting between moments. Those seemingly eternal minutes at the hospital waiting room, the few seconds it takes a pregnancy test to give a result, that abysmal instant between the moment you ask "what happened?" to someone you care about who just came in crying and the moment that person responds. Those silences I hate, and the two year silence between Deathspell Omega's Veritas Diaboli Manet in Aeternum and their newest output, Paracletus, has been nothing but an immense silence as I sit in the room, waiting for news, which might be good or bad. And now, the news has come.
As you might guess by the score, the news is particularly good. And the awkward silence was completely worth it, as Deathspell Omega once again manages to bring down the fiery sword upon the necks of the weak and cowardly, delivering another magisterial chapter to their already fascinating story.
The album starts and it wastes no time, ripping through the cold silence with a blast. As the music unfolds, the familiar sounds of relentless blastbeats and complex riffing establish their presence and the overall mood of the album, which is a mixture of hateful and illuminated. I feel no violence while listening to this. This music is not the music of the angry and the insane. It is the music of the illuminated, of the strong hand of discipline and fanaticism.
After the proper introduction, the first thing to notice is the track division and length of the songs, which show a return to a more Si Monumentvm configuration. That is, a high number of shorter tracks (none are even close to the 10 minute mark), instead of less tracks which clock above 10 minutes (or one track lasting around 20 minutes as the split/EP tracks were). But still, as mentioned, the songs keep the avantgarde and chaotic nature of their last works, making this easier to digest (not that I ever had a problem digesting them, but some people might have been turned off because of the length of the tracks).
Production wise, the album has taken half a step back. It's barely noticeable, but the sound quality of previous works such as Chaining the Katechon is definitely crispier and cleaner. I don't see this as a bad thing, even though I like the way this band has used cleaner production, the slight rawness contributes to the general feeling of the album as a whole.
Now, there's more than this to Paracletus. It's not just a Kénôse divided into more tracks or a longer Fas. There's quite a bit of experimentation going on, but it's more subtle than the changes the band went through somewhere between 2003 and 2005, and therefore, they will take a dedicated listener by surprise. There's some interesting stuff going on in the vocal department. We're presented with a very desperate sounding voice, with less controlled growling and more human-like yelling, grasping and screaming. At times you can hear soft chanting in the background, and at one point even spoken parts in french! I love stuff like that. It gives songs a completely new vibe. It's hard to conjugate otherworldly music with humane elements, and the vocals do that, with excellent results.
About the instruments themselves, they pretty much retain the same sound found in previous albums, with the exception of the bass, which is now distorted and heavy as ever. So much so that It could fit nicely in a Godflesh album. Drum and bass (not to be confused with the genre) play a bigger roll in this album, dancing with and around each other as if in a communion. There's a lot of moments in which the two instruments take the lead and the guitar provides a background against which they can interact. Guitars themselves are less abrasive. It would seem they used less guitar tracks and decided to record one, maybe two for each song. This makes the melodies more distinguishable and allows the songs to breath, so to speak.
Changes in pace are nothing new to this band, but they're taken to their logical conclusion in this album. Truly a culmination of ideas, pace is different in pretty much each riff, and slower moments get to shine almost as much as the aggressive, fifth gear madness. The melodies themselves, as hinted, are constantly changing, alternating between more accessible, perhaps orthodox black metal melodies with the entangled avantgarde this band has perfected and for which has come to be so well known, and the occasional well thought arpeggio which is usually the main vehicle for the more emotional parts. Which brings me to my next point.
Some people have accused this band of being completely cold and emotionless, as if the riffs were written by machines (and played by machines, because, holy fuck that sounds hard to play). Well, emotion plays a central role in this album. Most of the mid-paced and slow-paced melodies are filled with an epic and gut wrenching feeling the kind of which I haven't heard from this band since Carnal Malefactor. As an example of that, the album presents a few new sets of dynamics. There are some deeply emotional moments, such as the track Epiklesis II, where the main melody, a slightly romantic tune, leads the song to a crescendo, which presents what sounds like a string section near the end. Then there's Have You Beheld The Fevers, which has a chuggy and to-the-point introduction which, along with the mid-paced riffs in between blasting storms, make for some of the most peculiar riffs in the whole album, and not because of their complexity, they're also some of the simplest riffs around. Or even Apokatastasis Pantôn, which has elements of both songs, a romantic tune, something that sounds like soft chanting in the background and some pretty simple, even post-rockish riffing punctuated by a very accessible and melodic bassline, which makes for a wonderful closer.
About the general composition, I find that most songs blend into each other rather well, which gives the impression at times that this album could have had the configuration of Kénôse or one of the longer tracks (Diabolus Absconditus for example), that is, the tracks could have been blended into three or four ~10 min. long songs. It could have worked that way. But at the same time, each song has a personality strong enough to earn a name and spot of their own, and I'm sure this is not coincidental. Each song was delicately crafted with a lot of thought, and it shows.
Now, even though it presents plenty new elements to the Deathspell sound, this album doesn't deviate from the carefully crafted style the band has developed in the past 5 years. The new elements, instead, act as interesting new bits and details that keep the album flowing and keep the listener interested. They are enough to differentiate this album from all previous works, yet not strong enough to signify a change in style. Of that, at least for now, I'm glad.
All in all, if you like what this band has been up to in the last few years, you're absolutely gonna love this. If you stopped caring about Deathspell Omega around the time Si Monumentvm came out, this won't change your mind at all.
Seek out any depot of French black metal culture and chatter, and you are likely to encounter either lavish praises or unexplained ire shoveled upon the name Deathspell Omega, one of the front runners if not THE front runner in that nation's smorgasboard of calculated extremity. Since abandoning their by the numbers, rustic black metal endeavors in the earlier 21st century, the band have released a pair of divisive and intense exercises in the genre, slowly developing a dissonant, unique style through both Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice (2004) and Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum (2007) that strains at the threshold of simply framed categorization. Like Dillinger Escape Plan is to metalcore, or Gorguts to death metal (on their puzzling 1998 gem, Obscura), so is this French act to the blacker arts.
So the question is, should we be looking forward with them? Should we be rubbing that lamp and hoping our wishes will bear fruit? You bet you're fucking hinds we should. Deathspell Omega is one of those rare cases in which the actual ability not only matches the hype, but surpasses it, and Paracletus is another harrowing testament to progression against all odds. For the French band, this is not particularly novel, since their previous album was a spike of scintillating chaos being thrust repeatedly through the listener's cortex, a dark theological indictment, a reckless aural nightmare that either lifted you into its vortex and buffeted you with its dragon wings, or left you behind in the mud, scratching your temples in consternation. Yes, Fas was really that good. Paracletus, which actually takes a similar aesthetic and twists it into something mildly more accessible, though no less ambitious, is also that good, and it's by far one of the best spins on the genre that the creative mind has incurred all year.
You can still expect the raving lunatic compositions, scaling up and down the fretboard with an infusion of discordant, rampant chord work that will both stun and fascinate as you work out their belligerence. "Wings of Predation", "Abscission", "Phosphene" and "Malconfort" each channel their respective whirlwind manifestations into intriguing, Escher-like suppositions, anchored by the sickening, almost jazzy drumming that rides alongside each of the myriad riffs. But there's something more to the album than mere chaos, a certain degree of calm that claims not only a portion of the album to itself (i.e. "Dearth" or the whipping, post-everything beauty of the closer "Apokatastasis Pantôn"), but also creeps its way into the more intense compositions. Fear not that Deathspell Omega have abandoned the flighty furies that possessed them through the past decade, because this album still spits razors far and wide, but there is a certain curtain of mastery that has been lifted, a dust of spun silk and melancholy that has alighted upon the creators.
'Thy bend their tongues with a long drawn sigh
Licking among the vilest ordure a few drops of hopeful water
They bend their tongues for this divine balm
Remains of an aborted covenant gone astray in desert waste'
In every other category, Paracletus is also fully engaging. This is not just thinking man's metal in its audio impact, but blasphemous poetry given bold new flesh. As usual, Deathspell Omega's lyrics are hypnotic in their doctrine, gorgeous and harsh in their meter, and I had just as much fun reading them as I did listening to the music. Streams of unforgettable imagery are hurled into the explorer's face faster in a single song than most bands can manage across entire albums. Across entire discographies. I felt like Alex from Clockwork Orange, decommissioned to Christ as he was deconditioned to violence through a film cycle. Paracletus is a dystopia born in the decline of divinity, a taunting serpent of the abyss, and it's got no real weakness aside from being so good that you'll hate yourself after. It's fucking overload. And it's raping your mind.