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Deathspell Omega, though never an interesting band, had made some competent black metal. And then, on this album, they suddenly changed their music to "Orthodox," or theistic, which is basically CHRISTIAN, "black" metal. And this album, while becoming THE album representative of the "Orthodox black metal" movement, also seems to get a lot of praise as a masterpiece of "intelligent" black metal. Hahahahahahaha. NO. This shit is the complete antithesis of intelligence. I am genuinely perplexed to see how many people think this is actually intellectual. Are they so mindless to think that if you throw in random Latin lyrics, you are intellectual?
So... exactly why is this so fucking stupid? It should be obvious if you have a brain. This pile of shit is about theism. They think God, named "Satan" in this case, actually exists. There is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of God, and it takes an extraordinary amount of idiocy or a continual brainwashing starting from childhood in order for someone to believe in a nonexistent invention of ancient human ignorance. In fact, I cannot even be sure if the members of Deathspell Omega actually believe in Satan as a deity. It sounds totally absurd, because if you hate Christianity enough to play black metal, you should be able to see through the bullshit that religion managed to make the herd of mindless lambs believe in. Anyway, whatever their intention was - making music genuinely based on their bullshit belief or trying to get attention by faking theism - this is completely stupid.
There were many black metal bands that have invoked the name of Satan. But those were metaphorical. Satan was representative of anti-establishment and anti-Christian attitude, and liberation from the ignorance of religion. Gaahl, when asked in an all-too-famous interview about what the thing that fuels his music is, replied "Satan," and then when he was asked about what Satan is representative of, answered "freedom." Indeed, black metal is about freedom and the strength of individuals, as opposed to the Christian submission to the supreme power of God. Here, it is the exact opposite. This is authoritarian, demanding a lack of coherent thinking, and this follows the Bible and God. This is basically Christian music, only with the word "God" sometimes replaced by "Satan." (They actually directly refer to Satan as "God," too, at times.) This is not about becoming powerful and being the master. This is about servitude to God, being his slave. This is not black metal - this is Christian music.
This is Christian music, and a successful one at being that (even if it is a failure as a piece of music). No Christian could have put it better - this whole thing reeks of religious fanaticism of the utmost level. The speaker in these lyrics is really a mirror image of a devout Christian fanatic - words such as faith, holy, father and son, baptism, and divine are frequently used, and there is even a line which reads "holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty." Sure, a large number of pioneering black metal bands, including Gorgoroth itself (though Gaahl was not one of the founding members anyway), incorporated theistic language into their music. Satan, devil-worship, rituals, Nordic gods, ... However, those bands did not mean it literally, and expressed anti-Christian ideals through such language. But Deathspell Omega's lyrics mean it. They mean theism. They express Christian thoughts. Satan himself, while being portrayed in a very Christian perspective as the "corruptor and pervertor," is also very reminiscent of the Christian God here, demanding submission from his followers. And there are some exceptionally atrocious lines. Who but a Christian would utter the words "let no human knowledge impeach Divine Truths?" How could anybody even think of claiming this album to be intellectual? It is not merely stupid, but anti-intellectual. This almost seems like it is marketed for the church, to aid them in the quest of brainwashing children into fearing Satan and believing in God. Indeed, if I were a priest, I would use this CD as such a device; play this to the children, tell them this is what Satanists made after hearing the calling of Satan and that only through God can you be salvaged from dying from the hands of those merciless Satanists who are the root of all evil, or something along those lines. And this album would make sense to priests, because this follows the exact same line of thinking as the Christians, just with certain words replaced with their antonyms. And the music itself is very suiting to these concepts.
Right from the beginning of the album, you get a prayer. Yes, this is supposedly a black metal album, and they wrote songs for prayer - and this is not the typical usage of prayers in black metal as in "a-Christian prays-and-then-the-army-of-black-metal-storms-with-riffs-to-destroy-it" type of thing. This is Deathspell Omega itself praying. Why the fuck would any blakc metalhead want to hear a fucking prayer? Prayers make me cringe in real life, and it is no different here. The prayer is in reverse, yes, but that still cannot save it. It just shows how shallow the mindset behind the music is - "let¡¯s just do everything Christians do, but in reverse!" This album is really anything but intellectual. And this prayer is used thrice throughout the album, in different forms. All of them are annoying bullshit.
However, these prayers are musically speaking better than the actual songs. Not because they are good, of course not. It is because the actual songs are utterly boring crap. The riffs are technical, at least by black metal standards. You can hear that the guitarist is pretty busy picking all those chords and tremolo notes. Add some arpeggios. But the riffs have nothing to grab your attention except for annoyance. They appear to be disjointed even within a single riff, and there seem to be a bit of toying with complex or irregular rhythmic variations, but when it does appear it just annoys the listener, rather than really achieving anything. The hazy guitar tone with little distortion is another problem - it makes the riffs less recognizable and gives the album a frustrating atmosphere. The vocals, which are lower-pitched than standard black metal vocals (though these are not complete death-growls), frustrate the listener as well. The overall music is very nebulous without much of an emphasis on anything. This might come off as inoffensive to the untrained listener, and hence my comment on its marketability to Christian priests. But of course, this is very offensive to the ears of a black metalhead.
Technical indeed, compared to most black metal bands. But is this really compositionally complex? It is often made out to be one of this album¡¯s "intelligent" aspects, in addition to the lyrics. While the composition here is not exactly the apex of stupidity that the lyrics are, it is still far from intelligent. Either there is not much of a complexity to begin with, or it is done so subtly that it is basically unrecognizable - both amount to the same thing: boringness. And even if we assume that this is a very complex work, it still does not make this a masterpiece of any sort. There were many bands that preceded and did better with complex compositions. Abigor is a prime example of this. That band actually achieved something by interesting contrast of two guitars and incorporating a variety of very progressive song structures. Lunar Aurora is another great example. Deathspell Omega does nothing interesting. The riffs are technical but technicality does not make for good music. The bass guitar seems to be doing some work independent of the guitar, but it is nothing in comparison to truly masterful basswork like that of Nagelfar's Srontgorrth. The songs do not progress - just a collection of riffs, which are not high in either quality or quantity, without any climax - and each song is not very distinguishable from another. This is a critical flaw for an album that aims to be artsy and complex, because if you are just going for cool three-chord riffs and headbangingability, just putting same idea in every song and a simple song structure for each of those is going to work given that the riffs are awesome and the vocalist rocks, but not when it has none of the "fun" stuff - and this album has even less fun than pretty much any album that tries to be sophisticated. There is nothing that grabs your attention immediately (except for the prayers of course, which are totally repulsive), and no musical appreciation is brought even after multiple listens. A complete failure, this is.
All this atrocity is not the end. This is already crappy and offensive, but Deathspell Omega just had to prove their Christianity, as if the prayers were not enough. Yes, Carnal Malefactor features four fucking minutes of monk chants. Absolutely no guitars, no drums, no bass, no harsh vocals - just clean Christian hymns. They may be singing "blasphemous" lyrics, but the words are hard to recognize and the lyrics still suck anyway. This is just downright in-your-face utterly offensive suckage. No adjective can describe this... well, there is one: Christian.
Again, this is not black metal, although musically it may be considered to share certain similarities with some black metal bands. Black metal is thoroughly anti-Christian, and you cannot truly oppose something while espousing its core ideas. An Islamic fundamentalist who claims to be thoroughly anti-Christian is in essence only mimicking a Christian fundamentalist. And Deathspell Omega is in the same league as those people. An attempt to incorporate theism in black metal is an exercise in futility. To accept an assumption given without any evidence, and furthermore, to kneel before, succumb, and worship the assumed deity - it is clearly opposed to everything black metal stands for. When the ideology expressed through a work is directly contradictory to its aesthetics, it loses all its merits. The part of this album resembling black metal is a failure on two levels - the aesthetics have no value, and it is conflicting with the ideals it is conveying. The Christian part, such as the prayers, does hold some form of value, but a clearly negative one. Thus, Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice is at the nadir of anything imaginable in the field of art.
Black metal is about Satan. And yes, Deathspell Omega worships Satan, the enemy of Christianity. However, that amounts to nothing when the object of worship is nonexistent. Black metallers should believe in Satan. But Satan is the personified ideals of anti-Christianity, not the character appearing on the world's best-selling fiction. Black metallers should not submit to Satan. They should become Satan themselves. Black metal is about Satan, but it is not about throwing in the word "Satan." Just because one invokes the name of Satan does not mean that it is truly Satanic. One can complete Satan's work (and this is in a metaphorical way) with or without directly referring to his name, and one can be serving the will of Yahweh and Jesus with or without using the word "Satan." Deathspell Omega's Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice is a case in which the word "Satan" is used to serve Yahweh. And indeed, it is quite successful, in that it deceived a lot of "black metalheads" into thinking that worshipping a biblical deity is "cool" and "true."
Indeed, this is not just simply another Christian "black" metal act. This is worse than any straightforward Christian "black" metal, because this utter bullshit is masquerading as the "new black metal that is pushing the boundaries and will save black metal, taking it to another level." Complete bullshit. This is Christian metal, disguised in the name of "Satan," appealing to the mindless sheep that cannot grasp the idea of what real black metal is. This is built upon bullshit ideology, with no musical substance that will make it worthy of a listen. This, along with the entire "Orthodox black metal" garbage, should be forgotten. THIS is the worst offense black metal can ever receive, not Christian "black" metal. Theism has no place in black metal, and theistic bands cannot be called black metal no matter how much they try to emulate the aesthetics of black metal. One can only guess whether they are genuine about their faith in Satan as a deity or just in for the money and fame. But one thing is clear: those theistic bands are highly reprehensible either way. The "Orthodox" trend should be eradicated.
Again, I repeat: this is not black metal. This is Christian music.