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Impressive album - but it lacks its own identity - 80%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, December 24th, 2012

Subvertio Deus was a duo based in the Midlands region of England and before the twosome split in 2012, the output was limited to a demo, one studio album and one live album. "Psalms of Perdition" is the studio album and quite a good album it is too, though in style, sound and substance it's very similar to Deathspell Omega: in fact the similarities are so close, the duo are virtually a DSO clone. In a sense that's not a bad comparison as DSO represent a standard that very few black metal bands can hope to reach so for SD to have reached it and in some ways surpassed it is a major achievement; on the other hand, Subvertio Deus should be striving for their own identity and there isn't a great deal on "Psalms ..." that suggests SD have found a distinct personality and style all their own.

Generally the music on offer is very grand and epic in scope, though mostly slower than the French originals who are obviously an inspiration and the benchmark to reach and exceed. There may be a slight doom influence here which must be par for the course for English Midlands bands. The quality production gives the music a massive sound and the feeling of a huge cold space behind it all, and this magnifies the characteristics of the music which include unexpected twists and detours into slow passages where high-pitched lead guitar dominates, or into fast sections where the sheer speed and density of the combined instruments and vocals take on a deranged edge. The theme of the album is given extra weight as a result of the clear sound quality and production. Lyrics are in a mixture of English and Latin and include quotations from the Bible: they appear to deal with the individual's search for God and meaning to life, the travails such a search requires and the understanding it leads to. (The one thing lacking that might give SD's music an extra edge would be a touch of experimental jazz improv - but the result would end up too much like DSO!)

After a very impressive instrumental opener, the album launches into the first major piece "I" which is equally strong and features very deep, almost death metal guttural vocals. This is a complex track that alternates fast and slow passages and can be very dense sonically yet features plenty of cavernous space and screaming background voices. Follow-up "II" begins with a repetitive riff loop that comes back again and again and this at least anchors the track. A short interlude intervenes and then it's back to business with "III": this track features some folk-like squiggly lead guitar melodies and a melancholy air is sometimes found in slower parts of the track. "IV" is a memorable track for a dark ambient section filled with black echoing percussion and voices that verges on blackened industrial. Again, there is a lot of anguished screaming and some very repetitive (and sometimes annoying) lead guitar riff loops.

The tracks lack individuality but they are after all chapters in a major opus. The thing you come away with is how very complex the music can be, how majestic yet often heartfelt it is. The musicians definitely had ambition and musical potential to spare and their model and inspiration DSO was and is a hard one to match. If only SD could have developed a more individual style and did not put so much of their energy into aping DSO in themes as well as music, they might still be active. The band's guitar sound in particular seems no different from DSO's sound.