Deathspell Omega is a band of sheer immensity. They incorporate the very essence of the word “bestial” when you listen to them. The technical French black metal unit has been at their schtick since 1998 and is definitely best defined and experienced through three albums they’ve released. I’ll be honest with you readers, I might be in a little over my head here. Deathspell Omega is a band that crafts albums that are pretty much pristine in terms of philosophical value and instrumental execution. Writing this small 1500 word synopsis isn’t going to do these three pieces justice. Bottom line: they need to be experienced and studied. Nevertheless, I feel l cannot just talk about one album entry and feel satisfied; just giving you one would be an incomplete picture. I’d rather you have an idea of the full thing than walk away with only scraps.
Now before I go on I do want everyone to know that when I comes to lyrical interpretations these are pretty much mine. I’ve read around a lot trying to crack the nut of this band but they’re very secretive and although interviews are enlightening, the band states that their albums are to be studied. Artwork included, as it reflects the themes and messages throughout. So if you’re a die hard Deathspell Omega fan don’t freak out if I interpreted something differently than you did. This isn’t what I’d call a minimalistic and/or barebones band.
Initial induction of Deathspell Omega is more reminisce of Darkthrone black metal, though their approach was incredibly solid. The band formed in 1998 and wasn’t exactly considered breakthrough but were by no means looked down upon. It was in 2004 that the band began to approach their music with a new attitude and a greater deal of complexity. Discarding with the absolute raw approach, the first album in a trilogy concerning the relationship between God, Satan and man was entitled (in Latin) Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice, or “If you seek his monument, look around you,” a quote from church architect Christopher Wren (the man responsible for building St. Paul’s Cathedral and many other churches).
Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice is where we deal with the human aspect of the trilogy, though the idea of inner dwellings, mainly God and Satan, and oft times morality. Though the themes of these three bodies are prevalent throughout, the albums feel like they have a stronger focus on one of the three in each album. The lyrics read like prose philosophy spliced with pieces of poetry. Beginning to end the title of the album helps define the idea lyrically and artistically. Each piece expands on the idea of the rejection of Christ and the acceptance of Satan in some form or another. As is read in “Third Prayer”: “Blessed is he that murders Christ in himself and in his fellow men. Amen.” Though of course it isn’t as simple as those few lines.
The album is divided up into three sections with a prayer introducing each one. Originally intended as a 2XLP, the prayers also serve to divide up the CD and digital versions fairly well. It gives the album a sense of balance. Prayer sections are very melodic and moody, adding an air of dread to the abrasiveness. The epic piece (and arguably fourth prayer even though it it is not labeled as so) “Carnal Malefactor” is an especially excellent bit with choral singing that really manages to mellow the mood before exploding into one of the best blasting thrash tracks on the whole album.
The song writing here is extremely impressive, melding melody and aggression in masterstrokes. Those that had heard the older full lengths Infernal Battles and Inquisitors of Satan probably never saw this coming. It took Deathspell Omega two years to write and release Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice and it wasn’t the most technical spectacle the band released but it showed a ton of promise and break from the band’s original form.
Fas – Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum (released in 2007) is the second album in the trilogy showcased a more evolved form for Deathspell Omega. It was like the band stopped and said “that’s it, no more fucking around.” And as much as they weren’t fucking around on Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice, the band really brought the business here. The literal translation of the album being “Divine Law – Go, Accursed, Into Everlasting Fire.” The title is pulled from a Vulgate translation of the Bible verse in Matthew 25:41.
As defined by the artwork, this is the God album, or rather, the fall of Satan from heaven album. The exploration of servitude and breaking away from God, describing him as “the assassination of the abyss of possibilities, the depths of being left to holy vultures” (“Bread of Bitterness”). Perhaps better put in the words of Jonathan Franzen (writing about Philip Roth’s “American Reality”) “. . .as a thing that ‘stupefies . . . sicken[s] . . . infuriates, and finally . . . is even a kind of embarrassment to one’s own meager imagination.’” Regardless of whether you agree with the sentence or not, the idea applies well to the album. There’s a lot of focus on breaking away and pushing towards something darker, something more free. Something that doesn’t require one to spend one’s life bent at the knee. “The idea of Salvation comes, I believe, from one whom suffering breaks apart. He who masters it, on the contrary, needs to be broken, to proceed on the path towards the rupture” (“The Repellent Scars of Abandon and Election”).
What’s also interesting is that there is a Georges Bataittle poem entitled My Mother that is spread throughout the album. It isn’t used in “Obombrations” (a song that both starts and ends the album) however. Pieces of it can be found at the end of every song. The spread of the idea works well too. It applies itself and enhances the material surprisingly well.
Fas – Ite Malediti, In Ignem Aeternum is the album where Deathspell Omega really start to show their technical side. The album is jarring and incredibly assembled in its complexity. This is where comparisons to Dillinger Escape Plan start to pour in. Yes, both bands are amazingly talented and showcase a computer-esque ability to blister through songs with reckless disregard. The best part being nothing feels forced. Tracks like “The Shrine of Mad Laughter” rain hammers and nails down from the skies. It is here that Deathspell Omega officially start to sound inhuman and how perfect that is for the direction the concept has taken.
However, it is with Paracletus that Deathspell Omega really bring the insanity; the final installment in the trilogy, this is one of the most maddening albums on the planet. The title translating to “comforter” or “Holy Spirit.”
I’ve read some people calling Paracletus the trip into the pit for the band and I’m inclined to agree. This is their most evil sounding, complex work. It is dark, persistent, loud, and weaved with mastery. Like the prayer songs of Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice and the poetic stringings in Fas – Ite Malediti In Ignem Aeternum, an eerie melody can be heard scattered throughout the album.
Opening with “Epiklesis I” and a reading from Matthew 12:32, this album is absolutely dismal. The guitar lead, droning bass and drumming sound more like they’re conjuring something rather than just giving us a piece of music; it’s like a swarm of insects are starting to chew throughout the headphones. And this feeling never really goes away throughout. There’s always this buggy feel to the guitar, especially during leads. It’s effective to a harrowing degree.
Everything on Paracletus sounds like it’s working towards something bigger; nothing is wasted and everything has complex structure. Even the blasts don’t just blast. They persist and twist and turn in all sorts of directions. “Have You Beheld the Fevers?” is an excellent example of the band really spinning circles. And that’s one of the more straight forward songs. “Devouring Famine” is another master blaster that spins a thousand webs of riffs and never feels like it’s bullshitting us. It all feels like its falling into perfect place.
Song length has also been significantly chopped down. Nothing crosses the ten minute mark here. And there is absolutely no suffering because of that. Deathspell Omega’s songs weren’t bad when they were hitting over ten minutes but on Paracletus they don’t really need it. In fact, throughout they don’t need any more or less than what they get. This is a very balanced album and some of the finest black metal you’ll ever hear and a perfect ending to the trilogy.
In the end, Deathspell Omega simply needs to be experienced. They craft albums of sheer madness that other bands only talk about writing. They have become one of the most stand out bands in the black metal scene. Their writings are beyond that of simply screaming “SATAN!”. Pieces tend to work out like a math problem or a discussion. I praise them for having a philosophy that is vastly explored and explained. Not to mention writing songs that have incredible complexity that doesn’t sound like forced shit. Some have called them “avant-garde” but that’s just a term some critics like to throw out when they don’t know how to describe something. It’s technical black metal. If you’ve never heard this band before then absolutely check them out.