Being an admitted and avowed fan of Dødheimsgard can put you in the crosshairs of hypocrisy, especially if you’re like me and you’ve gone on record numerous times in numerous locations pooh-poohing those bands who treat song writing convention, musical flow and structure as an inconvenience or afterthought.
Since they first placed their black stomping boots in the starting block as an ordinary and conventional black metal outfit – that still wasn’t as ordinary and conventional as ordinary convention dictated – back in 1995 with Kronet til Konge, the “mansion of death” has been a band that has shaken, stirred and splayed metal all over the bar. And the floor. And didn’t bother wiping it up as it seeped under the floorboards. When they replaced those black stomping boots for floppy clown shoes and acrobat slippers on 1999’s esoteric landmark, 666 International, it was like the dots were being connected with laser-pointed accuracy between the snow-capped cabins of Oslo and the overpriced, wind-whipped lofts of San Francisco from where the first Mr. Bungle album emerged.
Dødheimsgard have never failed to deliver challenging listens that require the listener’s time to delve into and absorb, and things are no different on this latest album. They scramble the song smithing craft to include packaged pieces nabbed from other genres and sub-genres which then explode at random moments like dye-packs in sacks of cash freshly stolen from a bank. DHG is indescribably twisted beyond anything that regular humans should be able to twist themselves around. In fact, the first thing I’m going to do when I win the lottery is pay whoever I have to pay to get the Norwegian weirdos in a room with the professional song writers-for-hire who softball the public whatever predictable and milquetoast crap is on mainstream radio these days. Everyone's marching orders will be to work together and see what comes out the ass-end. All while the reality television cameras roll and capture the conflict. Who’s with me?
The beautiful/terrible thing is that there exists a certain amount (read: a whole fucking lot) of directionless movement in their music. It’s the same sort of meandering overly technical death metal and Dillinger rip-off bands will get critically lambasted for; for not paying attention to the flow of a song, for throwing structure out the window in the name of technical flash and showing off how many Chet Baker records they've heard in passing. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi, as they say, about how and why DHG can make it work when others can’t. The difference is that DHG isn’t trying to do anything but tear down the barriers, juxtapose the disparate and create a non-linearity, and it’s so its true heart and soul that it comes out in a musical mess that’s gets less messy with repeated spins. That’s not to say that every move made on A Umbra Omega is of smooth angularity and logical sense. Good luck if you can tell where any one of the six songs on album number five begins and ends. It’s better to digest the album in chunks, chunks which you can select and dissect yourself to fit your own needs and wants. The songs are between 11 and 15 minutes and it’s somewhat easier to experience this like a classical concerto, breaking things down in dynamic movements and shifts. There’s loads of black metal to be had, as there is a velvety gothic hum, clanging industrial, shimmery post-punk, saxophone-massaged smooth jazz, atmospheric Norse metal, carny barking and anything else you care to mention with everything being wrenched beyond the pale. Lest we forget the variety of benchmark worship – Skinny Puppy, Swans, Godflesh, Skin Chamber, Joy Division, Aphex Twin, Foetus, James Plotkin, Bill Laswell, John Zorn, Emperor, Laibach, Blind Idiot God…all ingredients used and somewhat abused, to the point where the well of output becomes near-bottomless.
Over time, drummer/guitarist/vocalist/mainman Yusaf “Vicotnik” Parvez has employed half the country of Norway within DHG’s ranks which, by default, means more than half the nations’ bands have rotated through the band’s revolving door. These days, it’s as motley a crew as ever with Parvez’s voice spanning the globe of his ability in telling what appears to be the sort of psychedelic space-age road novel Kerouac might have written were he an ardent believer in ancient religions and working on his particle physics Ph.D. Previous DHG albums have been built by piling additional layers of whatever sounds have made it into the influence banks. A Umbra Omega is no different except that nothing gets left behind in the process of more being added. This could be the only album you listen to for the entirety of 2015 and you’ll still be discovering elements and wondering how and why…yeah, just how and why, man.