So much black metal wants to be taken seriously; Deathspell Omega actually deserves such scrutiny. At first, this secretive French outfit seems pretentious. Long Latin titles swathe its albums; portentous choirs pervade its songs. But these add up to more than T-shirt pentagrams. Deathspell Omega's music and metaphysics are complex and well thought-out. Comprehending them is another matter, but at least they engender trying.
For a while, Deathspell Omega played traditional, blasting black metal (2002's Inquisitors of Satan is a fine exposition of the old style). In 2004, the band matured considerably with Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice. Its speed and scope diversified with drones and jangly dissonance. Its brand of Satanism also became much more nuanced. Instead of knee-jerk blasphemy, the lyrics incorporated the ritualistic atmosphere and language of Catholicism (hence the Latin) – an inverted but similarly spiritual take on Christianity.
The Kénôse EP in 2005 went further. Twisting dissonance and furious blastbeats underpinned roaring vocals, which probed the divine and human nature of God. The record was, to put it mildly, a massive headfuck. It remains one of black metal's most towering, forward-thinking edifices today.
Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum (Latin for "By divine law, go, you cursed, into the eternal fire") continues on this path. It isn't as startlingly revolutionary as its antecedents. However, that's because Deathspell Omega has leapt so far ahead of its contemporaries that the only footsteps it can follow are its own.
The ingredients are the same, but the presentation has streamlined. The production is slightly more polished now. It's hardly slick, but the jangly dissonance glints eerily. Discordant runs dart about like lizards. The band is often prone to half-speed, almost post-punk passages. Blastbeats are still copious, but the drums are just as askew as the guitars. The tumbling rhythms of "The Shrine of Mad Laughter" suggest Cryptopsy. In fact, Deathspell Omega is to black metal what Cryptopsy is to death metal – a forceful, but sideways attack.
The equation of God and Satan is greater than ever in the lyrics. Hell is "not a fall into the abyss." Instead, it is "the defiance of descent, a coronation beyond liberty and slavery." Purity comes not from "supplication without response," but from "illumination by a sun of great evil that sets aflame the inner core." The band likens light to utter darkness, yet it wonders, "Am I deranged?" Probably yes, and all the better for it.
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