Thursday, August 16, 2012

Deathspell Omega - Drought [2012]

For those few people still ignorant of their existence, Deathspell Omega of France are a three-piece black metal/avant-garde band, formed in 1998, and who have in recent years made a name for themselves as a result of their incredible musical and creative capabilities; “breaking the boundaries,” one could say, of a genre-gone-stale in desperate need of revival. With their tremendous 2010 release “Paracletus,” they even went beyond their own self-set boundaries, firmly cementing themselves as the pioneers of a still-flourishing take on black metal. Two years, a compilation and an EP later, they have come back with a fresh new offering, “Drought,” a reminder of the reason why we (those of us who did) became such avid fans in the first place, and why we should stick around for subsequent releases. Arguably one of the most influential black metal bands of our time, this has been (at least on my part) a highly anticipated release, and DsO did not let down; not in the least. In this release they incorporate an even larger focus on the ambient and post-rock spectrum of their music; all the while demolishing everything in their path.

The soothing yet eerily tranquil piece “Salow Vision” starts off the EP on a relatively slow note, easing you into the whirlwind of brutality that follows with elements evocative of post-rock and a poignancy not often heard in their music with such outpouring of emotion. (A note of similarity can be found here with “Paracletus,” as “Epiklesis I” also kicked that album off rather slowly). “Fiery Serpents,” the next track on the EP, blasts with their trademark sound of dissonance after dissonance, complex structures, and incredibly talented instrumentation for which they have made themselves known. But it’s not until “Scorpions & Drought” that we truly hear the extent to which DsO will go in terms of brutality, technicality and precision, more reminiscent of “Paracletus” than any new deviation in style. As in "Abrasive Swirling Murk," chaotic blast beats driving alongside highly complex structures are heard occasionally, though not nearly as much as in earlier releases; replaced instead by slower drumming and less frantic guitars. And, to my slight dismay, DsO have abandoned--or at least dimished in--the malign and raw evil that their earlier works tended to emit.

The final track on the EP, “The Crackled Book of Life,” closes off the EP with a groovy and--yes, you’re reading it correctly--catchy main riff, and despite its complete lack of anything black metal, it might actually be one of the better tracks off the EP. From start to finish, “Drought” drives through its 20 minutes’ worth of new material with speed and power, and enough dissonance for any DsO fan, not to mention the slower and equally amazing post-rock tracks. But even though quite dramatic changes in pace are heard, it’s hard not to be astonished by the incredible flow and seamlessness with which this EP was written. And, unlike its predecessor “Paracletus,” or, even before that, “Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum,” DsO seem to have opted for coherence rather than the absolute and utter chaos with which the latter was filled. It’s strange, though, that it can all at once be called a substantially brutal release and simultaneously surprise with its not-too-overpowering ambient, post-rock and progressive elements. This EP will easily establish itself as one of the standouts of DsO’s entire discography; a job damn well done.



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