Tech Black/Death Thursday
I know what you are thinking. “Wait, you’re not Jack Bauer? Where the hell is Jack Bauer?! And Deathspell Omega aren’t tech death?! Pssh.”
Let me handle this sequentially. 1). Jack Bauer is hunting ISIS and snapping necks with his bare hands. Badass anti-terrorism shit that you wouldn’t even believe. He once killed a drone by throwing a terrorist at it. Trve story. 2). DsO are pretty tech. Their sound is rooted in dissonant death metal with flourishes of black metal. And 3.) Fuck off with the inquisition.
I, your illustrious President-to-be, Howard Dean, am stepping in for Monsieur Bauer this week. I’m here to play Virgil. I’m going to take you on a journey to hell and back. Because that’s exactly what Deathspell Omega is: perdition embodied. Deathspell Omega conjure every ounce of wickedness, scorn, fear, hopelessness, and death extant in the human condition, and they manifest it in pure auditory dread. They do not care if you are comfortable, happy, having fun, or entertained. They do not care if you believe or if you don’t believe. You are human and you will suffer. You will sup on brimstone and sleep in hell fire. This is not up to you. The decisions are not yours to make.
“The gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction.”
Some of you will hate it. That’s fine. In the world of Deathspell Omega, whether you like it or not is inconsequential. In its limitations and vanity, the human consciousness is a child throwing a tantrum, haplessly beating its tiny fists against barriers that will never yield.
As you may have guessed by now, I’m a bit of fan. For the sake of (relative) brevity and sanity (a.k.a. to keep you motherfuckers reading), I am not going to go into every bit of Deathspell Omega’s history, nor will I expound upon every rumor or half-truth circling the interwebs. But I think you newcomers need a bit of a background.
To be honest, there isn’t too much to know about the band itself. The relative secrecy, inaccessibility, and aura of the unknown around the current band is legendary in itself. We really don’t know anything concrete about the band’s members. It was formed as a side project by two members of the now defunct band Hirilorn sometime in the late 1990s. We know Mikko Aspa, prolific Finnish musician and fetish pornographer, is their current vocalist. Their old vocalist, Shaxul, is a fixture in the French black metal underground and is an unabashed “grumpy old metalhead.” A man under the pseudonym Khaos, who once played live with the Japanese band Barbatos, is supposedly the bassist. No one has any idea who the insanely talented drummer is, and some even believe it’s a drum machine (with perhaps the best drum programming ever). And the main man behind the project, Hasjarl, is perhaps the most confounding of them all. His name might be Christian Bouche, and he might be a 35 year old man from Poitiers, France who owns and operates a real estate company called SCI Hiltrud. But he might not be. It can’t be confirmed. He is, however, the owner/operator of End All Life Productions, as well as one of the key figures in Norma Evangelium Diaboli, DsO’s label. But what do we know about Norma Evangelium Diaboli (aside from their excellent taste in bands)? Not a whole helluva lot. They don’t run social media pages, they do not do press releases, and they update their webpage once or twice a year to announce a new release (as of 1/21/15, their page hasn’t been updated since April of 2014).
Deathspell Omega have released 1 demo, 5 studio albums, 5 EPs, 6 splits, and 2 compilations. Their latest full length, the masterful Paracletus, was released in 2010. It completed a trinity of concept albums that began with 2004’s Si monvmentvm reqvires, circvmspice and that continued with 2007’s Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum. Their future is uncertain. They released the terrific EP Drought in the summer of 2012, but have not been heard from since. For more information about Deathspell Omega and their discography, check HERE and HERE.. To read the only interview with the band since their reformation/restyling, and to gain a better understanding of their beliefs, read THIS.
“Lungs filled with embers and regurgitating boiling blood, I say praise the Lord, praise!
O servants of the Lord; We will sing a new song to thee, O God:
A psaltery of thirteen Stations, may scoria bury Eden and blind the light of hope.”
With these words–this promise–Deathspell Omega begin their 2004 album Si monvmentvm reqvires, circvmspice. And with this album, DsO began singing a decidedly new song. Abandoning a past of primitive Satanism set in a frame of second wave black metal, DsO charged forward, breaking new ground. Their first two albums, 2000’s Infernal Battles and 2002’s Inquisitors of Satan, as well as early demos, splits, and compilations, were straight out of early 90s Oslo. Though they were well composed, they were nothing new. But by 2004, the band had changed. And it was a completely new paradigm. Gone were the icy Scandinavian tremolos, the Darkthrone melodies, and the crude, rudimentary Satanism. In their place, a monster was birthed. Dissonant, ugly guitars playing unusual chords, ferocious vocals, choral chanting, and inhuman drumming were the core of the new DsO sound. Their music actually sounds like damnation. Thematically, DsO embraced the void in ways never before seen. Theirs is a decidedly religious devilworship, a fervent, fatiguing devotion to unlocking the metaphysical truths. Duty bound to this task, they trudged forward, using every religious and philosophical text at their disposal to forge a malformed truth of sorts from primordial matter and gravemould.
Click play on the track above, and let that mood sink in. Let those eerie sounds settle. At 1:24, we get the first of the choral lines. It sounds like a backmasked Edith Piaf vocal track. The warbly, unnerving chorus continues throughout. What language is that? I don’t know. It could be Enochian, for all we know. And then the skipping, stuttering guitars. Like a rusty squeezebox. What are we in for?
Relentless, uncompromising hell. At nearly 78 minutes in length, Si monvmentvm… is an exercise in endurance and perverse masochism. It is grotesque. And musically, it is tech. In tracks like “Sola Fide I” and “Carnal Malefactor,” DsO unleash discordance and dissonance in wave upon uncompromising wave. This is a hard album to digest. DsO’s legacy of chaotic, difficult black/death metal married to a theistic ideology was hatched with this album.
What we get with Deathspell Omega is longform, dissonant death metal with all the style and accoutrements that befit the evilest black metal. We get odd structuring, bizarre patterns, spazzy guitar riffs and immense drum fills. We get songs like the three that make up 2005’s Kénôse, a whopping 36 minute EP that leaves the listener a dizzy-headed, mouth breathing shit-stain on the ass of existence.
“Everything, except God, has in itself some measure of privation, thus all individuals may be graded according to the degree to which they are infected with mere potentiality.”
Kénôse is considered by many fans to be DsO’s best work, their high water mark, the perfect blend of the technical and songwriting/atmosphere. This is selling the band short on several fronts. The band’s technical prowess/wizardry would peak with 2007’s Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, and DsO would write and release their opus–their crowning achievement–in the form of 2010’s Paracletus, HD’s favorite album of all time, and one of the best albums ever made–period.
Though it clocks in at a more digestible 46 minutes, Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum is an extremely demanding album. With this album, Hasjarl and company really bring the technical madness–what the youth metal culture today is referring to as “skronk.” Tracks like “The Shrine of Mad Laughter” and “Bread of Bitterness” are dizzying with their technicality. Still skeptical? Skip to the 30 second mark below and prepare to have your face melted by the unholy weirdness:
To be honest, Deathspell Omega ruined most dissonant metal/skronk for me. They did so by being so much better than everyone else out there–by combining tech death, dissonant death metal, and orthodox black metal and beating each of those respective scenes at their own game. It’s not by mistake that Luc Lemay, frontman of Gorguts and one of the godfathers of tech/skronk, cites DsO and their guitarist Hasjarl as a huge influence in his playing and personal favorite of his (he can also be spied wearing a DsO shirt at several concerts and in many photo shoots). SOURCE
How did Deathspell Omega achieve the apex of the tech/dissonant/skronk world, even though 99% of metalheads wouldn’t even classify them as belonging to that style? Was it by playing faster? By shredding? By sweeping to their black heart’s content? By recording guitar tracks at half speed and speeding them up in post-production? Fuck no! They did it by properly blending technical metal music with emotion, with atmosphere, and with soul. They did it by sharpening the chaos, by honing it into a deadly, pointed tool with purpose and intent. This isn’t chaotic blasting and guitar masturbation for the hell of it. These are songs with emotion, songs that feel like they have a purpose. Say what you will of religion in metal, but a devotion and deep belief tends to make the music more gratifyingly intense and purposeful. When a man has a cause and he stands behind it with all of his person, he puts every bit of himself into it. With Deathspell Omega, that’s what you get.
“Come, Thou Sanctifier, almighty and eternal God,
And bless this sacrifice prepared for the glory of Thy Holy Name.”
On no album do Deathspell Omega do it better than on Paracletus. This is quite possibly the best album ever made. A complete album, top-to-bottom. It even has a perfect album cover that beautifully portrays what horrors are to come. I could write a multi-volume diatribe on this album. I’ve listened to this album more than any other in my library. 9 times out of 10, when I click play on the first track, “Epiklesis I,” I tend to stick around and listen to the entire album. This is a biblical plague of an album, perfectly shaped and crafted into a manageable 42-minute package. Acting more as segments of one single movement, the 10 tracks move seamlessly into one another, and come together with a single purpose: to remind you that you are tiny, fallible, finite, and worthless, and that you should cower before the sheer magnitude of death and the endless void.
Some tracks, like “Wings of Predation,” “Phosphene,” and “Devouring Famine,” disorient with their stuttering, almost math-y guitar riffs. Interspersed are moments of pause, like the solemn buildup and spoken word French lyrics in “Dearth,” and the jangly, nervous chords that begin both “Epiklesis II” and the closing track, “Apokatastasis Panton.””Abscission,” a beautiful track, begins with an odd, off-kilter guitar riff before hitting a sorrowful break a few minutes in. At the end of the track, a manic surge of energy sends the guitars wild, the drums pounding, and the vocals twisting and contorting into a mix of shouts, screams, shrieks, and growls. This is a must listen:
It’s difficult for me to express in words what Paracletus means to me, and how I really feel about it. For me, this is the album that has tarnished so many others, that has caused me to disregard albums I may have otherwise enjoyed. It’s that good to me.
And Deathspell Omega as a band is that good. When I get a new tech/dissonant/skronk band recommended to me, this is why I tend to not like it. Because Deathspell Omega have already done it better and more completely. I’m jaded. It’s hard for me to spend time listening to something inferior when I already own the entire discography of a band that is just plain better.
I wish I were a musician, and that I had a better grasp of music and theory and all that jazz (pun most definitely intended, motherfuckers). I could probably explain the music of Deathspell Omega better if I understood exactly what I was hearing. But I am a layman metalhead with a penchant for hyperbole and longwindedness. This is how I explain it: with maniacal rambling. Thanks for taking this long, painful ride with me.
“You were seeking strength, justice, splendour! You were seeking love!
Here is the pit, here is your pit! Its name is SILENCE…”
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but so much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”