Review : Deathspell Omega - Drought EP
SputnikmusicThe Earth is shaking once again in France. It's only been two (pretty damn meager) years since the French progressive black metal act Deathspell Omega (abbreviated as DsO) fired up the scene with Paracletus, their sixth and most devastating take on the genre yet. This masterful record was created mostly by the band carefully refining their trademark sound which consists of a very dense, heavy atmosphere being fused with strong, technical instrumentation. This led, as said, to devastating results but also raised the bar for the quality of the band's future recordings to a nearly unattainable level. Now, DsO wouldn't be DsO if they wouldn't keep finding new ways to expand upon their sound without betraying its core elements. And so, after those two long years of waiting for a new round of soul-crushing tunes, they finally released their new EP Drought, which marks another important turning point in the developing of the band's sound.
Drought, as impressive as it may be as a standalone effort, can and should not be viewed separately from the band's previous LP. Because, as distinctively different as they sound on certain moments like the groove-inspired mellowness of the album's opener 'Salowe Vision', so similar they sound on key tracks like 'Fiery Serpents' and 'Scorpions and Drought', where the band's ferociousness and technical precision take the songs to a higher level in a seemingly effortless way. By that I mean that one can easily imagine people having become used to DsO kicking things up to such a level that their fans have pretty much become accustomed to it. It can be easy to overlook how much effort actually goes into this kind of complicated songwriting.
A special mention goes to what might be the biggest surprise on this EP, the epic closer 'The Crackled Book of Life'. This instrumental track features an amazing combination of frightening violin strokes with down-tuned distorted guitar riffs which, when put together, end up creating what might be the best thing DsO have created to date. It surely shows that they still have a few more tricks up their sleeves that don't require high-speed drumming or highly technical guitar playing. It's good that the album ends on such a high note, because 'The Crackled Book of Life' has to make up for the only low point on the album: 'Abrasive Swirling Murk'. This song waddles in mediocrity and is only saved by a mildly entertaining guitar riff halfway through the song which, strangely enough, sounds like it came straight from Enslaved's latest album, Axioma Ethica Odini....full text
HeavymetalDeathspell Omega are, without a doubt, the most successful Orthodox black metal act at remaining shrouded in secrecy and mystique. All releases from the band are looked upon as major events, whether a full-length album, or an EP in between full-lengths, a common practice for Deathspell Omega.
2010’s Paracletus, their last proper full-length, landed near or at the top of many reviewers’ album of the year lists; therefore, the release of Deathspell Omega’s new EP Drought is highly anticipated. Consisting of six songs with a total length of just over 21 minutes, Drought is a continuation of the style displayed on Paracletus: a rather clean guitar and bass tone, and a songwriting approach that alternates from nearly progressive and/or doom-laden guitar and bass interludes to the swirling chaos of disjointed, all out blasts.
Though a relatively short release with short songs, each song somehow manages to feel complete and compelling, a hallmark of Deathspell Omega’s songwriting approach; albeit an approach that generally employs longer songs on full-length albums....full text
PitchforkDeathspell Omega probably don't spend too much time on sales strategies. Resistant to interviews and elusive of identification, the mysterious French metal shapeshifters are too cloaked to be marketed and too complex to be defined. They splice their orthodox satanic/philosophical black metal surge and cavernous math-rock contortion with enviable technical skills and forcefulness, slamming disjointed parts into one another hard enough for the joints to yield to their will. For the last decade, they've made some of the most fitful and demanding heavy records in the world-- including 2004's Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice and 2007's Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum-- and they've gone out of their way to not be overexposed. They don't play live or do press kits.
But Deathspell Omega did smartly elect to follow 2010's Paracletus-- a masterpiece full-length of aggressive misdirection and instant, infinite tangents-- with two EPs, last year's one track Diabolus Absconditus and this year's Drought, a six-song, 23-minute short that is comparatively slight in both scope and power. Consider this a sacrificial effort, then, since most anything that chased Paracletus might have felt like a letdown. Drought certainly does, thanks mostly to its stature and structure. The six parts themselves are good, but they're pieced together clumsily. The lengthy instrumentals that serve as bookends seem simply tacked on, surrounding the other four tracks rather than frame them. Opener "Salowe Vision" begins with patience and texture that suggests the intricate paths of Brise-Glace, as bowed cymbals slink through decaying riffs and gales of background noise. The track builds toward post-rock glory but stops just short of the expected payoff, flatly fading into "Fiery Serpents". At least the chaser is itself exhilarating: Built by repeating short rhythmic and melodic phrases and then letting them implode, "Fiery Serpents" subtly reimagines the lessons of minimalism within a black metal blunderbuss, a notion not entirely removed from the band that started a firestorm of stateside "troo believers" last year.
The abrupt jerk between the first two tracks reflects the real problem with Drought, which, unlike Paracletus, isn't long enough to sweep you into its tide of spasticity or well-built enough to maintain the momentum it sometimes lassoes. The 100-second "Sand", for instance, plods behind a repetitive riff, settling into a groove suitable for watching the guitars work overhead; but goofy, ghoulish multi-tracked vocals steal the spotlight just as soon as it's noticed. And just as soon as those have set in, the song-- which feels mostly like an undeveloped bauble, or something the band just had to fit in somewhere-- cuts to "Abrasive Swirling Murk", another no-transition jump deep into non sequitur. Closer "The Crackled Book of Life" is a brisk instrumental, built on a riff that multiplies until, true to Deathspell Omega anti-form, the song opens into a midsection of glowing keyboards and piercing countermelodies. When Deathspell Omega return for a final, full-volume take on the theme, it feels like a victory lap that's neither deserved nor necessary. It's the simplistic bow on a package that was never very neat at all....full text
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