Deathspell Omega

Drought

01. Salowe Vision
02. Fiery Serpents
03. Scorpions & Drought
04. Sand
05. Abrasive Swirling Muck
06. The Crackled Book Of Life

[07/03/12]
[Season of Mist]

French black metal enigmas Deathspell Omega not only helped to innovate the genre, they transcend it as well. Their sound, while rooted in black metal bands such as Mayhem and Marduk, also delves into sludge, prog, and even shades of hardcore. Their unique melding of sounds puts them at an advantageous position at the forefront of a movement, becoming the source of emulation over the years by the likes of Dodecahedron, Smohalla, and likely a handful of others yearning to make a racket in the underground avant-garde scene. The group continues their trend of weirdening up the genre with their succinct new EP Drought.

Clocking in at around twenty minutes in length, Drought is one of the shortest releases by Deathspell yet. On past works, it wasn’t uncommon to find ridiculously long and sprawling tracks that approach and reach past the ten-minute mark; Drought on the other hand never sees the band travel past five minutes per track. Some might approach the brevity of Drought with the worry that the band have “dumbed down” or made some drastic change away from their established sound, but these fears are quickly put to rest as the ominous, slow churning introduction ‘Salowe Vision‘ gives way to the technical and ferociously bleak ‘Fiery Serpents.’

If anything, the shorter runtime does more to highlight Deathspell’s strengths. While fans of the band’s slower and more unsettling atmospherics may find something missing with Drought, these tracks are much more concise and coherent, made all the better without the meandering that made their previous efforts so hard for some to digest.  In fact, Deathspell Omega by their very nature are much easier to listen to in short bursts. The band’s penchant for absurdly dense and chaotic atmosphere mirrors that of grindcore at times, and while Deathspell Omega are more musically progressive than your average grindcore band, they are a fatiguing listen nonetheless.

Drought is every bit as chaotic and steeped in the unsettling as ever for Deathspell, and yet it is a slight change of pace for the group, coming off of a fulfilled trilogy of records that ended with 2010’s Paracletus. As the title suggest, Drought is much more barren than previous outings. Their razor-wire guitar tone and general disregard for structure and linearity has garnered them the comparison as the Dillinger Escape Plan of black metal, and the description fits well enough, what with the gritty atmosphere and unorthodox technical musicianship that is more concerned with chaos and dissonance. Look no further than ‘Abrasive Swirling Muck’ for a perfect summation of the current Deathspell sound in both name and aesthetic.

The shifting and rusty grooves eventually do bow out of a mode of assault and transform into something mournful during ‘The Cracked Book Of Life,’ ending Drought‘s air of blight with a flooding dirge of melody that strangely manages to evoke a greater sense of doom than the preceding moments of cacophony. It’s almost as if the music documents a lifeless desert until the only sign of flourishing life is discovered, and it winds up being the flowers blooming out of the peyote that sends the listener into madness. A great use of dynamic; saving the burst of melody for key moments makes those moments much more powerful.

It’s a shame that this band is so adamant about never playing live or giving interviews, because given the traditional route of press and touring, Deathspell Omega would be considered metal hierarchy by now. Then again, Deathspell are anything but traditional and their legacy seems to be growing just fine based solely on the merits of their music. Drought is further evidence that these Frenchmen are not to be taken lightly. Intense and punishing, Drought just may be one of the greatest black metal releases of 2012.

Deathspell Omega – Drought gets…

4/5

– JR

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