Deathspell Omega have never sounded this violent and unsettling. On a cursory listen, the utter chaos of this album renders it impenetrable. Not since Fas – Ite Maledice… have the band rejoiced so much in the discordant noise of their craft. Just 29 minutes long, there are so many eerie, dissonant riffs colliding with each other, the drumming is so varied and intense, that it can seem totally overwhelming and impossible to make sense of. But on a much more careful listen the album’s complexity and depth begins to reveal itself.
Though it demands a very patient and experienced listener to understand, this album is actually very carefully composed. What might first seem like a completely disorganised mess is in fact a master-class in organised, controlled chaos. The deeply unsettling guitarwork builds tension and releases, utilising small details like layered descending arpeggios and presumably multi-tracked guitars, with the percussion working on tandem to maintain the furious assault. The dark melodies the band are known for are still here, they just demand that you actively engage in listening for them. There are dozens of great riffs, motifs and ideas throughout this album, helping make these songs memorable rather than just blurs of chaos.
The centrepiece of the album is ‘Onward Where Most With Ravin I May Meet’, by far the longest song here. It’s an incredible piece of music, and contains some of their most memorable guitarwork by far. There’s a passage about two thirds of the way through in particular whose sombre, dissonant beauty overwhelms, while the tortured, inhuman growls unsettle in equal measure. Shifting into an off-kilter, lumbering pace accentuated by the bass guitar, the song takes on an utterly demented feel, before returning to the trademark chaos of discordant, tremolo-picked guitars.
There is still much room for debate about the lyrical and conceptual facets of the album. But the band seem to have moved away from Christian theology as a vehicle for their Satanism and instead adopted the vocabulary of Greek mythology. On the album cover is Apollo, frequently referred to as ‘Iatros’, or ‘healer’ – both spreader and healer of disease. This inherent contradiction is frequently explored throughout the album, in an almost Hegelian way – in positing both the contradictory natures of the object, we can resolve them in a greater synthesis that preserves the truth of the prior state. There’s some really interesting analysis out there and I’m sure time will reveal the depths I’m certain are there, as this is a band who take the utmost care with their lyrics, so if you are really interested in the details of the lyrics of this album I encourage you to continue your research.
While this album may be one of the most abrasive and challenging listens you’ll find this year, it’s an album that rewards careful attention and multiple listens. The details emerge, the chaos becomes more ordered, and the vision becomes clearer. It’s not an album you’re likely to understand on a first listen, but with some patient listening this album reveals itself to be one of the best black metal albums of 2016.