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Infernal Battles (2000)
 

Deathspell Omega was formed by two members of Hirilorn, following the demise of that band. Rather than carry on the more epic and melodic sound of their previous project, the opted for a more straight-forward, raw approach. Their first full-length, Infernal Battles, was released in 2000 on Northern Heritage Records. The peculiar thing about this album is that it would have been better suited to have been released as an E.P. There are only four new songs, here, as the other four were taken straight from the Disciples of the Ultimate Void demo. The problem isn't that they re-used the material, but that there's such a disparity between the quality of the two halves. It makes it incredibly obvious that they are taken from different sessions. Also, there is speculation that former Hirilorn drummer, Yohann, performed the drums on the demo tracks. However, the new songs featured on Infernal Battles sound very much like a drum machine is being used, despite Shaxul being credited as the drummer.

The album begins with "The Victory of Impunity", which wastes no time going right for the throat. Immediately, one can get a sense of the trademark melodies of Deathspell Omega, always creating a great deal of tension. The urgent tone to the vocals increases this feeling. Shaxul sounds quite similar to Hat, from Gorgoroth, utilizing a raspy and high-pitched style. Musically, the early work of this band is often compared to old Darkthrone. They are usually credited as being among the best of the legions of clone bands, but it would seem that this negates the strong influence of early Gorgoroth, as one can really hear a lot of this in the melodic structure of the song. This is also noticed in the alternating thrash and tremolo riffs. That being said, the band was already forging a sound of their own, mixed in with these influences. It's just that, by this point, they hadn't fully realized their own style, so it was more like a work in progress.

"Drink the Devil's Blood" continues the fast-paced Black Metal assault that was present in the previous song. The opening melody is one of those that sounds familiar from the first time you hear it. Perhaps it is taken from elsewhere, but I can't put my finger on it. In this song, one can hear hints of what would come, but it's not quite realized here. The song would later be re-recorded, with completely different lyrics.

The next song is "Extinction of the Weak", which starts out like the previous songs. After a minute or so, the pace slows down and the tremolo riffing is replaced by some open-arpeggio work. This gives the song more atmosphere and helps to differentiate it from the others. It also has a somewhat darker feeling. After a few minutes, its speeds up, with Shaxul sounding completely possessed. His screams almost remind one of his countrymate, Meyhna'ch. Lyrically, the whole album is drenched in themes of Satanism and blasphemy, yet it would appear that they turned their back on their earlier lyrics, as the reissue of this album has most of the lyrics censored, as if they were so inferior to the more Orthodox style of the band's later period.

"Sacrilegious Terror" is another fast-paced song, though the drumming is a bit more relaxed. As with the rest of the songs, it's dominated by fast tremolo picked riffs that flow through your brain, frozen and mournful. The song is rather dynamic, as there are a number of tempo changes throughout. Another brilliant melody is unleashed around the 3:00 mark, giving the feeling that the band really wanted to re-create "Maaneskyggens Slave", because that it what this sounds like. That's not a bad thing at all, and I find no fault in the lack of originality on the part of Hasjarl (presumably, the one responsible for most of the songwriting). After all, it is their first album.

The demo tracks begin with "Raping Human Dignity". As some have commented, the track does open with some sort of feedback that sounds like a ringing telephone. Whatever the case may be, the song is as solid as the previous four. The only difference is the drastic drop in sound quality. However, despite this, it is by no means the most terrible production one can expect to hear in the realm of Black Metal. To anyone that says that the guitar riffs aren't discernible, all I can say is that you must not be listening. As for the music, the main riff is a tremolo melody that sounds like something from an old Darkthrone album. It is true that far too many bands have attempted to capture the same cold, minimalist feeling that Darkthrone achieved on Under A Funeral Moon and Transilvanian Hunger, but Deathspell Omega (even at this stage) stand out as being one of the better bands to follow this style. And, really, why should no one try to pick up from where they left off, since they abandoned that sound many years ago? It should be left to only the more skilled and musically adept bands, but it's not entirely impossible that someone could come close to doing it justice. It's just that most shitty bands mistake the low-fi sound of those albums to equate lack of skill (which is incredibly erroneous) and think that they can hide their own weaknesses by emulating that style, not realizing that it actually did take great skill in songwriting and that it's not something to be spewed out by every wannabe with a guitar. But, I digress.

The next song is "The Ancient Presence Revealed", which begins with a thrash riff, strangely. Actually, it's completely a rip-off of Darkthrone's "Blasphemer", from the Total Death album. This brings up a good point, as Deathspell Omega seemed to favour a guitar style that was quite similar to the sound on this album, back in their early days. What I mean is that you can hear the similarities in the very clean sound they used, at times. It's kind of odd, as not too many bands would look to a weak Darkthrone album for inspiration, but they certainly found something of worth, here. At any rate, the song transitions from the thrash riffs to the high-tension tremolo riffs that they were known for. Few guitarists manage to convey such a sense of urgency in their melodies, but Hasjarl does a hell of a job with this. As the track progresses, the temp changes a few more times, including a slower section that doesn't quite reach its atmospheric potential.

"Knowledge of the Ultimate Void" maintains the sense of tension and dread, though the song then goes more into the realm of Hellhammer influences, possibly filtered through Darkthrone. Late in the song, the pace slows down and the atmosphere becomes quite hellish, for a few moments. Unfortunately, they don't fully capitalize on this.

The album concludes with "Death's Reign (Human Futility)". While the production may be similar to the level of quality found on some of the Mütiilation demos, there are some nice epic melodies mixed in, though these do not dominate the song. Still, it maintains an identity separate from the others, though not quite as satisfying.

Ultimately, Infernal Battles is something better intended for those who appreciate old Darkthrone and Gorgoroth. It's not as good as the album that follows it, but it certainly isn't worthless as some pathetic losers seem to think it is. This was but the first step for this band, so it's naturally that they were struggling to find their own identity, while also trying to keep the black flame burning. No, there's nothing incredibly unique going on here, but they already displayed quite a bit of promise and would go on to prove themselves superior to many of the other bands so influenced by the Norwegian scene.
 
(22 Sept. 2009)

 
Sob A Lua Do Bode / Demoniac Vengeance (2001)
 

Despite the fact that the band had officially been laid to rest following the release of Taste Our German Steel, there was still an abundance of unreleased material that had been recorded for a handful of ill-fated projects. As a result, Moonblood continued to make posthumous appearances. The songs featured on the End All Life / Sombre Records Sob A Lua Do Bode / Demoniac Vengeance split L.P., with Deathspell Omega, were originally recorded in November 1997 and ended up sitting on the shelf for quite a few years before being released. Limited to only 350 copies, this is rare but worth seeking out for the Moonblood material, alone. As for Deathspell Omega, the songs are a little underwhelming and unable to meet the expectations that many may have, going in.

Moonblood starts the L.P. out (and rightfully so) with "Forgotten Spells in the Forests Nocturnal". From the opening moments, the atmosphere is dark, grim and unexpectedly epic. The main riff is a tremolo-picked melody that falls very much in line with the material that was used for the Katharsis split (being recorded during the same session) as well as their second full-length. It has been said many times that this style is very reminiscent of Darkthrone, yet the band manages to inject enough of their own creativity that it may betray their influences but never sounds like a carbon-copy. The melodies are very memorable, while maintaining a cold and sombre feeling. Nearly everything here is done to perfection, showing a very clear understanding of this style of music. The only complaint would have to be the acoustic section at the end, which does not blend in well with the rest of the instruments.

"A Silent Dream of Impurity" begins with a sorrowful intro section that includes a clean guitar as well as an overall epic vibe. Soon, this transitions to a faster tempo of raw and frigid Black Metal. The riffs flow from one to the next, very smoothly, like a sharpened blade slicing through pale virgin flesh. These melodies do well to carry the listener to another world, leaving behind the mundane existence that curses many in this wretched age. The vocals are filled with hate as the guitars penetrate the fuzz and static of the grim production job.

The next song has a slightly different tone, at first, until the second guitar comes in and adds a layer of bitter cold frost. "Bells of Apocalypse" features some of the most sorrowful riffs, yet the general atmosphere is not as depressive as one might expect, based on the utter contempt and venom being spewed from Gaamalzagoth. Much like the raw sound of the music, the vocals carry a very primitive, harsh feeling as well. There are brief sections with some sort of sound effects added in, including bells and some hellish chanting. This helps add a layer of darkness to the proceedings, though the main riffs were doing a good job already. Late in the song, additional riffs are introduced and they carve through you with no remorse, joined by maniacal howls.

Sob A Lua Do Bode ends with "I Hail the Night", which picks up from where the previous song leaves off. Again, the fast-paced drumming and tremolo riffs are accompanied by the malevolent, raving vocals to create a dark and epic masterpiece of a song. The pace shifts a little, near the middle, but this brief nod to the past soon gives way to blood-curdling guitar riffs that drive you deeper into the foggy night. The atmosphere of this track truly justifies its placement, as it does give a sense of finality and works well to end Moonblood's contributions to this split L.P.

"And my ways goes through the forest of lost souls
Through the forest of nocturnal hate
And I lost my soul in these diabolical areas
And the path is darkened by a shade"

Demoniac Vengeance starts out with "Follow the Dark Path", and while the production is similar to the Moonblood material, it still sounds kind of weak by comparison. The same can be said of the songwriting, as Deathspell Omega was not capable of holding their own with the legends of German Black Metal. That said, this song is not bad and features some good riffs in the old Darkthrone style, as well. Their approach is a little more derivative, but still possessing a feel that is identified with Deathspell Omega. It sounds as if they were still using a drum machine at the time, though this may not be the case. At any rate, it comes off as a little less natural than some of their other releases from this time period. Shaxul's vocals do not seem quite as intense as usual, either. The riffs do well to overcome any of the potential shortcomings, giving a disturbing and morbid feeling, especially during the slower part that arrives in the middle of the song. One thing that the two bands on this L.P. do share is the ability to create an epic vibe while working with a relatively minimalist type of music.

"Morbid Rituals" bears similarities to some of the songs that would appear on Inquisitors of Satan, though some of the cold tremolo riffs are more sorrowful and epic, in a way. Halfway through, the pace transitions to something more chilling and macabre, making use of open-arpeggio riffs and a slower tempo that allows the atmosphere to become even darker. Fog rises from the damp earth, illuminated by the moonlight, as nocturnal spirits guide you through the darkened graveland and into the forest that lays beyond.

This split L.P. comes to an end with "Yells from the Abyss", though it does not make the same impression as the previous tracks. Some parts sound similar to "From Unknown Lands of Desolation", and it is likely that they were merely recycled and re-worked. As with the other songs, the pace slows down after a few minutes and allows an evil feeling to creep over you. It is a familiar formula, so there is no shame in this, despite the predictability. The thrashier riffs, later in the song, seem out of place and do little to add to the overall composition. In this way, the band fails to go out on a high note and, instead, ends with a whimper.

The Moonblood material is much more essential, just for the fact that it is some of the best stuff that the band ever recorded, while Deathspell Omega's contributions were not as earth-shattering. Two of their three songs were fairly good, but pale in comparison to the mighty Moonblood. This is a case where the two bands featured on a split were a little too far apart, in terms of quality; therefore, the lesser of the two comes off looking worse than they should, perhaps. In the end, it is a solid release and well worth the time to track down.
 
(27 Sept. 2011)

 
 

By 2001, Deathspell Omega has only released a demo and one full-length (which actually contained only four new songs, with the rest taken from the demo). Clandestine Blaze had two albums already, though the first one was of lower quality than most demos. The point being that neither band was as established as they would become. As a result of this, as well as the fact that Mikko seemed to be pretty well acquainted with Shaxul and Hasjarl, they decided to release a split album through Mikko's label, Northern Heritage. Neither band had truly realized their own styles, fully, and it is doubtful that either knew that they would later combine their sounds to create a new identity for Deathspell Omega. At any rate, the songs here are fairly strong, though not the most impressive of either band's career.

Side A features Clandestine Blaze, starting with "Will To Kill". This lengthy song takes a minute or so to really get going, presumably in an effort to create a dark atmosphere. Once it gets going, it is the standard fast style in the vein of early Darkthrone, complete with blasting drums and tremolo riffs. The sound is better than that found on their first album, though it doesn't seem to be at the same level as Night of the Unholy Flames, though it's not far off. His vocals, as usual, are a bit deeper than one might expect from this kind of music, which may help in differentiating it from some of the bands being emulated. While Clandestine Blaze would go on to forge their own identity, while still maintaining this sound at their core, this was still developing by this point. An additional lead melody, near the end, brings more life to the song but doesn't last very long.

"Blasphemous Lust" is pure Hellhammer / Celtic Frost worship. One has to wonder if Mikko was actually so much a fan of these bands or if this is simply a continuation of his tribute to Darkthrone, perhaps being ignorant to the fact that they had taken this sound from the aforementioned bands. Either way, it's quite boring. Almost all of the Hellhammer-influenced songs from Clandestine Blaze are tiresome and far too derivative of the original to warrant its inclusion on the album.

The next song is another short one, though it's far superior. "Raping the Innocent" features a very clean-sounding tremolo riff (that seems to have had some distortion added after the fact). As the song really gets going, the riff changes and the listener is left somewhat disappointed. A couple minutes later, the more interesting melody returns. However, it is ephemeral. It is always frustrating when a musician drops something that has a lot of potential in favour of less-inspired riffs.

"Genocide Operation" is the longest song on the split, clocking in over eight and a half minutes. It is also the best of the Clandestine Blaze tracks. This one reminds one of Burzum, with the slow pace and the style of riffing. It has a very cold and mournful atmosphere, with additional notes flowing through to increase the sense of despondency. This epic composition may be one of the more ambitious efforts from this point in Clandestine Blaze's career. It is very minimalist and primitive, yet it manages to create quite a dreary feeling. It leaves you feeling drained of all energy, simply waiting for your inevitable death. As the cold hand rips into your chest and takes your weakened heart within its icy grip, you have neither the will nor the desire to resist.

Side B features Deathspell Omega, and they waste no time in getting started with "Bestial Orgies". In total contrast to the atmospheric song that ended Side A, the band unleashes cold tremolo riffs, semi-fast drumming and raspier vocals that are more suitable to the music. The drums actually sound real, as opposed to those on Infernal Battles, so this is already an improvement. The guitars possess a sharp sound, but not nearly as raw as the old Darkthrone albums that they are hoping to recreate. With this first song, the band displays that they have improved quite a bit in the time since their debut album was released.

"The Suicide Curse" is the highlight of Side B. It begins with a very clear tremolo riff that appears to be the focus of the song, above vocals or drums. This is a very good thing, as the guitar riffs should always come first. The style employed here is almost reminiscent of Hirilorn, the previous band of Shaxul and Hasjarl, in the sense that the lead melodies are very clean-sounding. As the song progresses, the pace slows down and there are some open-arpeggio riffs that add depth to the atmosphere, hearkening back to the old Burzum albums. However, the feeling is quite different here. The song then speeds up again, utilizing a different tremolo riff but maintaining the high tension. This transitions back into the first riff, which is utterly brilliant. Regardless of whether or not it's based on some earlier work of Darkthrone or Gorgoroth, this is pulled off very well.

The split ends with "Seal of Perversion". It appears that the songs should have been placed in a different order, as this can in no way compete with the previous song. It's solid enough, surely, but very few songs could have successfully followed "The Suicide Curse". This one is, again, in the Transilvanian Hunger vein, consisting of blasting drums and tremolo riffs. There is definitely a chaotic feeling that runs through Deathspell Omega's work, yet it's always very cohesive. Mid-way through the song, the pace slows down a bit and becomes oddly catchy. It then returns to the previous tempo. The song, probably, goes a little longer than it should; it might have had a stronger impact if it had been more concise. However, there are no serious complaints other than the poor placement of this song. It feels anti-climactic when following something of such high quality.

All in all, this release displays the further development of these two bands, with Deathspell Omega showing marked improvement over their previous output. This is a worthy purchase for fans of either band.
 
(22 Sept. 2009)

 
Mütiilation / Deathspell Omega split (2002)
 

Deathspell Omega did well to latch on to other well-known Black Metal bands and to use them in order to help make a name for themselves, early on in their career. This was especially the case with the releases that they did with Moonblood and Mütiilation. The Mütiilation / Deathspell Omega 10" E.P. was released on End All Life and limited to 400 copies. While one band was among the most notable in the history of the French scene, the other would eventually eclipse them and go on to attain a higher level of popularity than most would have guessed, at the time. This release is a good example of why, as Mütiilation was simply coasting by on name-value and had little to prove, while Shaxul, Hasjarl and Khaos had to put forth much more effort to prove themselves worthy of such an association.

The Mütiilation track, "Beyond the Decay of Time and Flies", shows a band that is a pale shadow of what it once was. Meyhna'ch was working solo, by this point, and the results were a far cry from the brilliant material that was found on the early demos and full-length. While the overall style is similar, there is a very annoying quality to the production and songwriting. There is some unnecessary effect being used on the vocals, and the drum programming could not sound more fake and mechanical. The riffs are not even that good, but would have been quite a bit better if the other elements had been able to make up for the lack of creativity. All complaints aside, the song is able to stir up feelings of misery and darkness, once the listener is able to forget the details and be immersed in the music. Still, this is only a fraction of what it could have been and does not do well to represent the real Mütiilation.

The first of the two DsO contributions is "Insanity Supreme", which easily destroys the previous song. The open-arpeggio riffs that introduce the track soon give way to an intense tremolo melody that hearkens back to early Darkthrone. The sense of unease that exists within much of this band's material is present and this is aided greatly by the maniacal vocal performance. The two riff styles alternate throughout the rest of the song, creating a dismal atmosphere and doing well to show up their 'mentors'.

"For Fire and Void Become One" is more of a throw-away track, compared to the other one. The first half of the song is fast-paced but lacks the sense of cohesion that was displayed earlier. A morbid feeling is developed around the middle, as the tempo slows and the guitars work to create a dark and eerie vibe. After a while, the other riffs return and the song reaches a rather predictable conclusion. It is not bad, but it is not very impressive.

While the Mütiilation song sounds too simplistic and modern at the same time, Deathspell Omega manages to sound more organic and raw, though they were also using a drum program at the time (as far as I can recall). Their material sounds much more confident and together, as well, with "Insanity Supreme" really stealing the show here. This is not an essential release, in any way, but worth checking out for the one DsO song, at least.
 
(28 Sept. 2011)

 
 

Inquisitors of Satan is the second full-length album from Deathspell Omega, though it might be more accurate to consider this their first proper L.P. considering the fact that the previous album consisted of four new songs and then several demo tracks. Deathspell Omega made quite a name for themselves through the release of the previous album, as well as a series of splits they did with Clandestine Blaze, Mütiilation and Moonblood. If anything will establish a band as one to keep an eye on, this certainly did the trick. In each of these cases, it was as if the other bands featured on the split as endorsing these guys, which probably helped get their name out there and to earn them a bit of respect. Released in May 2002, on Northern Heritage, Inquisitors of Satan stands as a tribute to the first era of this band... an era which some prefer.

I heard of this band for some time before actually checking them out. It wasn't until the release of the Kenose E.P. that I actually saw a Deathspell Omega album in a record store, so this was my first exposure to the band. I knew practically nothing of them, as I'd never even bothered to research them online. It didn't take long to realize that Mikko Aspa, of Clandestine Blaze, was handling the vocal duties. At any rate, I was interested enough in what I heard to seek out more. The first album that I purchased was Inquisitors of Satan, since it appeared to be the first true full-length (after doing a little reading). This became the album from which I derived my opinion of this band, and it's still the first thing I think of when I hear the band's name. It also possesses some sentimental value as it arrived in the mail on a very significant day for me. They've gone on to create some decent music, but I don't think any other album bears the consistency that this one does. To this day, it remains my favourite and it's the single album from them that I most recommend to others.

"From Unknown Lands of Desolation" starts as if it's already in the middle of something, in a way. It's similar to movies that begin with a dramatic scene that will later be explained. The fast drums and tremolo riffs work along with the possessed vocals to create a sense of tension and chaos. This is the only way that I can really describe the guitar riffs of this period of the band's existence. The tempo alternates from blindingly fast, in the Transilvanian Hunger vein, to something a little more catchy. After a couple minutes, the riffs transition to something with an increased sense of urgency. One gets the feeling that it is building toward something dreadful and apocalyptic. This is certainly good music for the end of the world.

"Our skies are forever black
Here is no signs of life at all
For burning spirits we are
Consuming your small universe
Slowly but surely"

The next song, "Torture and Death", begins in much the same way as the previous song ended. Of course, one can make another Darkthrone comparison by stating that several of the songs may seem quite similar to those who don't bother to actually listen. Once you do, it is easy to differentiate the various melodies, though they may be played in a similar manner and maintain the same speed. Shaxul's vocals still sound like Hat, of Gorgoroth, and his style fits the music so much better than Mikko. I am a fan of Clandestine Blaze, but I do feel that Deathspell Omega would have benefited from retaining Shaxul's services.

"Desecration Master" begins with a catchy riff, sounding almost like a sped-up Celtic Frost riff. It soon speeds up a bit more, though not matching the intensity of the previous tracks. There are also some dissonant arpeggio riffs thrown in, adding to the obscure feeling conveyed by the music. Lyrically, the song keeps within Satanic and anti-human themes. For some reason, the band considers their earlier lyrics to be too immature or sub-par, as the reissues don't include them. This comes off as a little pretentious, as there's nothing wrong with the lyrics, at all. One doesn't always need a thesaurus and a bible when writing lyrics. Song lyrics need not always read like a research paper. Simplicity is, sometimes, underrated.

"I need to see and feel humans suffering
Eyes full of fear imploring my mercy"

The more straight-forward approach returns on "Lethal Baptism". Worth noting is that the overall sound gives the impression of being raw, though it sounds quite polished when comparing it to old Darkthrone, for example. It's, somehow, raw and clear at the same time. The guitar sound is relatively sharp, but slightly dulled.

"Succubus of All Vices" features one of the best riffs on the whole album. It maintains the chaotic spirit that is prevalent in the rest of the songs, but this one possesses a sorrowful feeling that bleeds through the hatred. The pace shifts, a minute or so in, and the mournful atmosphere becomes more overpowering. The cold tremolo riffs produce a melancholy aura that haunts your mind. This song has to stand out as one of the most dynamic and well-structured of the band's career. This memorable song bears some epic qualities, taking you on a blackened journey.

The title track begins with a more relaxed feeling, being far less intense than the previous song. The speed picks up a little, but it's nothing too extreme. This one is a little more melodic in nature, at times. The tremolo riffs are clear and nicely contrast the raw vocals. Oddly enough, I recall thinking this band had to be Finnish when I first got this album, since it reminded me of Horna and Sargeist, in some way. I suppose it's natural that the share some characteristics since they were influenced by the same handful of Norwegian bands.

"Decadence" is the final song, and it may very well be the most epic song on the album. It starts with a slow pace that serves to create a desolate atmosphere. After a couple of minutes, chaos is unleashed as the song speeds up, transitioning back to the tremolo riffs and blasting drums. The guitar melodies in this song are, by far, some of the best of this band's career. The tension has increased to such an extent that you feel your soul being pulled from all directions, slowly tearing apart. This is the feeling of being consumed by the chaotic forces beyond. However, before you are torn to shreds, the pace slows back down and a morbid feeling falls over you. Your spirit becomes disconnected from your body, floating above as your corpse falls into a fresh grave. The end is here. You are free.
 
(22 Sept. 2009)

 
 

Deathspell Omega's third full-length album, Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice is a very controversial record. It not only marks the band's transition from one style to another, but is one of the key examples of Orthodox Black Metal. Hints of this sound could have been heard on the material that they recorded after Inquisitors of Satan; however, those songs were shelved until being released on the 2008 compilation, Manifestations 2002. Released through Norma Evangelium Diaboli, in February 2004, this album has gone on to be quite influential for modern bands that wish to follow a similar path.

When I first came across this album, it was definitely something new. It had been out for a couple years, but I only had the first two albums from this band. I ended up spending a lot of solitary nights in the autumn and winter of 2006 / 2007 listening to this, along with Sargeist, Horna and Clandestine Blaze. Being in a strange mood a lot of the time, this suited the odd atmosphere. I found that it was more successful as background noise, rather than necessitating my full attention. Though I am aware that several other bands have come along and utilized a similar style, I have not actually listened to any of them so this retains some level of uniqueness in my mind.

It all begins with "First Prayer", which is an instrumental intro that stretches beyond the five-minute mark. It is very slow-paced, possessing more of a Doom Metal vibe, and the Gregorian chant and backmasked guitars add an eerie feeling. Right away, it is clear that Deathspell Omega was looking to expand its sound.

"Sola Fide I" introduces the listener to the band's new vocalist, Mikko Aspa of Clandestine Blaze. His voice is not nearly as good as Shaxul's, but it almost suits the softer music. The production is fairly good, but sounds kind of muddy. The end result is a guitar tone that lacks any sort of edge or rawness, seeming as though it is muffled. The songwriting displays a less straightforward approach, with a lot of dissonant chords and strange riffs that are meant to create a sense of unease in the listener. The best part of the song is the tremolo melody that appears around the middle and, again, near the end of the song. It is quite epic and memorable, whereas the rest of the riffs are more average.

The opening riff of "Sola Fide II" is reminiscent of Mayhem's "Pagan Fears", in some minimal way. The more varied and unpredictable arrangement is a step in the right direction, as far as working to carve out an identity of their own. Still, the riffs are not nearly as powerful and haunting as on the previous album. The last few minutes actually sound like a totally different song, and it features awful effects on the vocals. So far, the impression of this album is that the tracks are working together to create a certain kind of atmosphere, but that none of them are really intended to be able to stand on their own.

"Second Prayer" is another instrumental, and this one possesses an eerie and morbid feeling from the start. The open chords are gradually joined by other elements, with the rumbling of the drums and whispered voices rising from the background. The feeling conveyed by this song is difficult to describe, as I have never heard anything else quite like it. Once the main riff comes along, the atmosphere is like that of a nightmare that has become reality. You are imbued with a horrible feeling, as if you are wearing the wrong skin or, perhaps, just claustrophobic inside your own body. Everything around you appears somehow different. It may be that the sounds here allow your eyes to see the world for the true horror that it is and this realization is almost too much for the feeble human mind to bear.

This is followed by "Blessed are the Dead Whiche Dye in the Lorde", which hearkens back to the band's earlier material, in a sense, starting out at full force with blasting drums and high speed tremolo riffs. As the song progresses, the drumming becomes more simplistic and Rock-based, while the riffs take on a less-threatening tone. Though this actually sounds like a coherent song and not just one piece of a greater whole, it does not maintain a solid Black Metal feeling, throughout.

"Hétoïmasia" starts out with mid-paced riffs that conjure up a morbid quality, before things speed up and reaches a higher level of intensity. The song loses focus until the slower riffs re-emerge, accompanied by a sombre lead solo. The faster riffs seem more in line with the type found on Infernal Battles and Inquisitors of Satan, simply not executed quite as well. That could be due to the horrible production or even the out-of-place vocals.

"Third Prayer" is, basically, another instrumental interlude. There are some voices in the background and more chanting utilized, but these are secondary to the guitar riffs, which re utterly miserable and dreary. This is the sort of thing that one would expect to hear in the final moments of life, passing away from this world knowing that your entire existence was a waste and that you failed in every conceivable manner.

The title track is a good example of the horrid mixing job, as the drumming totally drowns out the guitar riffs. Only during the mid-paced sections are the guitars allowed to breathe, though the vocals seem to never end. Though this song includes some slower parts that add an eerie feeling, it still fails in the sense that it is not solid enough to stand on its own, outside of the context of the full album.

"Odium Nostrum" is filler, more or less. Absolutely nothing about this song stands out, in a positive way. It is beyond bland and does nothing to add to the overall atmosphere of the L.P.

The next song is "Jubilate Deo (O Be Joyful in the Lord)", which starts out with fast tremolo riffs that do a better job of slicing through the muddy production, with a colder and more crisp guitar tone. Late in the track, the pace slows down and the morose aura that permeates so much of the record bleeds forth. Disappointingly, the song fades out just as it is getting more interesting, with a nice sorrowful melody draining the life of the listener.

"Carnal Malefactor" is the highlight of the album. Clocking in at over eleven minutes, this is the longest track, though the length is extended artificially. The main riffs are slow and mournful, maintaining a funereal vibe and tying everything together quite well. The anguished melodies call to mind times of misery and loss, things that are gone and shall never return and a time that will live on only in fading memories that are also soon to pass into total nothingness. The pace picks up a bit, as a woeful melody tears through your being, carrying an epic vibe. This is followed by several minutes of sombre chanting, which actually works quite well in adding to the lifeless feeling. It really lulls the listener into a trance, which is abruptly destroyed as the music comes raging out of the silence. With a furious speed, the drums and guitars annihilate your spirit in a merciless assault. Only the shift to a more relaxed pace allows you to survive, though the more intense riffs return a couple more times.

While the album really should have ended with that track, a couple more attempt to follow it. "Drink the Devil's Blood" is a re-recorded song that first appeared on the Infernal Battles album. This version sounds more natural, as far as the drums go, but the sterile guitar tone and wretched vocals are quite inferior to the original. In most cases, if a band wants to re-record an old song it is better if they are capable of improving upon the original, rather than just proving that the old material was superior.

The album concludes with "Malign Paradigm", which is a slow-paced instrumental outro that does well to wrap things up and leave the listener with a rather depressive impression of the album. One gets the notion that the band should have abandoned Black Metal for Funeral Doom, or something of that nature. Though, in a way, they went on to abandon their roots anyway.

Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice is definitely meant to be listened to as a whole album, since few of these songs work well on their own. For what it is, this is not a bad record, though it would be the final Deathspell Omega full-length worth listening to. Overall, the music and atmosphere does not compare to Inquisitors of Satan and the whole religious obsession that dominates the lyrics is actually a turn-off. While this is not the great classic that many seem to think it is, it is worth a listen. Just do not expect the same level of quality as found on the previous records.
 
(3 Nov. 2011)

 
 

Deathspell Omega is a rather odd entity within the realm of Black Metal. This French band, like many others, began their career playing a style of music that owed a great deal to early Darkthrone. Yet, instead of merely copying their idols, they added their own eerie mark. Over the course of a handful of releases, they seemed to be on a fairly predictable course, though this is not to say that the quality was not high enough. However, after a couple years of silence, they shocked many with Si Momumentum Requires, Circumspice. This represented a drastic departure from their previous path, with no warning. Many fans were turned off by the new style, as well as the new vocalist. With each new release, the band got further away from their original sound and alienated a lot of listeners. However, in 2008 those who preferred the earlier period of Deathspell Omega were given a gift.

Shortly after Inquisitors of Satan, the band recorded enough material for a new full-length. The songs were supposedly intended for a couple different split releases, though it would have made more sense to just release it all as the band's third L.P. At any rate, this music was not released and it remained buried for several years. What can be heard here is the next logical step in the band's evolution, and the missing link between their second and third albums. This is also the final material to feature Shaxul, who always suited the band more as a vocalist than Mikko.

The music falls in line with what one would expect, following Inquisitors of Satan. Most of the songs are fast-paced, with a lot of blasting drums and tremolo-picked riffs. This is all straight from the old school Darkthrone playbook, yet the style of melodies is something of their own invention. There is a sombre quality to many of the riffs, as well as a lot of tension and chaos. The vocals add to this sense, sounding very unrestrained. Some riffs hearken back to the First Wave bands, such as Hellhammer, but one has to wonder if this was a direct influence or if it came filtered through Darkthrone. The first several tracks would not have been out of place on the band's earlier albums, though these songs may not have stood out quite as much.

"Monotonous Ecstasy of Death" is where the band displays hints of their new direction. In a way, this picks up where "Decadence" left off, yet it also bears similarities with the record that would follow. This song is more mid-paced and features a somewhat unsettling main riff. While listening to this, it is easy to fall into a sort of trance and to see visions from one's own nightmares tearing through the fabric of reality and manifesting in this dimension. Just as the blood begins to flow, the pace picks up and a sense of urgency comes over you.

The next song, "Forever Cold", maintains the intensity until around the middle, when it slows down and the guitars take on an eerie sound, once more. For the most part, this one sticks to the same formula as on the previous album, despite the brief hints of their future path.

"Procreation Epidemic" features more of the type of chords that are found on Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice, mixed in with more traditional tremolo melodies. The song utilizes some variation in tempo, though it remains fast-paced for the majority of the time. The blending of the two is very well-done and serves to create a hellish feeling; an epic sense of misery combined with a nightmarish desperation to slice open one's veins and to escape the bonds of flesh through an ever flowing stream of blood.

The final two tracks are more standard, with minor hints of the new sound that was creeping in, but nothing terribly interesting or essential. This goes to show that while the band was growing and adding new elements to their sound, around this time, they were still firmly rooted in the early 90's Scandinavian scene, most notably Darkthrone. They did it quite well and it was a shame when things fell apart for this band.

While their current output is utter trash and has nothing to do with Black Metal, these songs hearken back to better days. Manifestations 2002 is a rare look into the past of Deathspell Omega, before they jumped on the Orthodox Black Metal bandwagon and betrayed their original vocalist. For those who consider their later era to be a descent down a foul and unpleasant path, this recording should remind you of what this band was once capable of. If you are a fan of Infernal Battles and Inquisitors of Satan, then this album is a must-have.
 
(19 Sept. 2011)

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