Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces of Palingenesia (2019) REVIEW

Pulpit or podium before him, and before we wretched endangered species, this frightening judicator rises as our congealed God-headed savior and speaks his fumes of ruin with a flicking tongue too molten to resist. Nature is the undoing of all meaning, the randomly generated mounting inevitability of fractal-realized frailty as resources sour in the favor of the few. He begins by shouting low appraisal of the detuned hand of God and that men can conquer nature united, that all men will rise to their feet as a communal slavery when warmed by the progress we share. We are in no position to defy (or to cease) and maniacal is the speaker, our God, who does not merely command us with virtuous lies but, speaks venomous and cruel truths of our ferality and insignificance. Our nature mocked and our torture detailed, the ecstasy of burning alive anything that would defy him and warm us is our first taste of His paternal providence which we receive with the threat: It is perfection in His eyes, or death by His hand. In the speaker’s eyes there is always progress and all things are expendable in service to greater perfection. Family will melt under the fires of masochistic fealty to this new History he’d create. We will belong and we do not matter to the machine that we feed forward, we would rather die than yield to our enemy, or disappoint the System and our new History. To the dimly literate and psychotically progress-obsessed societal zealots these words cannot ring as parody and reflection upon the great manipulation of mankind into society, religion, and their own destruction because theirs is a hunger of vermin; The sort that cannot cease. As this proverbial speaker, the true ‘voice of God’ conjured from astute recognition of weakness and used for millennia to manipulate men into abomination, speaks he elucidates the island of man they’d create (see: “Imitatio Dei”) under sway of multi-generational propaganda. There the heart of ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia’ is stoked with the most dense and luxuriously harsh examination of foolish mankind that Deathspell Omega has treated us to to date.

This too-real obsidian monolith is truly frightening to behold as it begins to detail the horror of an imagined future conqueror, a corporation or a confrontational and villainous dictator, who’d detail a new order a new History on Earth that’d erase the past. It should scream of irony as its prose pokes bluntly at systems of religious manipulation and political control, and practically screams in the ear of the listener that they have been conditioned and it is at critical bloody mass. Yet, the children locked in the final generation before extinction see this revelation and remain controlled by a binary train of thought that’d keep them engaged with perceived enemies rather than their dictator. If you make it only five songs into the prose and find understanding there, you’ve been there transformed or reinforced by this seventh full-length manifesto from the Poitiers, France formed black metal legendry. Deathspell Omega are an imposing force a dangerous beast that operates unknown and reigns prosperous but faceless, speaking only through the highest standards of art and revealing the true evil on Earth as mankind under the influence of the most insufferable and incurable drug: Christianity. They did not start so high-conceived and each step towards great power was earned through an intense and personal legacy of movements. We only know where it all started as a side project that’d ignite deeper fires after the cessation of Hirilorn and all would splinter in known ways until the third album ‘Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice’ (2004) would see Deathspell Omega engaging the world with absolute silence beyond that point. As soon as this engagement ended so truly began a body of work that struck out beyond the known limits of black metal that’d test every physical and mental limit with avant-garde structures, nigh progressive sprays of technical mastery and fluid musical personality that black metal hadn’t seen since the second wave of Norwegian black metal struck upon breakthrough by sheer force. Innovation isn’t the right word for Deathspell Omega‘s place in extreme metal history as they represent a true expansion of, and intensifying standard for, all connected sub-genre branches.

The metaphysical Satanism of the famed ‘trilogy’ between 2004 and 2010 was seen as a great period of experimentation and if you were to study how extreme metal changed stylistically within those six years you would undoubtedly see that Deathspell Omega were an enormous catalyst for the greater usage of atmospheric dissonance, discordance, and greater ‘occult’ genrefication far beyond black metal. An empire was unquestionably secured by 2010 both in terms of greater influence and business as members would continue to power End All Life Productions and Norma Evangelium Diaboli with irrefutable quality. There’d been no break between 2004 and 2012 so it would make sense that Deathspell Omega fell silent for four years before ‘Synarchy of Molten Bones’ (2016) would erupt with no real warning. The abrupt arrival of an intensely detailed and rapaciously brutal record unfortunately stymied a lot of folks who’d only grant a new release a ‘hot take’ before either loving or discarding it. The passe reception of the previous album is irksome as a fan because it wouldn’t seem to have been meditated upon as thoroughly as was perhaps intended. Hence the tome-thick concept and high intelligibility of ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia’, which cannot be approached with haste for danger of its molasses blackness becoming impenetrable.

The torrential narrative of ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia’ hits a fever pitch and furor beyond Side A where “1523” precedes the creation and dehumanization of the crucial Enemy of the System and our new History. Sartre’s La Nausée comes to mind if only for its exploration of freedom and isolation specifically the “condemned to be free” adage, which might seem a bit superficial but does appear to be an important root for mental space that Deathspell Omega create poetically. The very idea that human nature may be entirely malleable and not innate along with the rejection of a presupposed universal morality (positing it as a mechanism of control) gives some sardonic footing to a Foucault-esque view of the human animal. “Sacrificial Theopathy” is a sure first apex of complexity in terms of theme as the Enemy is created and then all manipulations are again detailed along with intent. The Enemy is so clearly defined and so divided that a zealous surety becomes blindness, this is the ultimate ‘evil’ and should in every sense be the most frightening realization that’d potentially come from this work. You may not know your enemy but you surely hate them, and you’re sure they hate you… aren’t you? Though I’ve not spoken of the compositions much thus far it is Side B that is not only the most profound and complex portion of the experience in theme but also a grand set of departures from and rescission of Deathspell Omega‘s modus. Yes, they are grinding and chiming growls often on pace with Side A but, a collapse is expressed in both manifesto and composition. When the fires of idyllic progress leave men with empty hands and deserted resources a world of dust and ash dries all corpses of their water. Civilization is a fatal process on “Absolutist Regeneration” and therein lies the first layer of clearest meaning to cue the listener for re-examination.

What first struck me as I listened and considered ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia’ was that Deathspell Omega had never appeared this ‘lucid’ in terms of providing clarity for the listener, that their vocal presence and message are presented with great transparency. There are few bands that view lyricism as such staunchly equal part to those of composition and performance and here we’re given the most context yet. Propaganda is such a thrillingly fearsome choice of delivery and to be sure the dull-witted portion of the internet was abuzz for a week after release, pining over the lyrics in fear of abject fascism because of the point of view the narration arrives with. The arrival upon the podium and the blaring roar of ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia’ is almost shocking in its menace, it feels like a stomach churning anxietous machine and there is some thrill to the perceived ‘danger’ of Side A as it familiarizes. The maze of feelings, symbolism, and frankly very direct messaging in creating a mockery of religion, society, and the suicidal lie that is the ‘progress’ of mankind is absolutely either a rebirth of the nihilist inside or a turgid rape of the mind depending on how you’ll personally interpret it. I approached this piece expecting an irreligious undertone but, the examination of divisive cultural manipulation and the role of religion in politically driven genocide was practically bursting through the speakers as a ‘feeling’ before the themes fully divulged the characterization within. Complex as it may seem in terms of language if you come away with anything beyond a scathing blow to religious leadership, you might be skimming or overwhelmed by the prospect of critical thinking. A brutal irony.

In terms of guitar technique there was a basic thread of evolution carried from ‘Paracletus’ to ‘The Synarchy of Molten Bones’ and yet a closer listen to ‘The Furnace of Palingenesia’ should cue your ear ten steps beyond the claustrophobia of those compositions and then perhaps ten years back towards the expansion felt with ‘FAS – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum’ (2007) and more specifically the style of ‘Veritas Diaboli Manet in Aeternum: Chaining the Katechon’ EP in 2008. The major differentiation in terms of composition comes with greater adeptness of performance and directional meaning, less torsion upon phrasing that allows for an unopposed downward flow. Describing the technique and composition of Deathspell Omega as it has evolved over the years becomes needlessly pretentious as the actual finer points of interest are both evolutionary cousin to classic orthodox second wave black metal attacks and the incorporation of non-metal influences that maintained that attack really was the key to innovation. In the sense that any determined musician could create Penderecki from Botch and vice verse until the translation back and forth’d become an original, so seems to be the anti-formulaic impetus for the unique arcing of this progressive and wonderfully complex black metal album. Flow and liquid form are signatures of Deathspell Omega at this point and this time around there are no bulbous compaction or stop-gaps to pool heaviness that’d contrast strongly with powerfully flowing rivers of riff and blasting black metal attack. This has been the case to some degree since perhaps even before ‘Paracletus’ but, on ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia’ the need to predictably form moments of black metal attack is excised for the sake of freed movement and thematically fitting swerves in any direction. The result is surely avant-garde and unquestionably black metal but never precociously dwells in any sort of self-actualization.

The mastery on display here is perhaps even more mystifying for the fact that Deathspell Omega chose to record this righteously complex album live in studio on analog equipment and then mix it using vintage analog equipment as well. I’d only wish I’d have the specifics beyond Brittany, France area Kerwax Studios to give credit where credit is due. The natural reverb of the drums, the absolute weight and tone of the bass guitars, and the ringing forward motion of the guitar work all create a truly admirable dynamic that outclasses some of the bands muddier presence in the past. Clarity and vibrancy surely make for a strengthened Deathspell Omega, one that speaks boldly in character and details the fumbling enfeeblement of man as one great maddening tragedy from the point of view of the unattributed villain. There is a sense of theater and ruinous heaviness that’d inspire even the most ardently dense headbanger to both think an writhe in ecstasy at once. That I sat with this record well beyond twenty times and in every case began feeling pleasure at the sound of a hellish and nihilistic self-immolation of communal man is perhaps more profound a reaction than any other heavy metal release has garnered so far in 2019. That said and in earnest I am not so tirelessly sophisticated that it played as anything but spectacle in terms of the bigger picture. ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia’ is a surely great work with impressive performances and deeply resonant themes yet still resembles an ‘in the moment’ storm from start to finish that takes major dedication to hold fast in the memory.

The measure of a great work, from my own generally estranged point of view, always involves some amount of obsession. Not in the user, the viewer, or the public eye… but, the obsession of the creator. In most cases it is detail and (intentional) profundity that form lasting works. With this smaller bit of definition in hand it isn’t just presentation and confident anonymity that help the ‘character’ of ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia’ come to life but the unquestionably immaculate rendering of the piece at such a high standard that elevates and secures Deathspell Omega in my mind as both ‘at the forefront’ of black metal artists but in a higher echelon of musician. It is a great work and though I pine for something slightly more memorable, that could boil down to my own shortcomings as a listener. Very high recommendation. For preview I think the most compelling first glance would be the pairing of Side A‘s peak “Imitatio Dei” and Side B‘s tonal frontispiece “1523”, the album is however surely intended be enjoyed as a full listen.

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Artist Deathspell Omega
Type Album
Released May 24, 2019
BUY & LISTEN on Norma Evangelium Diaboli’s Bandcamp! Norma Evangelium Diaboli Website
Genre Black Metal,
Avant-Garde Metal,
Progressive Metal

The heavens shiver in horror. 4.75/5.0

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