DEATHSPELL OMEGA – The Long Defeat (2022)REVIEW

Überlegungen zum untergang — A “third era” commencement speech by those disinheriting the ruins of that which was obsolete and irreparably disfigured long before the public had taken notice, a malediction festering in the mouths of fraying jaws disarticulated by utterance of “I am here to bring death, terror and destruction.“, and a masterful delivery of surrealistic parable set to reaffirm the dimensionally discursive ideological muse of the artist ‘The Long Defeat‘ successfully facets its statement(s) in an all-too eager mind as one piece of a greater mythos to come. Yet there are multiple dimensions available between the bile spewed, the ink harassed upon the page, and the written dialogue available — There’ll be no certain distillation of these events with any meaning available to the listener ‘lest they’re likewise a reader, a gawker unfurling the great scroll of French ‘power trio’ Deathspell Omega‘s eighth full-length album and supping on its contents as if a wild animal, a plebian unconcerned with the excess of raw nutrition they’d gorge. There’ll likewise be no satisfaction for the inconsiderate detective herein, fattened by nepotistic expectations and deafened by unfamiliar tides of the avant-garde the need to ‘nod along’ will inevitably overtake as the daimon’s hand rocks it back and forth in demented fellatio.

That is to say that we are in completely unfamiliar, righteously unveiled and not at all self-conscious territory with the artist herein, they whom had long threatened to bear a ‘legacy’ cursed-mark, a signature sound that’d by all natural consumerist law rightfully stagnate into endless runs of glossier reproductions. In most every way ‘The Long Defeat‘ is a complete inversion of the theistic space (a “mountain”) set between Men and Gods, away from the fables of Greco-Roman deified domination available to most Satanic fantasy dialogue and closer to a meeting in the woods with a certain Faunus, or, a truly duplicitous mentor of the natural world most often found in European folklore. In matching the intimacy of this experience the entire Deathspell Omega invocation is transformed to that of a theatre-bound troupe spinning an imaginative tale which ultimately directs us to the illness of man and the necessary realization of his very nature, to know only his own illusion. Your expectations of this record are potentially intended to be broken at every turn in view of this living beast of an undertaking, as such the characteristic density of experience from the artist will be neither imposing or obviate. The deaf and memory-blind will roll over with a thumbs up, but it must be stated up front that this most accessible recording from the artist to date is not wearing any such anchor to the past beyond their admirable ethos.

An eight panel illustration, nine panel parable (short story, if you will), and full lyrics in print stand in stark contrast to the tower of stone-faced inhuman torment built within ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia‘ (2019) not only in terms of packaging but delivery wherein the abysm of human hubris was given megaphone and spire in serpentine glory, an apex and an entirely unique set of angles completing a thread of five bespoke albums similarly empowered by the fading willfulness of civilization. If that is to be considered the second era in rear-view the third does not appear to be conjured out of necessity but by design as ‘The Long Defeat‘ features its narrative voicing, which is potentially performed by multiple vocalists, in reaction to the doubting silhouette’s enlightenment by way of at least three separately voice interactions. As suggested in the notes available, the recording took place in a live setting amongst three key musicians in late summer 2021 and the vocals themselves at various times between then and September of that same year and, without suggesting various vocal contributors, there are many moments here which recall the greater End All Life/Norma Evangelium Diaboli spheres being tapped for their personification of depicted spirits. No longer a writhing beast of obliterative nox, in this moment we can and should view Deathspell Omega in a sort of bardic neo-progressive station.

The implied dramatic and expressive vocalization which characterizes ‘The Long Defeat‘ is presented as the key spectacle of the experience and, in some sense, serves as the erratic ‘ugliness’ of black metal within an album that largely strips itself of instrumental grime, instead opting for the adept hand of post-apocalyptic modernism felt by way of slightly percussive bass guitar tone, dissonant yet ornately fluid dual guitar rhythmic shapes and the surreal feature of heavy rock lead guitars and progressive metal/heavy rock drumming. Not only do these live-recorded instrumental choices subvert expectations quite bluntly but they provide an sense of variety to these atmospheric depictions alongside use of dissonant harsh noise, dark ambient, empyrean chorales, and even a handful of… slick as fuck guitar licks — All of it weighted heavily by tragedian affect but also swinging a bit, striking into some “rocking” melodic black metal loft when called for along the way in setting aside the obfuscation available to their dissonant and technical yesterdays. The mayhemic value of Deathspell Omega is yet alive within this new mode but they do not raise any weaponry for the sake of it, employing their heaviest strikes so that they might best coincide with the realizations of the inquisitor in the dark.

The protagonist of ‘The Long Defeat‘ is characterized by their doubt of a bright future promised by the Multitude as the realm of the living shrinks and assurances that cyclic forces will bring some meaningful return (by way of the Machine) appear too little, too late. The symbolism here is so heavily implied and nuanced that it begs to be read, re-read and perhaps even discussed a bit for clarity ’til the context of the performances becomes equally vital to gleaning the nature of the parable. It is an experience torn between satisfyingly vexing thought, intermittently obviate assumption, and corrective reasoning wherein the result is an intoxicatingly ponderous thing, a feature of the writing wherein a love for French/Belgian surrealist authors shines through the otherwise mythic quality of its major interactions. So, cutting a bit closer to the marrow here, the sum of observations thus far should imply that it’ll be difficult to recognize the “face” of Deathspell Omega within this work beyond their charismatic arrangements and the finer details of their themes when faced with uncharacteristic tonality and an remarkably updated vocal register. In essence the “character” you might’ve associated this project with in the past has achieved an ego-death, one that is surprisingly complete to the point that I’d say the listener must choose to either take what they are given as priest-to-tongue communion, or, wait and see what’ll sink in with consideration. It’ll not likely be a genuinely fast conversion in any case.

“Enantiodromia” is the major indictment and manifesto in introduction to these entirely newfangled world-building events. The ~12 minute opener is a bass-driven, venom coughing rant which presents as a torturous transformation between throat-sung introduction and edge-of-your-seat noir ambiance as we traverse the dark forest ahead. It is also the piece that each listener will undoubtedly experience as a necessary polarization, an anticipation riddled inversion which to some degree resembles its profound title as it contorts familiar guitar techniques and phrasal quips from the experimental addendums of certain 2000’s EP releases and most recent Deathspell Omega records as it slowly unravels into an decaying opus. Though the guitar work is specifically bearing barely recognizable climes here and there, these are habits which soon reach new highs as the full listen proceeds; This reinforces the notion that the major ethos of the band still exists but that this -won’t- be a half-step in a new direction, but a full steep. “Eadem, sed aliter” is direct reinforcement of theme, a title which reinforces a certain discourse on the ceremony of duality revealed as systemic similitude… and it also has some wildly shredding solos, a luxuriously set melodic black metal rhythm guitar hurricane blustering throughout, all of this masterfully executed in a way that is perhaps spiritually similar to the unorthodox structural features of the two most recent Funeral Mist records, a mixture of high-dramatic movements which speak to a sort of flow-state mentality. The easement granted around ~6:45 minutes into this piece, a bent and wriggling fret-hand grinding its point home with a closed-eye warp of phrase is yet one of my favorite movements on the full listen.

There are quite a few details left to parse here from the twisted chorales of the title track, the Virus-attuned pulsations of the ailing machine on the incredible “Sie sind gerichtet!”, and the incredible Mgła-esque post-modern stride and swagger of closer “Our Life is Your Death” but the important note to take is that these pieces are surreal in gather for the sake of their musical qualities rather than simply because they are unexpected from this band. In truth it is a slap to the guts to suggest that Deathspell Omega have kind of lit my ass on fire with the lead guitar work here, that the bass guitar tone/playing is fucking inspirationally set, nonetheless that strange bundle of feelings is just one symptom indicative of the Sodom and Gomorrah available to the listener herein, an unholy sort of avant-garde experience that is curiously accessible and well, just “wrong” in a way that speaks to the boldness of these fellowes. As a listening experience, brain unlatched and happily stirred by the wiles of ‘The Long Defeat‘, the intensely detailed narrative flooding through slickest pipeline they’ve presented is completely satisfying and, again, entirely accessible in its grandest sweeping motion. It is as essential as any other release from the band to date and, per the narrative’s “To be continued…” it seems there is yet more of this flood to come and even more of their high-conceptual ‘bigger picture’ to receive within this freshly cinematic format. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (95/100)

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.
Info:
ARTIST:DEATHSPELL OMEGA
TITLE:The Long Death
LABEL(S):Norma Evangelium Diaboli
RELEASE DATE:March 23rd, 2022

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