Deathspell Omega dial back the madness, still obliterate souls on new EP ‘Drought’

It’s time for us to briefly touch on two topics from last week: weirdness and the French. Those topics came up when discussing the latest releases from Bosse-de-Nage and Gojira, and actually, both could be used to talk about each of those bands. See how that works?

One of the bands mentioned last week was weirdo, experimental black metal band Deathspell Omega, a French group that’s been making some of the most unsettling, strangest sounds for years now, typically to much acclaim. Their albums are sprawling with normally epic-length songs, a lot of bizarre goings on, and plenty of spiritual (in the dark sense by way of metaphysical satanism) and philosophical ideals swirling in their cyclone of chaos. They are not an easy band to get to know, because their sound takes some adjustment for most people since it is so unconventional. They also aren’t easy to know personally as they operate in the shadows.

Yeah, we know the creative names of the people behind Deathspell Omega, but that’s about all. We don’t have press photos, very many interviews, live shows or anything like that. It seems their recordings serve the purpose of being the band’s entire statement, and nothing beyond that is a fitting vehicle for what they have to say or mean to the universe. That also helps add to their intrigue. The fact they also treat their satanic beliefs in the metaphysical sense and approach this area of thinking seriously and not, like, some circus sideshow also may be unsettling to some people who fear such subject matter. It no doubt can be both moving and frightening. Take a record such as their masterpiece, 2004’s “Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice,” and the choral chants and furious emissions contained on it, and it no doubt can chase you down a dark hall, begging for mercy.

But that’s not all the band does well, and their new EP “Drought” aims to prove that. When compared to the rest of the band’s massive discography, this is pretty bare bones, a cut-and-dried, stripped-down collection musically, though it still will send you into dizzy spells and hysterics if you’re not accustomed to their style. If you are a longtime listener, this will seem like the band just throwing down and showing what they can do when they drive straight ahead, with only a few minutes devoted to each song. It still sounds unmistakably like Deathspell Omega, just a shortened, reeled-in version. Sure, you could argue there were shorter songs on their last full-length “Paracletus,” but the tracks all worked together to form a whole. These all work as singular entities, thus why they seem so different from a compositional standpoint.

The EP’s also awfully good and just flies by in no time. My first visit, I was stunned when the thing faded so quickly, and I was sitting there like an idiot waiting for a sixth track that didn’t exist. But that’s the sign of quality, too, so yeah, less is more here. “Fiery Serpents” is your opener, and you’ll find something here that’s typically foreign to a Deathspell Omega recording: discernable, catchy melody. No really, it’s there, and it feels a little punk rock/post-rock in its glory, never taking away from the band’s savagery. “Scorpions and Drought” is a little trickier, as the drums just blow up in your face, the fury is allowed to bubble over, and words are practically spat out along with snake venom. “Sand” is more calculated, with added melody, weird guitar stabs, and moaned vocals that sound both pained and desperate. “Abrasive Swirling Murk” has a misleading title because while you may be expecting a tonado of sound, you instead are met with hammer to the temple and outright violence. Closer “The Crackled Book of Life” is the purest Deathspell track on here, as it rides on off-kilter rhythms, horns, fucked up strings, spiritual chants, and pure sickness. Then, as quickly as they arrived, they’re gone.

This isn’t a wholly representative Deathspell Omega offering, though it may be a good starting point for a newcomer who needs to get up to speed with the sound and philosophy before tackling one of the band’s full-lengths. I find it a fun, satisfying little effort that doesn’t quite rack your brain like their other mini-releases (last year’s “Diabolus Absconditus” still has me dissecting text) but also gives you a nice Deathspell fix. Psyched to hear something fuller from the band soon, but this will do for now.

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