Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice
Monumental Intelligent Blasphemy - 99% Written by crazpete on October 1st, 2004
This album may be one of the most underappreciated yet thoroughly well-crafted pieces of black metal ever unleashed. Every aspect of the music and recording is given attention befitting a great work of intense concentration, so that even the most simple and straightforward moments of this experience are thoroughly polished and undeniably powerful.
The album itself is a musical work of art to be experienced in its entirety. It begins with a simple distorted guitar line that hovers on two distinct dissonant intervals; a second and a diminished fifth that waver in hypnotic droning though a brief riff that is repeated again and again. Within a few repeats, a voice appears providing counterpart: an initially nebulous accent delivers what sounds like a Middle Eastern or Indian sung prayer, echoing out of a musty decrepit temple. Finally, the distorted guitar line is re-voiced though a clean guitar passage played backward, giving an ethereal ambiance to the tone, which is enhanced later by more of the same chanting. With the reverse tone of the clean guitar track underneath, it becomes apparent that the strange prayer vocals were actually a European choir-like chant in reverse; and the listener realizes that what is being presented is a black mass. The nature of the guitar line is given further significance since the dissonant interval being played over and over again is indeed a diminished fifth: the infamous 'Diablos en Musica' that the Catholic Church banned in the middle ages for sounding too Semitic and/or evil. Intermittent noise one first might think is due to a poor production morphs into ambiance as a thick and dark echo of industrial noise decends over the music. As each of these musical ideas that are so often mentioned in the metal community yet rarely given form converge into one intro, a glimmer of the depth and intelligence of this album begins to manifest. Despite the heavily cerebral nature of the intro, the percussion provides a well-developed metal sensibility to it all, and it sounds more like a doom-influenced section of a lost Slayer intro as the percussion builds, sputters, and reforms with greater crescendo in the most theatrical yet passionate way a metal intro can. This is indeed metal music one can sink their teeth into.
The next song begins with a much more traditional black metal flourish as thick distorted guitars and full black metal orchestration bring forth a dark and mid-paced intro riff that with no repetition leads into a semi-typical raging riff of simple dark power as minor bar chords meet with small flourishes of a clean dissonant chord. Three basic riffs move in quick blocks of structure to build a simple black metal aesthetic reminiscent of mid-era Darkthrone or early Immortal, laced with some thicker chords that call to mind more early Satyricon, Emperor, Ulver, or even Abigorian phrasings. At 2:14, all reaches an unexpected catharsis as the guitars leap upwards about two octaves to give voice to a deceptively singular riff of expansive emotional power, played in the same jazz-mutated-folk style as Kvist, Shade, Taake, or some chords Shining is fond of. This expansive set of 9th and even 13th intervals gives a completely different and reverential quality to the rather simple and angry dark nature of the earlier riffs, and this riff stands on its own to dig deep within the listener to bring forth that most envied emotion in darker music: a completely unique and unnamable sense of combined awe, fear, disgust, and yearning that only the most proficient of black metal bands can summon. The riff falls completely away to lead to more refrains of the earlier darker sections, only to come back again with a buzzing solo buried within its expansive tones.
The next song uses the same formula: many darker simpler riffs organized into small foundational sections of song that lead to a cathartic main riff, voiced in a higher octave, of raw emotional power as thick expansive intervals are voiced with blurred and distorted speed picking of a quite distinct nature. Repeat listens of each song reveal a classical structure of organization that is often just shy of being 'correct,' yet containing the purposefully wrong number of refrains or repeats to keep the work off-balance and full of tension on all levels as minor chords resolve to dissonance in the most satisfying yet incomplete way.
The album's overall craft comes into sharp focus as more of the album is revealed: each section of three songs appears in a distinct set of voice, production, and mood. In fact, each set of three songs begins with some perverted form of 'prayer,' leading the listener to contemplate the nature of this occurrence of sets of 3 and their significance within this work of blasphemy. As has been noticed elsewhere, this idea of the album containing small sub-albums has been voiced by the band itself and is entirely intentional; planned on being central to the packaging of the vinyl double-disc.
Overall, the level of musicianship displayed by all the members here is stellar. The guitars flawlessly present organically shifting and yet jarring riffs of thick intervals and chords not normally voiced by metal music. The bass carries its own weight as a separate harmonic instrument very capable of playing its own harmonies and counterparts. Drums perform their job as a unique black metal instrument of blended ambiance, complex enough if carefully listened for, yet almost transparent within the larger framework of each riff set and overall song. Vocals gurgle forth traditional black metal of a lower register than many screeching incantations, and are often silent to let each riff or subset of riffs introduce itself before launching into narrative blasphemy. Definitely one of the better vocal performances I've heard, it becomes an instrument with a rhythmic phrasing and timbre unique among other voices, and the gurgling full low nature of its pitch gives it an unexpected power.
The album is breathtaking in its cohesion and yet vast and varied stylistic grandeur. Each song and subset of songs is unique and yet part of a distinctly larger whole. The guitar tone is scratchy and hollow, yet filled with warm reverb to provide a rich sound. Drums are given a clean piercing sound which is slightly compressed to provide it with a clear yet not jarring voice. Bass is given a warmer lower register and uncharacteristically little high end, allowing it to reside beneath the guitars as a voice that manages to both mesh and be distinct. Each song may reveal slightly different production values, adding more depth to a repeat listen. In fact, this album needs quite a few complete listens to draw out even a hint at all it has to offer. Layer after layer of musical, organizational, and aesthetic meaning can be derived from this release; and only the first song is even partially mapped out of its meanings in this review. This is a work of art in the academic sense: it can mean many things to many people, and takes on significant power as a singular composition of tone and voice, as a work of music, as a specific orchestration of a larger composition, and as a work of aesthetic emotional expression. Highly recommended for the devout listener eager to devour a complex work of dark musical art worthy of many repeat listenings.
The Black Metal Elite - 99% Written by Lord_Arckadius on July 4th, 2006
Deathspell Omega makes an amazing EP showing why they are the elite of Black Metal today. Mikko Aspa's diverse and powerful vocals and the bands heavy and fast riffs take you for the ride of your fucking life as DSO brings you black metal, as it should be.
I – Builds up with a slow, eerie riff preparing you for a full wave a heavy guitar riffs and blast beat filled, kvlt black metal. Filled with great breakdowns and changing riffs this nearly 16 minute song is worth every second of its play time.
II – The beginning is excellent, commencing with a medium paced riff with Mikko's vocals setting the tone for the song's atmosphere. At about 8:12, the song goes into about a 45 second breakdown that almost seems out of place at first, but definitely fits the song in adding to its diversity and musical merit. Outstanding!
III – Heavy at the very beginning and very doom oriented after about 1:52 seconds. Extremely mood changing and atmosphere setting, this song sends you into the very pit of your soul searching for the most primitive and evil aspects of yourself. Mikko's grim and deep vocals darken this song even more (all the way to the finish). Definitely worth every second of its play time, if not more!
In Closing – This release, with its good quality production, technical and outstanding musicianship and amazing lyrics shows the world what the standard of Black Metal should be held at [and the fact that intelligent and musically gifted individuals took the time and went the extra mile for this release]. Deathspell Omega is the great Black Metal band of our time. Kénôse is a “can't live without” purchase.
Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum
Monumental Art. Superb. - 100% Written by Sternodox on August 31st, 2007
Although this is primarily a review of Deathspell Omega's newest release, it can also serve as a brief intro for those unfamiliar with the band. The descriptions of the preceding works can also serve as reference points leading to a better understanding of Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum.
Deathspell Omega's first full-length, Infernal Battles, was released in 2000, and consists of primal, minimally-produced, Darkthrone worshiping, black metal. Splits with Finnish warlords Clandestine Blaze, the bewildering one-man German black metal project Moonblood, and the French Les Légions Noires stalwarts Mutiilation followed. The equally raw and bleak Inquisitors of Satan, released in 2002, ended Deathspell Omega's first phase.
After what had gone before, nobody expected what the band would wreak with its 2004 release, Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice, the first of a trilogy concerning divine will, Man's inherent perdition, and the inevitability of his eternal judgment. That release displayed a band that had leapt so far ahead of its previous incarnation as to be almost unrecognizable. Lengthy song constructions filled with dense, macabre melodic musings tangled with joy-crushing powerhouse black metal while lyrically invoking the mysteries of God, Satan, and Man's tragic and unwitting role in the eternal battle between righteousness and evil.
This concept was alluded to on three releases that followed: From the Entrails to the Dirt (2005) a three-record split with French hordes Antaeus, Mutiilation, and Malicious Secrets, further consolidated Deathspell Omega's reputation as a black metal band that is challenging the genre's status quo. In 2005 the band released the EP Kénôse, a collection of songs so disturbing in their dark beauty that larger numbers in the metal community finally began to take serious notice.
Also in 2005, Northern Heritage released Crushing the Holy Trinity, a very limited three-record set (1,000 copies) containing the efforts of six bands, each of which got half a side. Side one, entitled "Father" featured a nearly 23-minute opus titled "Diabolus Absconditus." With this composition, Deathspell Omega left every other black metal band in the stylistic dirt and freed itself from the constraints of a genre that had grown largely moribund. "Diabolus Absconditus" was a revelation! Deranged riffing, a five-minute acoustic interlude that sounded like hellish jazz, impossible time changes and bizarre, angular chording revealed that this Franco-Finnish ensemble was single-handedly inventing an elite of black metal trail-blazers, creating music that nobody had thought to formulate before.
Now comes Deathspell Omega's latest opus, Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum (loosely translated from the Latin, it means "By divine law, go ye cursed into eternal fire"). Simply put, it is phenomenal; quite possibly the greatest metal release I've encountered in a decade. It's beyond good. It's revolutionary. Lyrically, the band has transcended juvenile Satanic flirtation and embarked upon a fervent and erudite exploration of universal theology. It will take multiple listenings (and perhaps a few reference excursions to the Bible and Dante's Inferno) to fully comprehend the message Deathspell Omega is attempting to impart. In a nutshell, for those impatient souls, the message is this: Hopelessness.
Like the last four offerings from Deathspell Omega, this release begins quietly, with a song titled "Obombration," featuring an ethereal and nebulous choir chanting over soft neoclassical musings. It's not long, however, until chaos erupts with DsO's trademark uber-heavy arpeggios lumbering about like a Satanic Pink Floyd. Mid-tempo drums anchored by a subdued double-bass rumble mark time while a sample of something that sounds like a foghorn permeates the gloomy atmosphere. This fades out after a few minutes, replaced by more mournful chanting, which eventually succumbs to silence.
The second track, "The Shrine of Mad Laughter," erupts suddenly with a furious blast-beat attack, harkening back to DsO's past releases, before segueing into a convoluted maze of bent, angular riffing and drumming that's nearly impossible to comprehend, much less tap one's foot to. DsO's drummer, whoever he or she is, is a monster and gets better with each release. The percussion is metal, jazz, psychedelia, anti-music, and sheer power, all rolled into one pummeling amalgam of rhythmic insanity. The song ends with more quietude, a formula repeated throughout the album. This is a very jarring set of tunes. One is constantly jerked from the ambient interludes to the rampant black metal salvos; it is unnerving and emotionally draining.
Track three, "The Bread of Bitterness," contains psychotic layers of guitar, dozens of them, augmented with something that sounds like a calliope, creating what, at times, sounds like circus music from Hell. There is an innovative mix on this cut - a male choir follows Aspa's delirious vocals, hovering just beneath the surface, a very rewarding and slightly frightening listening experience with headphones.
The fourth track, "The Repellent Scars of Abandon and Election," features an insane call and response wherein a very evil sounding voice whispers each line, after which Aspa screams it in a demented sermonizing vocal style. After a minute, it switches and the whispers echo Aspa's lines. Then it all starts to overlap until voices are bombarding the listener from all directions in an anarchy of screams, whispers, howls, and moans. Very intense and harrowing! About two-thirds of the way through the song this madness suddenly abates and a slightly de-tuned piano offers a discordant melody line for a few bars before the madness begins anew.
Orchestral samples and layered choirs permeate the next song, "A Chore for the Lost." More screaming, more musical bellicosity, more superb ensemble playing, more incredible black metal.
Finally, it ends with a short reprise of the first song.
In its execution, Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum is jubilant and celebratory. It's crushing and evil. It's suffocating and dense. There are so many musical ideas thrown about that it's difficult to capture them all in one, or even several, listening sessions. Make no mistake – this is definitely black metal. The music contains the requisite tremolo riffing, hyper-kinetic blast-beast drumming, and scorched earth vocals that linger between a death metal growl and a traditional black metal screech. But there is so much more. The drummer flirts with jazz, psychedelia, thrash, doom, and a half dozen other styles, and masters them all. Mikko Aspa has one of the most distinct voices in metal. It's bombastic, scary, demonic, enunciated, and is instantly recognizable after just one listen. Hasjarl's guitar playing is also first rate. He peppers the tunes with shimmering, serpentine leads and light-speed riffing. His style is, at times, a black metal version of Joy Division - hovering beneath the melody, setting up the kill, waiting for the chance to attack. His inventiveness and technique are astonishing.
I must reiterate that Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum is the finest, most impressive black metal release I've ever heard, and the best metal album in any genre I've acquired in the past decade. Deathspell Omega is quietly revolutionizing the Metal universe and I anticipate the third installment of the trilogy like I've anticipated nothing else in this style of music. I suggest you order this album immediately and see what metal can be. Deathspell Omega is the savior of black metal.
Their Best One Yet - 90% Written by 3EyedGoat on August 1st, 2007
The short version of this review would be: This is Deathspell Omega's best and most ambitious record yet. It's not to be missed. With that out of the way, I wanted to state a few further thoughts I had on this record and this band in general.
DsO records are, in my opinion, among the best produced in all of Black Metal. So many bands add copious amounts of reverb in order to convey the sense of being in a subterranean cavern or a bleak and desolate landscape. It's a time-honored technique and often very effective. The problem is that many pedals and soundboard simulators tend to sound exactly like what they are: imitations. Deathspell Omega manages to create, either by actual room acoustics, a higher recording budget, or sophisticated studio skill, an incredible sense of space on their recordings. Try playing this album on a decent stereo at full volume and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. Rather than feel like you're listening to a "record" of a Satanic ritual, you'll feel like you're in the middle of an actual Black Mass... and YOU are the sacrifice!
About the words, Deathspell Omega's lyrics are the best. Period. The depth of the philosophy behind them deserves to be studied at the University level. They pretty much make the lyrics of other band's songs seem like vague and sophomoric rants. Mixing ominous latin maledictions with bleak, suicidal poetry and blasphemous curses against an illegitimate god in heaven, the songs sound more like daemonic prayers than the standard Satanic war-cries found on so many other records. And all delivered in one of the most unique voices in this type of music. But there is something to be said for a simple shout-along song while you're pounding beers with some friends. I can't really see myself doing that to this record. It's just too intense.
Now onto the music. I am, and always will be, a sucker for a good guitar riff. Heavy, simple, and repetitive equals good metal in my book. I love listening to a killer, fuzzed-out lick, then picking up my guitar and entering a trance-like state as I recreate it for hours. I can't do that with DsO. They're too good. The music is too complex to be duplicated convincingly. But before my lame description gives the idea that this is some kind of bullshit math-rock workout, know this. This record hits all the points of the pentagram for qualifying as authentic Black Metal. But it's more than that as well. It's a swift boot to the the teeth of all the old-fart classicists who endlessly mewl on and on how Black Metal musicians can't play. Can't compete with so-called "real" musicians. Total vindication! This band murders almost any other I can think of for sheer technical ability and instrumental chops. Yes, they're unique, yes, they're experimental. But forget all that. The real achievement here is that despite the complicated rhythms, multitude of dynamic shifts, weird atonal scales, abrupt variances in speed, and sudden drop-outs to sparse piano melodies, the result remains undeniably heavy, uncompromisingly evil, and totally pure Black Metal.
Another review for Fas- can be found here on Imhotep, I provide a link to save their own formatting. Click here.
Here is another excellent review of Kenose from Stylus Magazine. Click here.
Another DSO review from Stylus can be found here.
Chronicles of Chaos review of Kenose.
Chronicles of Chaos review of Fas.