Deathspell Omega - _Paracletus_
(Norma Evangelium Diaboli / Season of Mist, 2010)
by: Kostas Sarampalis (10 out of 10)
One of the most difficult things a band has to overcome is stagnation. Though most choose to churn out album after album of the same stuff, other, more competent artists choose to either flirt out of genre or character, or seek something more complete within their chosen art form. I sense that I have said this before, but it cannot be more true for Deathspell Omega. Ever since they decided to break from the black metal mold and evolve their music into something unique, they have been producing one impressive album after the other. Where _Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice_ paved the way and _Kénôse_ infused the brutality with technical prowess, the second album in their trilogy, _Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum_ was, to these ears at least, almost unbearable in its complexity. Said trilogy, which explores a metaphysical idea of Satan and its relation to man and god, is thus completed in _Paracletus_, which is probably the band's biggest achievement so far.

After going through the album for the first time, the listener is left with an intense anxiety of making sense of the aural chaos experienced. Though this is always the case with Deathspell Omega, this time, mercifully, the head scratching does not last as long. It quickly becomes apparent that _Paracletus_ incorporates all this band has ever been and achieved in its various guises, condensed into forty three minutes of infernal apotheosis. Melody (well, some semblance of) rears its head this time more prominently and not only shyly, like in "Have You Beheld the Fevers?", where a melodic riff -almost- manages to break through, before violently being shred and torn into a multitude of pieces. Accompanying the baleful vocal style that has remained constant in their releases, there is also spoken word, clean singing and occasional and understated chanting that not only provide variety, but also enhance the atmosphere created and draw the listener deeper and deeper into the dark theme that is explored.

Probably the most successful achievement in this album is it's pacing. Where previous albums relied almost solely on prolonged pieces of either aggression or introverted calmness, _Paracletus_ mixes and matches violence and atmosphere almost constantly. The album is no less violent than any before that; it is just that there are so many surprises, obvious and hidden alike, to be experienced. Bookend extraordinaire "Apokatastasis Pantôn" is an extremely fitting closer to not just this album, but the whole trilogy. Melodic and almost avant-garde, reprising riffs and melodies from other parts of the album (especially the guitar from "Epiklesis II"), it simply -feels- like an era ending. And perhaps it is, depending on what Deathspell Omega decide to do next.

One thing that has always amused me is the criticism Deathspell Omega have often attracted regarding their thematic approach on the subject of god, Lucifer and religion in their lyrics. Even since they shifted from the narrow confines of black metal into the exploration of the metaphysical and the divine, for me, they have become copiously more relevant in a scene that has the habit of ridiculing itself. Everything, from the lyrics, to the album covers, the obscurity of the members' identities and of course the music itself, is so delicately balanced and meticulously crafted, that to criticise the absence of the prosaic is numbingly ludicrous.

Regardless. _Paracletus_ is a masterpiece and the band's (current) crowning achievement, and it should not be missing from anyone's collection. This is -the- black metal album of the year. This is chaos made sense.


(article published 27/1/2011)

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