Deathspell Omega - The Furnaces of Palingenesia
Norma Evangelium Diaboli
Progressive Black Metal
11 songs (45:18)
Release year: 2019
Official Bandcamp, Norma Evangelium Diaboli
Reviewed by Goat
Album of the month

A frequent downside to innovation is that once you become known for it, it's all you know how to do. Nowhere is this as true as in music where bands that once blew minds by doing something different become enmeshed in a maze of their own creation, repeating themselves endlessly to lesser degrees. The most obvious example are France's Blut Aus Nord, who blew minds with The Work Which Transforms God and then repeated themselves for over a decade. Deathspell Omega have managed to avoid being similarly castigated as a one-trick pony by simply avoiding the Frenchmen's busy release schedule, despite the fact that they haven't really changed up their style since 2007's Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeturnum. Of course, fans will defend both bands by saying they change enough to make each release interesting, and it is a more plausible argument for Deathspell Omega, at least. Other examples can be found; Meshuggah, for instance, are a band that despite having a very clear formula make each new release interesting and Deathspell Omega have similarly mostly avoided pitfalls with each slight variation on their dark, Satanic theme.

This was until 2016's The Synarchy of Molten Bones, a strange EP/full-length (at just under half an hour, is it truly either?) that pushed the Deathspell Omega sound into chunks that failed to make as much of an impression as before. Chaotic, avant-garde soundscapes that batter the listener into submission are all well and good, but this felt aimless, samey and almost unmemorable, despite some clear progressions in terms of riffs. That progression is more than carried into the fantastic The Furnaces of Palingenesia which feels very much like a statement from the band, a reversion to past mastery from the traditional song lengths and album structure to the lyrics, forming something of a fanatical manifesto given purpose and direction thanks to a clearer than usual performance from Mikko Aspa. There's much that could be said about the man's other interests but as a vocalist he's rarely been this impressive, a full-throated denunciation pouring forth from his very soul, as malevolent and Satanic as black metal can be, with his vocals approaching clean singing at moments, yet mostly staying close to his usual growl.

Lyrically there's much to interpret, although it seems close to the band's typical inversion of Christian tropes particularly with that album title meaning a process of continual rebirth, a philosophical term tracing to the Ancient Greeks. Jesus described the Last Judgement in similar terms and it has also been used in the political realm regarding fascist propaganda about national reawakenings, which is enough for some fearful types to describe this as an NSBM call to arms. Actual evidence for this is, to put it kindly, scant but there's no denying the malevolence that comes across when reading the lyrics, which are undoubtedly dystopian and nightmarish in a nihilistic, destructive way. The music itself is Deathspell Omega's typically chaotic and avant-garde approach to black metal but less dissonant than they've become known for, with actual riffs and varied drumming rather than walls of textural sound and blasting. Which is a brilliant move, opening their sound up and making it more accessible than ever; far from easy-listening, of course, but this could be recommended as a better entry point to their discography than nearly any past release.

The closer you listen, the more you uncover; The Fires of Frustration have those weirdly odd backing soundscapes, Axis of Perdition-esque, but the following Ad Arma! Ad Arma! is more structured and riff-focused, using some unearthly horn rumbles to incredible effect. Imitatio Dei is downright straightforward, driven by the guitars and drums, contrasting nicely with the following 1523, which is less busy and almost sparse in comparison. In fact, this sense of restraint on Deathspell Omega's part can largely be credited with reversing the decline noticeable on Synarchy..., showing a more diverse and interesting set of sounds off well. There are plenty of speedy, voracious blasts such as Sacrificial Theopathy but these are as complex and intricate as the band's past works. Even more interesting are the slower, melodic sections such as parts of Standing on the Works of Slaves, the orchestral-enhanced bleak glory of Renegade Ashes, and especially the closing misery-drenched You Cannot Even Find the Ruins which approaches funeral doom territory and would be an intriguing new direction for Deathspell Omega to explore. There's very clearly a need for this project to change things up if they want to avoid being regarded in the same way that Blut Aus Nord are... Let us save those criticisms for next time, however, and regard this as the monster that it is; easily as good as past highlights from the band and given crushing resonance by the lyrics and their masterful delivery, it will be on the playlist for a long time. This album is a rare beast in that it has a personality and style unique to it, not merely rewarding multiple listens but making them mandatory if you want to re-experience it - far too early to be throwing terms like 'future classic' around, of course, but Deathspell Omega were once leaders in the genre and they've more than reclaimed their position with The Furnaces of Palingenesia.

Killing Songs :
Difficult to pick as there's not a bad track present, but Ad Arma! Ad Arma! Imitatio Dei, Standing on the Work of Slaves, and You Cannot Even Find the Ruins are all terrific.
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Deathspell Omega that we have reviewed:
Deathspell Omega - The Long Defeat reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Deathspell Omega - Drought reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
Deathspell Omega - Paracletus reviewed by Charles and quoted 92 / 100
Deathspell Omega - Veritas Diaboli Manet In Aeternum: Chaining The Katechon reviewed by James and quoted no quote
Deathspell Omega - Manifestations 2000-2001 reviewed by James and quoted no quote
To see all 9 reviews click here
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