Deathspell Omega - Paracletus
Season Of Mist
Black Metal
10 songs (42:34)
Release year: 2010
Official Bandcamp, Season Of Mist
Reviewed by Charles
Album of the month
The classic Dutch national team of the 1970s are renowned for having developed something called ‘total football’. They abandoned the rigidly defined positions associated with the game’s typical strategies and approached teamwork with an entirely new philosophy. Any player could fulfil any outfield role at a given time, emphasising positional interchange and a playing style that was fluid, unpredictable, and spontaneously shifting without needing clear and accepted signals to do so.

Over recent albums, Deathspell Omega have developed a sort of ‘total black metal’. Their sound contorts into chaotic whirlwinds in which blasting percussion, tangled, dissonant guitar lines and shrieking choral vocals seem to tumble together as one, ignoring stifling role delineations which dictate than one person does the riffing and another does the time keeping. In fact, they are one of the few metal bands that can barely be said to have riffs. They can spin from reverent silence to raging cacophony in a heartbeat, and seize and discard complex or outlandish tonal and rhythmic shapes seemingly without thought. It is this, I think, that makes them one of black metal’s most exciting bands.

This artistic breakthrough is often attributed to 2004’s Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice (the opening of a trilogy that this album apparently closes), and the instantly recognisable sound has been honed ever since, with the unhinged dynamics first hinted at on that album's epic Carnal Malefactor becoming an ever more important element. In some ways Paracletus seems like a return to the band's approach circa 2004. The dynamic range here is much narrower than it had become, over the frightening escalation of tension of the slow-burning Kenose tracks, or the schizophrenic alterations of the Fas… epics. But despite that, this is not an attempt at a retread of that record. Look at the track listing: the ten pieces converge on a surprisingly reasonable average length of about four minutes each with nothing reaching the seven-minute mark. It is more concise, and elements like the religious chanting that channelled so much occult atmosphere is entirely absent (lyrically, of course, it engages with the same religious themes, but this metaphysical Satanism mumbo-jumbo is not an element of the band's sound I feel the need to discuss here. It's evocative, in a The Omen kinda way, but the sheer sound of the music itself stands on its own). In many respects, this is a single-minded and brutally modern assault which in its complex, violent riffing and bludgeoning approach feels as much like the freakier outreaches of avant-death as practiced by Ulcerate as a black metal band.

As a result, this is a dense and fearsome album whose structure is initially difficult to really grasp. On Paracletus, Deathspell Omega are as dependent on dynamic light and shade as ever, it’s just that I feel their dynamic axis is shifting a little. It gleefully hurls those familiarly feverish, dissonant and hyperactive ideas at you, making for astonishingly intense stretches of music. These are the strongest moments, and for me the real ‘point’ of the record. Devouring Famine, for example, opens with inhumanly fast percussion and blistering, pained guitar screeches, but these elements seem to be colliding off each other without properly interlocking. Then, after twenty seconds it takes deadly shape, like the drawbridge to Hell finally thumping down, leaving the listener to be trampled into the dirt by an outward rush of an incomprehensible multitude of jabbering demons. There are subtleties, be in no doubt, but they are the sort that only seep through into your consciousness after several listens. The way that a frail lead line struggles over a percussive blastbeat as all the rhythm instruments drop suddenly out 1:30 into Wings of Predation, for example, or the sudden transition into a sly backbeat fifteen seconds into Malconfort.

But, particularly throughout the first half of the album, I also detect a move towards a toiling and sweltering rock sensibility that sometimes feels like a weight chained to the feet of the band’s harrowing technical wizardry. Abscission, Dearth and Phosphene all wrestle with growling and uneasy but nonetheless melodic rock ideas, disrupting the scintillating momentum of the opening two tracks. There are also two particular interludes which deserve mention: Epiklesis II is an extremely effective melodic construction built around swells of clean guitar, and the captivating closer Apokatastasis Panton is like the uneasy calm after the storm; a harsh but emotive wail of dank melody to end the album on a chillingly downbeat note.

This makes it a difficult album to really understand. I have revised this review countless times, sometimes moving my score up and sometimes down. I can’t help but feel there is something slightly frustrating about it. The band sounds so electrifying in its wilder moments that I almost wish Paracletus was one long blast of heat, and that the periods of restraint would retreat. But this, I feel, is to miss the point of Deathspell Omega’s music, which thrives on its light and shade. It almost goes without saying that this band is doing things with black metal that, currently, nobody else really seems capable of.

Killing Songs :
Devouring Famine, Wings of Predation, Have You Beheld the Fevers?
Charles quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by Deathspell Omega that we have reviewed:
Deathspell Omega - The Long Defeat reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Deathspell Omega - The Furnaces of Palingenesia reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Deathspell Omega - Drought reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
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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