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Deathspell Omega - Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice CD (album) cover

SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRES, CIRCUMSPICE

Deathspell Omega

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.76 | 60 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Si Monvmentvm Requires, Circvmspice' - Deathspell Omega (81/100)

It is dangerously easy to underrate how important Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice was for black metal in 2004. Not only did Deathspell Omega launch their sound thirteen miles deeper into avant-garde obscurantism with their subsequent masterpieces Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum and Paracletus; the decade since has been replete with halfhearted imitators, wishing to glimpse into the same well of truth and horror that impelled the mysterious French collective to such ambitious lengths. If Si Monumentum sounds any less groundbreaking, it is only in light of the mind-ripping works DSO would achieve hereafter. In a broad sense, the album may be seen as a bridge between the post-Second Wave stylistic confusion of black metal at the turn of the millennium, and the ubiquitous composer-provocateurs that define the genre today.

Even beyond the works it has inspired, Si Monumentum stands as a proud, albeit bloated monument unto itself. Multiple interlude tracks, sophisticated compositions, schizoid dissonance and even an extended trip into Gregorian choral music with "Carnal Malefactor" all lend themselves to an influence from progressive rock. While bands like Enslaved and Emperor had incorporated a prog influence into their work before, Deathspell Omega went a step further, cutting through the progressive tropes and distilling them to their source. Outside Si Monumentum's burstfire amping of black metal conventions, there's a broad sense of Western classical music (itself the grandfather of progressive rock and metal), filtered through such smoke and mirrors that you may not hear the classical influences overtly in all but the most prominent cases. What ultimately results from this stylistic alchemy of European musical tradition, however, is a sense of incredibly serious religiosity.

That relative 'seriousness' is Si Monumentum's great gift to black metal. That's not to say that the First and Second Wavers weren't potentially just as sincere about their malevolent inclinations, but fairly often those occult or negative feelings were channelled with a vulgar, even adolescent grasp of their subject matter. Satan hailing, goat-fukking mad libs don't mince words when it comes to espousing their respective bands ideologies, but the lyrics themselves are often easy to toss out on an intellectual basis. Compare that to what DSO decided to do with Si Monumentum. The album's lyrics strike me as an intellectually-backed dive into orthodox Satanism, devised in the mirror image of Catholic liturgy. Perhaps moreso than the album's musical innovations, Si Monumentum is set most apart by DSO's supreme navigation of their genre's central ideology. Retreats into Latin and erudite English (vocalised aggressively here by Finnish deviant Mikko Aspa) give the rich impression of facing Christian orthodoxy on its own playing field. The two albums since that have rounded out the band's trilogy have collectively manifested as the most in-depth exploration of Satan I've ever found in metal.

The three 'prayers' on Si Monumentum serve as atmospheric interludes to space out the album; I actually think they've turned out as some of the album's greatest offerings. "First Prayer" sounds perfectly dismal, like the opening notes of a Black Mass, complete with sampled choral voices. These choral voices (now virtually orthodox BM cliche) appear throughout the album, counterpointing the band's bass-heavy aggression in "Third Prayer", culminating in a gorgeous minutes-long a capella in the centre of "Carnal Malefactor". Deathspell Omega showcase a Gregorian choir with none but a ticking bass tone to remind the listener they're still listening to something off the beaten path. Other, more melodic sections of the album ring memorably, including the psychedelic fear of "Second Prayer", and the band's plodding affirmation to Satan at the end of "Jvbilate Dea".

Musically, Si Monumentum is defined by a collection of incredible, almost-perfect moments. Deathspell Omega's more traditionally-bound black metal exploits are still puzzled with technical, buzzing guitars and Aspa's exceptionally demoniacal vocal display, but the album nonetheless seems to pack on too much material that didn't necessarily need be included. Given that none of the material is weak so much as samey, it is difficult to point out any one or two tracks as being lesser than the rest, although "Blessed Are the Dead Whiche Dye in the Lorde", "Hétoïmasia, and "Odium Nostrum" seemed curiously void of their own 'immortal' passages.

Therefore, if Si Monumentum is not a masterpiece (and I don't believe it is), it is not for lack of skill or vision. A run-time nearing an hour and a half is unwieldy by virtually every band's standard, possibly doubly so in consideration of the band's heady intensity. Going overboard with their ambitions is ample indication of a band that only recently tapped into their purest creative self. Such is the case for DSO a decade ago. The years since have proven how far Si Monumentum was from actually delivering upon the extent of this band's power; 2007's Fas's jazz inflections and calculated madness would make it one of the greatest black metal albums of all time, and Paracletus' slightly more melodic rendering of its predecessor only led to good things. Though Deathspell Omega's third album is since dwarfed (if not in length, then certainly in stylistic aptitude) by the albums since, it was certainly the greatest step forward in the band's career.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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