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Deathspell Omega - Untitled Vinyl Box CD (album) cover

UNTITLED VINYL BOX

Deathspell Omega

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

5.00 | 1 ratings

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CassandraLeo
5 stars One of the most essential black metal bands of the 2000s and 2010s gets a vinyl box set treatment of its finest works to date. While the fidelity of picture discs is frequently lambasted, much of the material here (namely, the contents of the first four discs) has been separately mastered for vinyl, and sounds substantially better than the typically brickwalled CD versions.

The band's Mikko Aspa era started with the double album Si monumentum requires, circumspice (Latin for If You Seek a Monument, Look Around You), which serves as a mission statement for everything the band has done since. It unveiled the band's trademark blend of dissonance, unusual time signatures (though these had been present on previous works as well), complex arrangements, orthodox Satanism, and experimentalism. Much of the album is given over to furious blasting, but the band proves to do this in a much more musically sophisticated fashion than most of its peers. The production is also a major step up from that of the band's previous work; it still sounds filthy and savage, but the album is recorded and mixed clearly enough that every musical detail is clearly audible. This proves all to the better on the departures from the band's black metal sound, such as the three "prayers" and the Old Church Slavonic chant section in the album's centrepiece "Carnal Malefactor". SMRC is a landmark album in the field of black metal whose stature has only grown with time.

The band quickly followed this up in 2005 with an additional two LPs' worth of material between the EP KÚn˘se (French for Kenosis, a doctrine in Christian theology referring to Jesus' "emptying himself") and two side-length pieces that were released at the time on split albums. KÚn˘se is even more dissonant and complex than SMRC, and shows the band's growing musical maturity. It's also philosophically more sophisticated than the band's previous works, showcasing a thorough examination of Christian redemption. From the same era, the twenty-two-minute "Diabolus absconditus" (Latin for "The Devil Is Hiding") lyrically examines existentialism while musically it alternates between blasting dissonance and, strangely, a lengthy acoustic guitar segment accompanied by whispered vocals. "Mass Grave Aesthetics" is the piece on this box set that does the least for me lyrically, but it makes up with it for a musical tour de force that may be the band's finest hour to date.

Fas - ite, maledicti, in ignem aeternum (Latin for Divine Law - Depart, Ye Cursed, into Everlasting Fire) dials up the band's dissonance and complexity even further. With only four proper songs averaging about ten minutes each, the band packs in as many complex riffs as possible and mixes them with head-spinning philosophical lyrics that examine the band's exceedingly pessimistic view of the cosmos. Both God and Satan are presented as essentially incomprehensible to humanity, while man is doomed to suffering. While most of the album is given over to frenetic blasting, the album is also underpinned with creepy pianos and an orchestra, and several passages of the album are nearly silent, which makes the returns to blasting only all the more terrifying. The album climaxes with an utterly gorgeous guitar solo at the end of "A Chore for the Lost", which proves to be one of the album's only concessions to melody. The album is a harrowing listen but remains a landmark of the genre all the same. It's essentially black metal's answer to Gorguts.

The band followed this up with the EP "Chaining the Katechon" (included on disc 7 so as not to break up Paracletus onto two discs, also released as a split with fellow travellers S.V.E.S.T. entitled Veritas diaboli manet in aeternum, Latin for The Devil's Truth Remains in Eternity). Once again the band contributes a twenty-two minute slab of head-spinning black metal, and this time around they waste no time in getting started from the gate. The album largely maintains the style of Fas without the gaps this time around, though it is slightly less dissonant. The album also closes with clean singing, a rarity for Deathspell. Another strong work from reliable black metal stalwarts.

The band's most recent full-length album to date, Paracletus (Latin for Paraclete, meaning comforter), looks from the track list like it simplifies the band's sound somewhat, and to a certain extent this is true when compared to Fas, but appearances can also be somewhat deceiving, as it is essentially two slabs of continuous music averaging roughly twenty-one minutes each. The album is slightly more melodic than Fas, and the riffs are slightly simpler, but this is no primitive Darkthrone worship here. You're still getting musically and intellectually sophisticated music of the highest order. Pointing out track highlights is essentially pointless, though the closing track "Apokatastasis pant˘n" (ancient Greek for "Rebirth of Everything") bears mention for its substantially more melodic, almost post-rock take on black metal. A career highlight for sure.

The band's most recent EP Drought closes out the set. Like Paracletus this one consists mostly of continuous music (there are brief gaps between a few sets of tracks here) and this may be the lightest material on this set from a musical standpoint. The band's music barely has anything left in common with traditional black metal by this point, but that's hardly anything worth complaining about when what's here is so good. The band fills every proper song with truly mind-boggling riffs and the album's intro and outro are unique in their catalogue, with the former sounding like a mix between Led Zeppelin and Earth, while the latter includes a particularly nice groove on the bass guitar. The only thing to regret here is that it remains Deathspell's latest work (although the launch of their Bandcamp in December 2015 may herald upcoming new material).

I can't recommend this box set enough. The music is flawless, and my only complaints with its presentation are that it wasn't pressed on black or clear vinyl, and that the last three discs aren't remastered for vinyl. Still, those are minor complaints, especially since the price tag of the box when it was released was startlingly low given how much music is on it ($111 + shipping for nearly five hours of music on vinyl is a hard price to beat). This band's work has been a landmark in the field of black metal, and this box set collects the best of it. Unconditionally recommended.

CassandraLeo | 5/5 |

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