Review Summary: A Eulogy for Deathspell Omega
The conductor has left the building.
Actually, he’s in the corner noodling around on a prototype guitar. He announced that detail several times before they started their set. I think the band is still playing, though - can you believe it? They’ve invited all their homies to take turns spitting lines. It kinda sucks. Wait, who’s playing again?
This sounds like one of those interminable nights I’ve wasted waiting for Celeste or Russian Circles or any of their nameless, forgettable and forgotten ilk to stop playing from two rooms over. This can’t be the headliner, can it? This certainly isn’t the same band that put out Si Monumentum, Chaining the Katechon, or Paracletus.
No... They’re actually calling it the same band, and the dude who I’ve long imagined is the principal songwriter - nay, one of the greatest living legends of a guitarist and composer - is sitting in a corner, hovering over A. He’s been doing that for quite some time.
Across the room, the drummer - the same drummer who laid down the first glorious minute of Devouring Famine - is locking a rock-beat. He knows the beat’s wack. He’s also been doing that for quite some time. Occasionally they’ll lock into something else, and then something else. They work themselves into a trem/blast section or two. Maybe they’re saving a few decent riffs, like that one off the end of the title track. “Who knows where this crazy train is going, man?” Yes, they’re feeling out a vibe - and it’s a really fucking boring one.
A decade and a half ago, Deathspell Omega was something that you could count on to deliver a passionate, fully realized multimedia experience, and even a few timeless classics. Sure, there was Diabolus Absconditus. And Fas is sketchy, at times - though the consensus is overwhelmingly positive. But this?
For the first time in their career, they had to play up the multimedia angle. I had a feeling reading the press release, and it wasn’t a good one. Do you remember when they'd just drop an album with nothing but the tracklist, and it turned out to be just as earth-shattering as the last? It was fucking inspiring.
Let me delineate the self-proclaimed “three eras of DsO:” (1) a competent black metal band that would eventually get usurped by a precocious guitarist and songwriter and his equally precocious cadre of instrumentalists; (2) something completely else that became the vehicle for that songwriter to fully realize a grand artistic vision, to confront, integrate, and surpass all of his influences, with a few excellent addendums at the end that seemed like the beginnings of a potentially just-as-great post-spiritual “third era”; (3) the burned and bonged-out remains of that vehicle, sputtering along under the same name, hinting at going this way or that way. It just doesn’t work. Someone needs to sober up and take the wheel, and I really, really hope it’s the guy who put together Carnal Malefactor.
That songwriter has checked out - nay, he may have just slumped over and died. But instead of exiting the stage left (which could have really occurred after Drought) and continuing to release music under a different moniker, he decided the new course was to jam with those same instrumentalists, throw in a few extra homies on vocals (and maybe obfuscate their position on He Who Shall Not Be Named's involvement, haha that’ll show the lefties), and somehow bill the results under Deathspell’s name.
Was Ketola’s art really that important to their overall vision? Perhaps it really was. It’s something to consider - a Deathspell album without Ketola’s visuals… but here we have it, in all its glory. Someone or something had to break down one day, but I didn’t think that someone would be the architect of Paracletus.
From Si Monumentum to Furnaces, every section had its place. There was breathing room for jamming, sure - but the structure of everything was worked out, because they were trying to create new and good structures. Actually, they were trying to do something really, really great, something that would be influential - even if it were overlooked in our time. They wanted to do something that would potentially galvanize generations of musicians to go beyond the dumb bullshit that permeated underground music.
I can’t say the same for this thing. I really wish things had worked out differently, but here we are. This could have - nay, should have - been billed as one of those forgettable supergroup bands that put out an EP and die, but instead this is supposed to be called… Deathspell Omega? No. Someone wake me up from this nightmare.
Ulcerate is a band that began composing records together while they jam, and have always since created interesting and good results. Deathspell Omega is a band that, at its best, probably worked like an autocracy. For me, this record confirms that hypothesis.
Imagine if Death Grips had billed one of their dodgy EP's as a record, or if Kayo Dot put out a talked-up early version of Coyote. That's this record. It's just as bad as how a band like ISIS went out - maybe worse. It's just so tactless and self-deluded, and speaks to a lack of integrity. And the confusion as to its EP or LP status (fueled by how it is labeled on some streaming platforms) implies even a lack of confidence - a rightful one. Deathspell can't even decide what this is.
Traditionalist metalbro types used to call this band pretentious, which actually means high talk and lack of content. This was never actually the case. Liturgy always was a pretentious band. With this record, Deathspell became one.
What a swansong. I never imagined it would go down like this, though. When I read those Bardo interviews, I thought to myself, "This is what committing career suicide looks like." This record is apparently what it sounds like.
Long live Deathspell Omega.