Even though I don't really like ranking bands, if I had to, I would pick Deathspell Omega as one of the best black metal bands going currently. Actually when listening to any Deathspell Omega release, be it a full-length album or an EP, I am inclined to think of them as the most creative black metal band in the world -- their music is simply astonishing. Part of this probably stems from the fact that they are among the most enigmatic bands around. They do not have a website. They do not tour. They do not give interviews. Rather, they say everything they want to say through their music, and Drought is their most recent output.
Being an EP, Drought clocks in at around 20 minutes and contains six songs. Each piece is relatively short compared to albums like Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum. The material presented here is more comparable to their work on Paracletus, both in terms of composition and production. Despite being released as a separate piece of work, one should not view Drought as an individual effort; it still retains many of the characteristics of the band's previous album: the song structures are complex and deliberately uninviting. The overall mood established is eerie and unsettling. Riffs evolve from single-note strikes into stifling, formless sound shapes, deeply rooted in 'grey' tones that constantly shift in tempo and meter. Dissonance is an integral aesthetic element of this band's music, so expect reams of atonal fretwork that lends the songs colour, depth, and variety.
While this release follows the Paracletus model in this sense, it also sets its own standards. The first track is an instrumental dirge that adopts a Neurosis-like riff architecture that would make for a fantastic bonus track on A Sun That Never Sets. Each riff is frighteningly calculated, resulting in fatal guitar stabs while building an impossibly foreboding sound world. The maelstrom of blast beats and bruising tremelo picking on "Abrasive Swirling Murk" is the hallmark of Deathspell Omega's songwriting approach, but the slower, nuance-filled passages recall something the guys in Enslaved would write if they wanted to revisit the darker realms of their earlier body of work. The vocals lack any kind of discernible pattern and offer little resolution. Often times, a cross between Obscura-like death growls and the unique dry grunts of Nespithe, Mikko Aspa possesses the most fitting extreme metal voice for this type of music. Typical black metal shrieks are largely absent; they are used more sparingly for added tension.
Under the careening, shapeless riffs run distinct streams of melody. Once you hear them, they will stick with you for days, if not longer. The riffs do carry an undeniable melodic sensibility and weight to them, so, after a while, the patterns in the songs become recognizable and it all begins to make sense. In short, to fully unearth Drought, as with other Deathspell Omega releases, you have to be willing to invest in this album.
This is the best black metal release of the year, and it will not be surpassed.
- Salowe Vision
- Fiery Serpents
- Scorpions & Drought
- Abrasive Swirling Murk
- The Crackled Book of Life