Prior to 2010, my knowledge of black metal had been rather limited and had dabbled in enough of the genre to think I had heard all of what it had to offer: tremolo picking, blast beats, Satan stuff and the occasional atmospheric meddling (ex: Wolves in the Throne Room) that seemed to pique my interest more than the “evil” sounding stuff. But, hey, I was a teenager still getting my feet wet in the realms of heavy music, so please spare me oh elitist ones. I came to the hasty conclusion that black metal was a genre of metal that just couldn’t do much for me.
Then later that year, I discovered Deathspell Omega’s Paracletus and was introduced to a whole side of black metal, and heavy music in general, that I didn’t know existed.
2010 was the year I really started diving into “weirder” forms of metal and music in general. Though I was well-versed in all things technical and “mathy” prior to this important year, I really started immersing myself in things that were considered “avant-garde” or “experimental”. Though, yes, some of the bands I discovered were indeed of the complex variety, but their complexity extended far beyond off-kilter rhythms and fast “noodly” guitars. Kayo Dot, Gorguts, Swans, Ulcerate, Portal and other artists of that nature were some of the acts that I became really enamored with at this time and I was always on the hunt for more forward-thinking music.
If I remember correctly, I came across Paracletus‘ penultimate track “Devouring Famine” floating around on the Internet prior to the album’s release. I was immediately drawn to the Hellish artwork and the band’s peculiar, yet menacing name. Once I pressed “play” I was engulfed in a barrage of cacophonous, disgustingly malformed guitar riffs and ridiculously fast, pummeling drums. I was taken aback by the absolutely ugly dissonance and unorthodox riffs that this song possessed, and even more so by the downright evil vocals. Once the record came out, I got my hands on it as soon as I could and dived in head-first.
From the atonal lurch of “Epiklesis I” to the melodic Hellfire of “Apokatastasis Pantôn”, Paracletus is a non-stop, blistering journey to the belly of Hades. Songs like “Malconfort” and “Have You Beheld the Fevers?” are unyielding assaults on the senses. These tracks churn out menageries of aberrated chords and vile riffs that twitch and writhe atop throttling rhythm sections. These cuts are pure kicks to the gut and left me, and still leave me, battered and in psychological distress. Longer cuts such as “Phosphene” and “Abscission” showcase the album at its most dynamic. The former track is a seven-minute leviathan that attempts to combine all the shape-shifting, demonic riffs, sinister melodies and rapid compositional shifts into one, and succeeds. The latter track is truly a marvel of modern black metal and extreme metal as a whole. There’s no point in me blabbering about it, listen for yourself.
What also sold me on Deathspell Omega besides their insane songwriting was their intellectual lyrics and themes. All forms of music have their little cliches, lyrically and musically. For black metal, lyrics about how Christianity is bad and Satan is good are the norm. Deathspell Omega, while they do speak on Satan, God and man’s relation to both, they speak on these topics on a very metaphysical level, and also draw influence from other theological topics as well the works of philosophers. Pair that with a truly unique take on black metal that turns the genre on its head, then you’ve got a hell of a cerebral album on your hands.
After discovering and falling in love with Paracletus, I studied up on the rest of Deathspell Omega‘s discography and found that I was enthralled by ninety percent of their work (their work prior to Si monvmentvm does nothing for me, to be honest). These enigmatic Frenchmen excel past the limitations of black metal and show that the genre doesn’t have to sound like it was recorded inside of a paper bag and that you don’t have to tremolo pick for 20 minutes to get your point across. I’m mostly kidding oh elitist ones, don’t kill me.
In short, this record rules. Enough said.