Yes, DEATHSPELL OMEGA have gone Punk. Yes, they have even Pop. In fact, it's been recently announced that DEATHSPELL OMEGA has been a weekend side project of BLINK 182's Tom DeLonge, and through some coincidence, it has been misinterpreted as the continuation of a French band of the same name that broke up 10 years ago. After such a cerebral and heavy-handed album trilogy about theistic Satanism, it's nice to hear DEATHSPELL OMEGA throw away the evil and sing songs about pretty girls instead.
Jest aside, I can see why DEATHSPELL OMEGA's latest EP "Drought" has been getting recognition as a change of pace for the enigmatic Black Metal outfit. They're still the same viciously technical bastards that they've been since their breakthrough "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" record, but their sound is getting cleaner, and I daresay more coherent. For anyone who listened to their last full-length "Paracletus", this evolution from the unrelenting madness of "Fas - Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum" to more concise song structures was predictable. DEATHSPELL essentially pick up where they left off with "Paracletus", and with this comes a barrage of jaw-dropping complexity, malefic atmosphere, and some of the best flow I have ever heard on an EP. Black Metal's greatest Prog-enitors have struck gold once again.
On "Drought" and virtually everything they have done since " Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, DEATHSPELL OMEGA create a quintessential Black Metal atmosphere, yet manage to do so with surprisingly few Black Metal conventions. Barring Aspa's trademark croak, and the occasional blast beat thrown between the inhuman permafills, DEATHSPELL OMEGA have little now in common with the genre's core sound. The guitars are rapturous and dissonant, and may sound a little more like THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN than I would like to admit. Amidst the confusion, there are plenty of thick grooves. Especially on a first listen, things can feel very chaotic, although perhaps unlike the band's most challenging material there's just enough melody and comprehensible rhythm in the music to make things coherent. Just enough.
Although the most exciting moments on "Drought" are the chaotic storms, a considerable portion of the album is devoted to some of the most melodic and mellowed ideas DEATHSPELL have done since "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice". "Salowe Vision" is a wonderful opener, gradually building tension and atmosphere until "Fiery Serpents" erupts with the band's signature chaos. "The Crackled Book of Life" ends the EP in a heavier fashion than it started, although a beautiful melodic idea is hidden beneath the gradually fading rhythm. There are no stops in the music on "Drought"; though DEATHSPELL have generally shortened the track lengths, the impression of a 20-minute epic like their earlier "Chaining the Katechon" is evoked to great benefit. Even the runt of the litter, the one-minute "Sand, has a place here.
For a long time, I have not been able to cite a band that's gone as far with the Black Metal style as DEATHSPELL OMEGA. Even in making their song structures shorter and production cleaner, they still manage to sound as fierce and as experimental as ever. I did not think that one of my favorite releases of the year would be an EP, but here it is. As a fan, I've been blown away once again, and as a reviewer, I can only give my highest recommendation. Absolutely phenomenal.
(Online August 4, 2012)