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Deathspell Omega - Fas---Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum Review

by Mark Hensch

There really is something magical about Deathspell Omega. On this, their fourth full-length, the French black metal maestros broadly redefine evil in music and take it to previously untapped levels of darkness, complexity, and menace. In much the same way that fellow countrymen Blut Aus Nord have redefined darkness, Deathspell Omega has done something truly groundbreaking on Fas. While so much of today's black metal is simplistic gnashing of teeth, Deathspell Omega attack with a whirling chaos so utterly focused in its annihilating principles one cannot help but bow before the masters. Though it may be a mere six songs in length, Fas contains some of the most blasphemous, violent, dark, and intellectual metal ever committed to tape. With the band maintaining a strict policy of personal secrecy, and releases being infrequent at best, Deathspell wisely waiting patiently to invest their copious talents into an original, fresh, and achingly awe-inspiring behemoth.

The key reasons for this startling innovation are two-fold. First, the band has no problem mixing black, death, technical groove, nightmarish free jazz, Gregorian chant, and eerie sound effects into a hodge-podge of religious tradition being torn asunder. In terms of theological, rational, and progressive thought, no other act in the world right now requires as much deep investigation as Deathspell Omega. Musically, the band's trademark blend of chaotic, swarming blasting sections and sinister, half-realized hallucinations still remains, but at a level of depth previously unsearched. All of Fas is the frightened nightmares of religious doubt, apostasy, and impending damnation turned to music. These qualities of surreal, quasi-illusionary thought processes invoke a paranoid elegance that no other black metal band really has, and in a sense the stark evil of Deathspell Omega really befits the Noir movement that France once perpetuated in the art of cinema. Seeing as Noir is French for Black, the phrase Noir Metal might not be very far off, and Deathspell Omega have easily transcended all notions of black metal's traditions on this disc.

On this note, Fas opens up with the hazy yet somber confusion of "Obombration." The entire introduction feels like a Catholic Mass witnessed through an awful acid trip, and this sense of underlying mockery towards religious piety has always been one of Deathspell's many trademarks. Velvety notes and militant percussion drift aimlessly through Oblivion while frontman Mikko Aspa unleashes his strangely reptilian venom. "The Shrine of Mad Laughter" whirls faster than the damned in Dante's black winds in the first circle of Hell and with about as much ripping violence. The tremolo-melodies are inhuman in the levels of speed they attain, and demonic notes somehow are thrown chaotically into the maelstrom of bleak noise. Complex leads poke out of the tidal wave of destruction like half-interred corpses and the song's unnerving breakdown into elegiac choirs soon is overcome by one of the most stabbing black metal leads of 2007. Memorable and diabolical, this blistering display of wicked technicality is utterly face-ripping. This soon transforms into a malicious period of Blut Aus Nord geometric space-time crunch, replete with post-music structures and frightening experimentation. The icing on the cake is a demented period of free-form meandering every bit as inspired by The Twilight Zone as it is Clandestine Blaze. Overall, this is one of the most challenging black metal numbers I've heard in quite some time and truly innovative stuff.

"Bread of Bitterness" is no different, an ichor-black groove leading the charge. Insane notes are weaved into the flood of night, and the blastbeats essentially grind listeners to quivering powder while the riffs grow into epic bleakness all around them. Eerie, nightmarish washes of sound soon cascade over the listener, slowly folding in on themselves into smooth, creepy, and darkly melodic jazz. These seemingly unconnected threads quickly weave themselves into a tapestry of post-Darkthrone carpet-bombing, the sort of 21st century Krieg only the best of the best in black metal can provide. To cap it off perfectly, grooving loops of chugging soon cap off the intricate work, making for a headbang as brutal as it is disorienting.

"The Repellent Scars of Abandon and Election" sways with the drunken ecstasy of murky dementia, like a hopelessly amnesiac demon discovering its massive power and unspeakably vile roots. What follows is a surreal journey through explosive black metal, epic chants in Hadean dusk, war-frenzied shredding, and gloomy piano interludes. A track this ambitious and daring in scope is less an actual song and more a movement ala the works of classical composers from ages past. As the album's sprawling center-piece of eleven minutes, little (if anything) goes wrong here and "Scars" easily bests the pinnacles many lesser bands call their top achievements.

"A Chore for the Lost" drifts in on inky darkness, an intro so simultaneously cold and nebulous it is like breathing the air of Pluto. Without even the slightest warning the song turns into a swarming mass of frantic, insanely-technical black metal. This slowly collapses into a twisted melody that fades, dies, and is gloriously reborn as one of the album's most barnstorming climaxes. The song ends with a fiery elegy of menacing but powerful melodic free-jazz leads, the time-signatures dancing whole-heartedly on the face of convention. "Obombration" is a massive choral movement whose grandiose finality ends the album on a swelling crest of dark, homicidal urges.

To describe Fas---Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum as anything less than a spiritual experience would be a crime on my part. The album attacks with a mentally-stimulating potency all things religious, conventional, or traditional. Nothing---be it classic literature, religion, goodness, or even black metal itself---is safe, and Deathspell Omega spawn what is best described the start of a revolution in darkness. With this in mind, Fas is a subtle, restrained, and deranged take on metal and a must for anyone willing to see what graceful evils it is capable of.

1. Obombration
2. The Shrine of Mad Laughter
3. Bread of Bitterness
4. The Repellent Scars of Abandon and Election
5. A Chore for the Lost
6. Obombration

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Deathspell Omega - Fas---Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum

Rating:11 out of 10

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