Deathspell Omega - The Long Defeat (2022)Release ID: 35344
I don't know if it is the revolutionary nature of the French psyche that is the cause, but the French have produced some of the most interesting black metal albums and acts, Deathspell Omega arguably foremost among them. Yes, they have stirred up a degree of controversy over the years, they embrace orthodox satanism and maintain an almost paranoid anonimity, but this is black metal and that is pretty much par for the course within the genre. Whatever anyone's thoughts on the band or any of it's members, there is no denying that they are one of the more interesting names in metal and a band whose every new release is worthy of note. The Long Defeat is the latest of these and is full-length number eight, following 2019's The Furnaces of Palingenesia.
I think that DsO take inspiration from the impressionist movement pioneered by French artists in the nineteenth century and transpose it onto black metal to produce a form of metal that is identifiably still black metal, but expresses itself in a much less conventional way. This is a million miles away from the orthodoxy of A Blaze in the Northern Sky or De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Their dissonant approach to black metal touches upon the progressive and the avant-garde at times, but these don't feel like the correct labels for what they do and therein lies the crux of Deathspell Omega - they seem to defy classification to some degree.
So anyway, on to DsO album number eight, which is apparently the first of the "third era" of the band. There is no elaboration of this point forthcoming, so I'm not entirely sure what this third era signifies. The album was recorded live in the studio, which is somewhat ironic for a band that spurns live performance like DsO do and appears to involve performances from guest vocalists alongside Mikko Aspa. I have seen Marduk's Mortuus and Mgła's M. touted as being involved, but have seen no actual confirmation of this.
Now I am not as familiar with DsO's entire back catalogue as many fans as I came to them quite late and even then struggled with them initially as I hadn't really listened to such obviously dissonant music before. This has the consequence that I am probably less coloured by what went previously, so please forgive any holes in my knowledge of the Frenchmen's earlier work. However, even to my ears I would suggest that this does indeed differ from their previous releases. Of course, this being Deathspell Omega, everything is relative, so any talk of melody or reduction of intensity must be viewed in light of such.
The Long Defeat feels like a much more conventional album than we may be used to from DsO and maybe this is to become a feature of the band's third era. As I stated earlier, this is relative, but it does feel like a less intense version of the band is being presented on the album and although there are still dissonant elements, the song structures seem a bit more straightforward and, dare I say, even hint at melody. The pacing is generally slower than usual and less wilfully dissonant, with a more progressive feel than the Frenchmen may have projected previously, the seething maelstrom of previous work being replaced by a more ordered tsunami of sound. The lyrics are still philosophically dense, opener Enantiodromia for example exploring the Jungian concept that the more extreme something becomes it eventually becomes it's own opposite. These lyrics are delivered by vocals that are still very ascerbic and confrontational-sounding whilst radiating a sense of arrogance.
One component that I must comment on is the drumming. The drums seem to set the tone for several of the tracks, whether it is the pounding rhythm of the opener, the militaristic tattoo at the start of Eadem, sed aliter or the blistering blastbeats that kick off Sie sind gerichtet! each of the tracks' basic character is shaped by the percussive endeavours except on closer, Our Life Is Your Death, where this function is filled by the bass as it kicks off very much in a post-punk style, to be followed by the most melodic of the albums riffs. The guitar still provides jangling, jagged dissonant notes, but by the bucketload rather than the barrowload and is just as likely to break into a cool-sounding melody as to try to hotwire your brain with some convoluted progression of notes. Production-wise this sounds fantastic, allowing the listener to concentrate on any or all aspects of the music equally with no one component muscling the others out.
I'm sure there are many long-time DsO fans who may be disappointed by The Long Defeat and they have every right to be if more of the same was what they wanted, but rather than "selling out" I wouldn't be surprised if the band have turned in such a departure of an album in order to remind everyone that they are never predictable. I must have listened to this a dozen times already and I get more out of it and more into it with every successive spin. I would just warn those rabid fans not to cut off their nose to spite their face as this is still a fantasic blackened metal album that would be the pinnacle of many a lesser band's career.
Black Metal (conventional)
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