Friday, February 04, 2011

Deathspell Omega: Paracletus (2010)


Deathspell Omega is a French avant-garde black metal band that's been around for a decade. Their fifth full-length, Paracletus, is a bit of a strange listen for me, but I kept giving it more chances because of the nearly-universal praise heaped on the album. The first time I listened to it, I had no idea what to think about it. The second time, I hated it. I gave it another shot anyway, and the third time I started to think they might be onto something. And now, after about six listens, I realize they may be onto something, but they haven't quite got a handle on it themselves.

ParacletusMost of the album is high-speed, repetitive, dissonant guitar riffs played over blast beats. In fact, the blast beats don't let up from the start until more than 4 minutes into the third song. The vocals are all over the black metal map, including spoken word, rasps, growls, and pained screams. The guitars have a relatively clean tone, and the drums sound just fine (except on "Abscission", where some of them get blown out). The bass has an excellent, very enjoyable tone which contrasts nicely with the high-pitched dissonance of the guitars.

When they play at high speeds, it just sounds like controlled chaos. Sure, they play tighter than an (insert vulgar joke here), but when all you have are dissonant riffs--without anything to ground them--then it doesn't make any sense.

When they finally slow things down (which happens a few times on the album, such as on "Dearth"), you can actually notice the bass and its excellent contrast with the guitars. The fast parts somehow seem to work on "Phosphene", but that track has slower bass-heavy parts, and the guitars actually play tonal chords every now and then. So, it seems what they're doing just needs some kind of anchor to hold it down, and most of the time they neglected to provide that grounding. The "Epiklesis" trilogy (rounded out by album closer "Apokatastasis Pantôn") works well enough, but "Malconfort" is just plain annoying, and by the time "Have You Beheld the Fevers?" comes around, the whole approach is just tiresome.

I love crazy music like Portal and Mitochondrion, but this doesn't do it for me.

The Verdict: There are moments of near-genius here, but no more than fleeting glimpses. Most of it fails simply because there's nothing to ground the dissonance, and it just comes off sounding like well-orchestrated noise. I give it 2 out of 5 stars.


  1. I am not much of a fan of Deathspell Omega either. I have Fas, and listen to it occasionally, but it shocked me that Metal Maniacs picked it as their Album of the Year in 2007. It just does not really do it for me.

  2. Man I can't believe you guys. This album is excellent. I can't understand how someone who likes Portal would find the chaos here intolerable, since Portal, to my ears, is a lot more dissonant than Deathspell. I think perhaps it takes someone who has been following their past few releases to really "get" this, at least that's what I gather from message boards. Their style didn't click with me until I heard Kenose, a short and perfectly composed mini-album. I've been hooked ever since.

  3. I'm not going to criticize someone who likes DO, because I think I get it from a theoretical, detached point of view, even if I don't get it viscerally. However, dissonance is a term with an absolute meaning, i.e., it's not a matter of opinion, and it's pretty clear DO is more dissonant. I think perhaps you're thinking of something else (perhaps chaotic? perhaps fucked-up?).

    I can definitely see why there would be a correlation between fans of Portal and DO as well. But for me, Portal is about the mind-fucking atmosphere and otherworldly groove, like a diabolical dance. DO doesn't have either, as far as I can see. And it's not heavy, which is a pretty big sticking point.

  4. I guess what I mean is that portal can sound like a complete and utter mess if you aren't paying attention, whereas I think it's pretty damn hard to miss how melodic this album is. Does it have chaotic parts? Sure, but compared to FAS? I mean the first full song on this album "Wings of Predation" has an extremely obvious hook riff, and "Abcission" is nearly post-rock in the middle.

  5. Dude I generally like what you have to say, but your opinion on this sucks. Listen to it a few more times