WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2010 - True evil fascinates and horrifies because it’s without explanation. It lacks a sense of order, a higher purpose or even an inherent meaning. An act of pure evil is made with no reason besides its own fulfillment, rendering its essence chaos incarnate.
No music has perfectly captured this state before, but Poitiers, France’s Deathspell Omega come closest on their latest album “Paracletus.” It’s feverish and unhinged, the work of madmen who have stared deeply into the abyss and discerned only a fraction of the pandemonium reigning there. What emerges is a startling piece of art made all the more gripping given the malevolence it expresses is sincere.
“Paracletus” thus stands so tall given it is the culmination of Deathspell Omega as an entity. Starting with 2005’s “Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice,” the band launched an ambitious trilogy exploring the metaphysical relationship between God, Satan and Man continued on 2007’s “Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignum Aeternum” and completed with this year’s release. As such, “Paracletus” contains a sense of finality its predecessors lack.
It also proves Deathspell Omega have honed their style into peak refinement. They’ve grown adept at juggling Orthodox Christian symbolism and the early church’s Greek and Latin with their native French, producing a potent draught of heresy that is articulate and assaulting. The band’s members remain ciphers, never photographed, rarely interviewed and playing under stage names. Even the group’s size – three members – seems like a mocking parody of the Three Magi.
This sense of impiety pervades the entire record much like it has earlier Deathspell Omega works. The title “Paracletus,” for example, is Latin for “comforter” or “holy spirit.” Its usage here seems ironic given nothing about this album is soothing or reverent.
“Epiklesis I” immediately conjures dread with its stuttering guitars and hypnotic, free-form drumming. It’s instantly difficult discerning what’s more unnerving – the atmosphere of insanity or how fast musical convention is sacrificed on the altar. “Wings of Predation” follows the same path, swooping down on listeners with frantic drumming, abnormal time signatures and atonal guitar sweeps cacophonous on their own but frighteningly melodic together.
“Abcission” employs the same scare tactics but in a different format. Though its underlying rhythms are brutally quick, a separate beat cascades waves of shimmering guitar chords over listeners. This interesting technique crafts two competing heartbeats, a pairing eventually colliding into a poignant, singular rhythm all the more powerful for its cohesion.
“Dearth” is an interlude replete with hazy guitars gradually suffocated by undulating bass rumbles. “Phosphene” tears out of these tremors like some subterranean monster, revealing furious percussion and whirling guitars. It soon collapses in exhaustion, unleashing eerie bass notes and distraught wails personifying spiritual angst. Thankfully, “Epiklesis II” provides respite, its labyrinthine guitars drifting by like the tendrils of a frightening but unremembered dream.
“Malconfort” picks up the pace with an onslaught centered on massive grooves played in jazz song structures. This approach proves messy and deranged, making its moody guitar passage mid-song lucid by comparison. “Have You Beheld the Fevers?” trembles like the chills caused by its titular illness, while “Devouring Famine” contains so much musical technicality it’s inhuman. Ending with hammering grooves, it provides an aural beating worthy of an album finale. “Apokatastasis Paton” thus grants the final revelation, its serpentine melodies wrapping themselves around listeners with sinister, sinuous beauty.
The 10 songs on “Paracletus” are a masterpiece in music and malice. Many have opened the doors to darkness but few have marched past the threshold. Deathspell Omega has gone farther than most, this album setting a benchmark for lesser acts to follow. The diabolical truth about “Paracletus” is how easily it emanates perfection.
“Wings of Predation”
“Have You Beheld the Fevers?”
Rating: 10 out of 10
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