Since 2004 Deathspell Omega has put together a series of stunning works. With magnum opuses such as the blistering, sardonic “Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice” and the controlled chaos of “Fas - Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeturnum” it is easy to overlook the trio of twenty minute songs they have released piecemeal. However, these songs are essential moments in the development of Deathspell Omega.
Of these songs, “Mass Grave Aesthetics” is both musically and philosophically the richest. Originally released in 2005 as part of the “From Entrails to the Dirt” compliation, “Mass Grave Aesthetics” stands at the turning point between the more conventional black metal sound of “Si Monumentum…” and the avant garde style of “Fas…”. Here, the two styles blend into a single astonishing work. The music is mostly composed of classic black metal riffs played with the same scorching hot intensity found on “Si Monumentum…”. However, the relatively formulaic song structures of “Si Monumentum…” are replaced by a complex web of inverting, reversing and twisting progressions that engulf and disorient the listener. Progressions are repeated at varying tempos and with contrasting degrees of layering. Thus, motifs reemerge throughout the song, but rarely in the same manner as before.
There is also a deepening of the sound through an increased complexity in the rhythm section and a heavy presence of synth. The bassist holds some absolutely astounding rhythms (for example, check out the bass line at the 12:00 mark) and the drummer opts for intricate, jazzy patterns over the blast beats prevalent on “Si Monumentum…”. The synths tend to hold one tone, adding an almost unbearable overflow of tension. Thus, “Mass Grave Aesthetics” displays many of the avant garde elements of “Fas…”, but maintains more conventional black metal riffs, ultimately leading to a more fluid sound than the unrelenting chaos of “Fas…”.
Conceptually, the song poses the most taboo philosophical question: why not kill human beings if it leads to self-affirmation? The first portion of the song describes the existential process of self-affirmation through murder from a 1st person perspective. The second portion of the song proposes that the propagation of a faith is contingent on murder and genocide. If this is true (and quite a bit of historical evidence suggests Deathspell Omega are correct), then mass grave aesthetics are the driving force behind the appropriation of religion.
Most religious traditions use music as tool of self-transcendence and movement toward the divine. Deathspell Omega bastardize this legacy, creating music that glorifies self-affirmation through murder. The violent and twisted melodies are simultaneously disturbing and delicious. “Mass Grave Aesthetics” is composed of sounds that paint the destruction of human life, but also pleasure and catharsis in doing so. It captures a fundamental interplay between destruction and creation at the most personal level—the threshold of life and death.