After releasing the phenomenal “Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum”, Deathspell Omega faced the impossible task of creating a worthy follow up. Astonishingly enough, they have created an album of equal quality. “Paracletus” is composed of the same elements as “Fas…”, yet it deploys them in a completely different manner. The core of the album is still a maelstrom of hybrid technical death/ black metal riffs played at a relentless pace. These are still contrasted with a number of softer, melodic passages. Again, there is nothing resembling a verse or a chorus (though there are a few motifs) anywhere on the album. However, whereas “Fas…” was an album of sharp contrast and tension, “Paracletus” is a tightknit and cohesive work.
“Fas…” is a big and sprawling album. Lyrically it is oriented from a first person perspective. The music reflects this, building tension through the unexpected, constantly arriving at shocking moments. In contrast, the lyrics of “Paracletus” take the omnipotent third person perspective. Appropriately, the music is of a controlled, directed and focused nature. From the opening moment, “Paracletus” grabs the listener and drags them into its scorching world, not letting go until the final note.
In the past, Deathspell Omega have shown interest in creating long, fluid pieces of music, writing twenty minute epics like “Mass Grave Aesthetics” and “Chaining the Katechon”. “Paracletus” stands as their most daring and awesome work of this sort; the ten tracks flow into each other with ease, ultimately becoming a single, epic piece of music. Like any great epic, “Paracletus” is full of ups and downs. Blistering blackened death passages build to feverish heights, until climaxing in hellish bursts of fury. These passages are followed by a wide array of clean, melodious passages. The clean passages contain some of the most addictive, dare I say catchy melodies Deathspell Omega have ever written. Having already perfected the art of controlled chaos, Deathspell Omega is now growing by leaps and bounds in their capacity for melody.
Another highlight of the album is Mikko Aspa’s vocals. Mikko deploys everything from guttural growls to hollow chants to howling shrieks. He effectively uses three languages: French, English and Latin. The French passages are especially enjoyable. Mikko capitalizes on the sophisticated, fluid sound of the language to great effect in the spoken passage of “Dearth”. Elsewhere, French intonations make his reptilian growls sound extra sinister.
It is unfair to pick a highlight from an album that is so powerful from start to finish, but the closing piece, “Apokatastasis Pantôn”, especially captures Deathspell Omega’s unique metaphysical perspective. The song starts by repeating a sorrowful motif from “Epiklesis II”. The lyrics condemn all hope for an afterlife; death is nothing more than silence. However, what follows is not a moment of darkness, but rather a moment of catharsis. The motif bursts into an ocean of ecstatic shimmering guitars reaching visceral peaks, one after another. It is this stunning moment of inversion that reveals the great wonder of Deahtspell Omega. The darkest truths are also the most powerful.
At the moment, Deathspell Omega is at the height of its powers, having released back to back masterworks. “Fas…” is vast, subjective, tense and unpredictable. “Paracletus” is tight, controlled and omnipotent. Collectively we have the best back to back releases in the black metal genre since Burzum’s release of “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and “Filosofem”. In the same way that those albums set the standard for the past generation, “Fas” and “Paracletus” have done so for the generation to come. The songwriting, composition and musicianship displayed on these two albums will be the measure by which future black metal albums are judged. Whether or not other bands (or Deathspell Omega themselves, for that matter) manage to reach such heights remains to be seen. Regardless, Deathspell Omega has provided us with two infinitely intriguing albums and a dark, harrowing and yet somehow invigorating metaphysical vision of life and death.