Review | DEATHSPELL OMEGA Channels Refined Darkness on The Long Defeat

            One of France’s most renowned acts has suddenly resurfaced, and this arrival brings forth a new opus to drive the momentum of their prevailing discography. The distinct experimental sound of DEATHSPELL OMEGA is thoroughly sited across the genre, and that style continues here on The Long Defeat, but with the intensity favoring a visceral approach over direct fury and chaos. These qualities still appear at calculated points, however, and they often correspond with leadwork or other forms of aural growth while complementing the more nuanced developments. Melodic layers are weaved into a complex labyrinth of dread with various unsettling effects, and other atmospheric elements heighten these vibrations, along with an underlying and unyielding resolve. The songcraft of DEATHSPELL OMEGA exhibits a skillful and destructive essence on The Long Defeat, and its concentrated immensity seeks to revive our pure and primeval origins.

            An ancient ritualistic tone is evoked by drumbeats and droning chants on “Enantiodromia,” and compositional structures displaying the band’s trademark style soon follow, with slower tempos carrying the bleakness of adjoined notes. Lead melodies are integrated as they traverse various shades of despair, and other disturbed effects arise to match the derangement seized through dissonant forms. These layered combinations possess an ethereal quality that could lead a casual ear to misjudge their complexity, and a contrast to this method appears in points of rhythmic emphasis, which merge heavy and percussive strikes with vocal patterns for a threefold magnified impact. The fretwork is mirrored by many intricate drumming designs, and some drive vehement developments by proceeding in time with arpeggiated strings. That effect is employed further near the end of “Eadem, Sed Aliter,” long after choral and industrial psychosis finalizes the opening track, and blasts beats launch amid this successor’s gloomy-noted textures, along with leads that progress into frenzied solos. Riffing also glares across this fury, and alternations with a dark flowing pace highlight its intensity before reaching the passage above, where the arpeggiations are surrounded by cavernous haunts with rhythms pulsing on the way toward dissipation.

            Riffing is at the forefront of the title track, with multiple tremolo courses interweaved along grooving mid-paces, and they form an expanse where spacey lead elements and blasts promote a growing aura. This evolves with ambience and choirs alongside other instrumental effects, and their cumulative ancient grandeur exemplifies one area of this work’s distinct identity. The cosmic psychedelia resurfaces when this peak transitions to the arpeggiated gloom of a striding rhythmic passage, and these entrancing influences are countered as “Sie Sind Gerichtet!” ensues with its blasting and riff intensity. While this initial fury seemingly subsides to some extent, it actually transfers into a series of detailed melodic and percussive structures, which then creates a turbulence through its continual orchestrated shifts. Sections of exchange between lead and backing vocal commands are accommodated within, and the vocals exercise harsh and assertive dynamics throughout, as if representing separate entities. An epic point is reached through the layers of melodic flow emerging with other haunted tones, and resuming blast beats drive this attainment toward a last revelation on “Our Life is Your Death.” A steady rocking beat is sustained across its arrangements, where the heights of musical progression are conveyed in melodies and leadwork combined with vocal varieties, and their elemental substance brings about an ultimate triumph derived from demise.

            A number of philosophical themes are formulated within the lyrics, and interestingly, their perspective is also enhanced by weaving many of them, along with the song titles, into a short story. It takes place during times of industrialization, where humanity abandons nature in favor of the machine, and a “Silhouette” acts as the main protagonist, who doubts the masses and ventures into a dark wilderness. The means of discovering hidden truths are found at a place in the center, but sacrifices are required for that knowledge, which comes from visions and discourse with various creatures.

            The visions focus on humanity’s nature and evolution, with the first portraying man as a dumb barking beast. “The many are good and the few are bad” alludes to herd mentality, and this quote continues with expressions of the ego and authority in “Look only to us and bow to our creed, for we rule as kings on this earth.” It also mentions “Towers” built ”So High” that “Even the mountains pale with envy,” and this latter segment appears in the lyrics of “Eadem, Sed Aliter,” which become central to the second vision. Polemos is named and possibly used to represent man, and he proclaims himself “The greatest of all gods,” who “Won this world with sword and fire and carved it to my image!” Scenes describing a polluted earth are left from his acts, amid other consequences revealed in “You have devised a new light and your eyes will see no further,” and “You have risen towers for one long fall downwards…” The following discussions recognize “Many different fires burning with different smoke,” being mostly “Vain and very few divine,” and those words are found on “Enantiodromia” while “For all the smoke that rises, something must also come down” illustrates its concept. This and the track’s other lyrics also correspond to an inevitable return to nothingness during the third vision, where “Light turns into darkness” and “Lively noise yields to silence” are among the aftereffects of a vast metropolis swept away by ocean waves. Those waves may have been conjured by Thaumas, another Greek mythological deity who could also be connected to the “Silhouette’s” identity. The vision is followed by a warning, and its lyrical variant promises “Death, silence, and oblivion” to those who “Sneer at the dance around balance.”

            The devil appears in the form of a bear-sized poodle who is “Covered with infected, worm-riddled lacerations,” and his regard for human nature is noted lyrically in “You must claim, so many lives, to exert upon this earth an earnest will to live” on “Our Life is Your Death,” a title also carrying the theme of morphed opposites. It states how “Becoming an instrument of death is not a choice, but fate,” and “If it was murder the first to be outlawed, that’s because it’s our life’s blood” expands these ideas along with “Whether by word or whether by blade, it is death that permeates our every quest.” This topic coincides with discussions on societal class structures and scenarios involving “The philosopher king,” which utilizes words from “Sie Sind Gerichtet!” to revisit the tendencies of mankind in “You revel in inequity, inequity is your womb.” The inherent savagery behind our social façade is exposed when viewing “Civilizations” as “A fleeting attempt at taming the primordial beast” and “Monuments to perpetual discord,” and their nature is also likened to a “Wound that festers forever,” whose “Pus nurtures everything,” and who “Would have it no other way.” The fight of Sisyphus offers the story’s only reference to the title track, and its lyrics hail various natural phenomena alongside other things, like “The mysteries of knowledge” and “Sacrifices with the taste of rotten blood.” It then affirms “The veil between divinity and man” and “The devil…The abhorrent lord of this earth” before reaching its heeded call.

            Before the devil departs, he mentions how God almost had creation undone, along with the bet they placed on “Just how low you will sink this time,” and he claims to be both “Father” and “Child” to the “Silhouette,” who is then told by the other creatures that the devil “Loves you! Your kind feeds him well.” This all leads him to “Become death to become life” in order to “Break the cycle.” He agrees to “Swear the oath and be reborn” and “Bring death, terror, and destruction,” which recalls “Our Life is Your Death” and “Enantiodromia,” respectively, while also linking back to the third vision. Unfortunately, no amount of these will redeem humanity because its child, “The machine,” has emerged alongside “Something new, untamed, and growing exponentially.” Other concepts involving choices within destiny, order and strife, a futile eternity, and hope, with nods back to “Eadem, Sed Aliter” in an awareness that “History has a tendency to repeat itself,” are encountered throughout this dialogue, and a “To be continued” note appearing at the end hints at more to come. I can only speculate on the inspiration behind this story and the significance of its Greek influences, but a profundity contained in the material here undeniably characterizes DEATHSPELL OMEGA. Despite my prolonged attempt to analyze it, there is much more to consider, and everyone should take the time to explore and interpret its contents for themselves.

            DEATHSPELL OMEGA has become an innovative force since their raw blackened origins, and the instrumental elements harnessed on The Long Defeat forge this dark progression firmly ahead. The meticulous songwriting combines finesse with fury and a greater focus on atmosphere, which all demonstrates the diverse possibilities of their sound, and its arrangements reflect a variety of tones from both ancient and future times. Their substance is matched by an in-depth concept, and it demands levels of study comparable to the relistening needed for full musical appreciation. I look forward to seeing what DEATHSPELL OMEGA will reveal on the impending sequel, but The Long Defeat is surely an essential venture, with enough thought-provoking material to satisfy inquisitive minds and listeners in the meantime.

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