Originally written by Jeremy Garner
I’m sure most people have noticed by now, but the black metal scene has recently been shrugging off its previous entanglement in grandiose keyboards and preoccupation with violins and female vocals in search of returning to a more minimalistic, grim approach of the earlier days. Whereas most french black metal bands have gone the way of Mütiilation in crafting releases that are almost painfully minimalistic, Deathspell Omega has managed to craft a black metal album with the ferocity of bands like Funeral Mist, yet still avoid the one-dimensional sound that most bands of this style end up succumbing to.
Kénôse is Deathspell Omega’s follow-up to their third full-length album, Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice. Their sound has matured greatly within the one-year span into a mature blending of dark atmospheres and vehement rage. Kénôse, with its three song in a span of thirty-six minutes, is an epic which reminds me of the song structures of Negura Bunget. Deathspell Omega expands upon the territory they previously set out to conquer, strengthening their attack and delivery into an almost mastered artform. Similarities in atmosphere can be drawn to bands like Blut Aus Nord and The Axis of Perdition whom rely heavily on ambiance, but Deathspell Omega forgoes the more industrial leanings of the aforementioned bands. Deathspell Omega has mastered the use of eerie sonic soundscapes and haunting, dark melody which bleed seemlessly into sections of unbridled fury. Though when I say melody, I don’t particularly mean the conventional term. The sort of melody found on Kénôse is a sort of pulsing fluxation of dissonance which is a constant undercurrent throughout the album. Even though Deathspell Omega leans heavily on the ambiant parts of their songs in creating a vexingly dark, sinister atmosphere, the black metal parts are equally responsible for crafting a brooding sound of horror that remains prevalent throughout the album. What is so amazing here is that the intensity of the album never fully dissipates during the intermezzos between ferocity. Actually, the breaks in aggression lend to the tension as the album fluctuates a push-pull tension that is waged throughout all the songs. The diversity of this album is what leads to its ultimate success. From the alternating ambiance and aggression, to the alternation of the vocals to a snarl resembling satyr to a lower growl, these changes keep Kénôse interesting.
The first of the untitled songs slowly builds tension through a steady, marchlike intro of a simple, steady guitar line, a voiceover, and a thick percussive element thanks to the tom work on the drums. Afterwards, the sound of a choir heralds the crashing explosion that follows. The song follows this pattern untill returning to exit as it had entered. The second track holds less importance on the ambiance of the previous and also takes less time to build before erupting in violence. Instead of ambiance, the eruption of violent sections are seperated by slower, more brooding sections. The final track is my favorite, immediately errupting into a malevolent sounding melody line on which the vocalist alternates between his ghastly snarls and furious growls. Pure gold, this is by far the best moment on the album. After this is done, the song winds its way into an ambiance of dysjunct keyboards and electronics. The album ends on an extensive section of slow dissonant melody and tortured vocals.
Though I haven’t listened to Kénôse enough to see if it warrants the label masterpiece, I’m close to certain that this is an album that has the technical capacity and musical clout to make a firm statement and leave its mark on the black metal community. Surprising clarity and precision in the production only helps the overall quality of this release though the production isn’t particularly breathtaking. Deathspell Omega has thankfully provided a completely solid, interesting album that proves that good black metal is not all dead.