Very few black metal fans would deny that any new Deathspell Omega is special, as their brand of ever-convincing evil never falters in execution or originality, but there is something extra nice about a new DsO EP. Whether with one of their 20-minute monsters or the masterful Kenose, the band that gave us classic albums like Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice has long excelled at a format that goes underutilized by countless metal bands. DsO has never treated the EP as a lesser device, delivering some of their most memorable material in shorter spans. Drought continues this trend, not to mention the band’s impeccable track record and tendency towards constant evolution, adding yet another essential release to a continually legendary career.
Drought sees the band furthering the kind of machinations they began with Paracletus, continuing to play black metal using some unconventional tools. Absent are standard devices such as tremolo lines, keyboards, and chants, instead being replaced by technical, punctuated riffs that stop just short of feeling spastic. The production is easily the clearest that a DsO release has ever had, but the combination of the heightened technicality and fittingly dry presentation makes the complete package seem as filthy as ever. The track titled “Abrasive Swirling Murk” really sums up both the sound and song style of the record. (It’s also a fuckin’ beast of a track.) The entirety of Drought has the feel of Blasphemer and Bob Vigna spending a week together ingesting various chemicals while listening to Calculating Infinity (minus the math). It’s that goddamn violent, aggressive, and well, goddamning of a release.
As a full EP, Drought is both something very new for the band and yet not quite. On the surface, it feels like DsO wanted to get out some blistering new tracks, but like everything they do, the total is more than the sum of its parts. It may have individual songs that work well on their own, but they flow in such a way to almost give this the type of holistic impact that the band’s trio of 20-minute songs bring. The Earth-as-black-metal sounds of “Salowe Vision” lead directly into the riff infested “Fiery Serpents,” which in turn ends in a manner that makes the cacophony of “Scorpions & Drought” seem all the more fitting. “Sand” changes the pace briefly before the aforementioned “Abrasive Swirling Murk” brings the tempo back up and finale “The Crackled Book Of Life” ends the EP in a lush, layered fashion. So much thought was put into these songs that even the intro and outro work on their own, but are incomplete without the songs they bookend.
However, one of the problems with consistent excellence is that fans grow to expect it, and it becomes harder and harder for a band to really floor listeners. Deathspell Omega has come to that point. Everything they release carries such a level of supremacy, and Drought certainly continues that, but it also continues the trend where they’re merely meeting their lofty expectations. Is it a fault that a band is “only” keeping up with their own peerless standards? Fuck no, but wouldn’t it be great if they could duplicate the revelatory vibe created when they first dropped SMRC? Yes, it would.
However however, even if DsO isn’t really surprising us with their level of quality, they are continuing to evolve with each new release, and show no intention of stopping. Where once was a band that would devour your soul through spiritual subterfuge now is a collective intent on murdering you in your sleep with intricate and exciting medieval weapons. It’s as vicious as ever, the tools are just different, and Drought is quite the intricate and exciting weapon.