DEATHSPELL OMEGA  Drought  CD   (Season Of Mist)   11.99

You know, we've reached a point where it's arguable that Deathspell Omega can even be called black metal. Not that I'm complaining - for the past decade, this French outfit has evolved from relatively straightforward Darkthrone worship into a vastly more experimental and cerebral approach comprised of themes of metaphysical Satanism, a vicious discordant strain of black metal, and pitch-black surrealist undertones that coursed through their often sprawling multi-part epics. Their mid-oughts albums are inarguably some of the most interesting and experimental recordings to come out of the black metal underground. More recently, this sound has further mutated into something that half the time sounds more like some infernal math-rock outfit playing at hyper-aggressive levels of speed and volume or a blackened, hellbound variant on the evil prog rock of bands like Univers Zero and Les Morts Vont Vite-era Shub-Niggurath; there's little at this point in their career that even resembles anything else in the French black metal underground, and there's certainly nothing here at all remotely like traditional BM.

For anyone who thought that the last Deathspell Omega album Paracletus was a little too straightforward compared to their previous stuff will no doubt appreciate the sound of Drought, a recent six-song Ep that sounds to me like the 'mathiest' stuff they've done in years, with long stretches of music that go into a much more chaotic, almost noise-rock like blast of angular aggression, or sinks into stark, brooding jangle. The opening song "Salowe Vision" begins with the sound of somber clean guitars, strummed chords ringing out in slow motion over somewhat jazzy melodic shapes and the spacious, slow-core like drumming that faintly resembles a more dour take on Codeine's sound. This slow-drifting, lugubrious crawl through clouds of reverb later unfolds into that sharp-edged discordant math-metal until the band slams into the total thrash of "Fiery Serpents"; maniacal blastbeats and bizarre jagged rhythms jut from a storm of skronky riffing and guttural vocals, a heavy Greg Ginn-esque vibe creeping through the guitarist's atonal riffs once again. The blasting frenzy of "Scorpions & Drought" and "Abrasive Swirling Murk" are where Deathspell get the closest to full-on black metal, lots of killer frostbitten tremolo riffs and blastbeats, but even here their blackened violence is warped into something more dissonant and complex, especially on the crazed "Murk" where the angular metal transforms into a rather majestic blast of regal math rock. That sort of dark mathy heaviness is also apparent on the closer "The Crackled Book of Life", a tangle of eerie riffing and complex atonal melodies that wrap themselves around lurching bass-heavy dirges and strange ghostly ambience, the sudden appearance of muted choir voices rising in delirious liturgical hymn.

Despite its short length, this is another engrossing piece of contorted blackness from Deathspell, no less heady and malevolent than their previous works despite featuring some of the bands more prog-rock informed arrangements thus far. The liturgical atmosphere remains alongside the band's willfully arcane philosophies, even as the music unfolds into unexpected (and quite un-BM-like) new forms. Comes in a gatefold sleeve with some really striking, nightmarish cover artwork.

Track Samples: