Monday, September 19, 2011

Deathspell Omega - Manifestations 2002 (2008)

Deathspell Omega is a rather odd entity within the realm of Black Metal. This French band, like many others, began their career playing a style of music that owed a great deal to early Darkthrone. Yet, instead of merely copying their idols, they added their own eerie mark. Over the course of a handful of releases, they seemed to be on a fairly predictable course, though this is not to say that the quality was not high enough. However, after a couple years of silence, they shocked many with Si Momumentum Requires, Circumspice. This represented a drastic departure from their previous path, with no warning. Many fans were turned off by the new style, as well as the new vocalist. With each new release, the band got further away from their original sound and alienated a lot of listeners. However, in 2008 those who preferred the earlier period of Deathspell Omega were given a gift.

Shortly after Inquisitors of Satan, the band recorded enough material for a new full-length. The songs were supposedly intended for a couple different split releases, though it would have made more sense to just release it all as the band's third L.P. At any rate, this music was not released and it remained buried for several years. What can be heard here is the next logical step in the band's evolution, and the missing link between their second and third albums. This is also the final material to feature Shaxul, who always suited the band more as a vocalist than Mikko.

The music falls in line with what one would expect, following Inquisitors of Satan. Most of the songs are fast-paced, with a lot of blasting drums and tremolo-picked riffs. This is all straight from the old school Darkthrone playbook, yet the style of melodies is something of their own invention. There is a sombre quality to many of the riffs, as well as a lot of tension and chaos. The vocals add to this sense, sounding very unrestrained. Some riffs hearken back to the First Wave bands, such as Hellhammer, but one has to wonder if this was a direct influence or if it came filtered through Darkthrone. The first several tracks would not have been out of place on the band's earlier albums, though these songs may not have stood out quite as much.

"Monotonous Ecstasy of Death" is where the band displays hints of their new direction. In a way, this picks up where "Decadence" left off, yet it also bears similarities with the record that would follow. This song is more mid-paced and features a somewhat unsettling main riff. While listening to this, it is easy to fall into a sort of trance and to see visions from one's own nightmares tearing through the fabric of reality and manifesting in this dimension. Just as the blood begins to flow, the pace picks up and a sense of urgency comes over you.

The next song, "Forever Cold", maintains the intensity until around the middle, when it slows down and the guitars take on an eerie sound, once more. For the most part, this one sticks to the same formula as on the previous album, despite the brief hints of their future path.

"Procreation Epidemic" features more of the type of chords that are found on Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice, mixed in with more traditional tremolo melodies. The song utilizes some variation in tempo, though it remains fast-paced for the majority of the time. The blending of the two is very well-done and serves to create a hellish feeling; an epic sense of misery combined with a nightmarish desperation to slice open one's veins and to escape the bonds of flesh through an ever flowing stream of blood.

The final two tracks are more standard, with minor hints of the new sound that was creeping in, but nothing terribly interesting or essential. This goes to show that while the band was growing and adding new elements to their sound, around this time, they were still firmly rooted in the early 90's Scandinavian scene, most notably Darkthrone. They did it quite well and it was a shame when things fell apart for this band.

While their current output is utter trash and has nothing to do with Black Metal, these songs hearken back to better days. Manifestations 2002 is a rare look into the past of Deathspell Omega, before they jumped on the Orthodox Black Metal bandwagon and betrayed their original vocalist. For those who consider their later era to be a descent down a foul and unpleasant path, this recording should remind you of what this band was once capable of. If you are a fan of Infernal Battles and Inquisitors of Satan, then this album is a must-have.