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Deathspell Omega - The Synarchy Of Molten Bones CD (album) cover


Deathspell Omega


Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.91 | 40 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
5 stars 'The Synarchy of Molten Bones' - Deathspell Omega (90/100)

When Deathspell Omega at last completed their definitive trilogy with Paracletus in 2010, it wasn't clear what direction the band would take. They were finally in the wake of their great Work, after all; black metal met its logical pinnacle a decade ago with the perfect Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, and the following album had justified itself based on the fact that it had managed to rein in that swirling perfection with restraint and melody. Now that they had not only touched madness but now harnessed it as well, it could constitute hubris to believe that their sound further.

The following EP Drought amazingly proved that prediction wrong with its slightly reinvented style, now a greater part Dillinger Escape Plan than Darkthrone than ever. Even 21 minutes it not only demonstrated potential beyond the trilogy, but acted as a perfect epilogue to the genre's greatest undertaking. Their exploration of God, Man and Satan was characterized by the image of Lucifer's descent to Hell from Heaven; just as Lucifer fell, it was easy to infer the fall of Man as well from the apocalyptic resolution Paracletus ended on with "Apokatastasis Pantôn", a resignation to the "pit of silence" and (translating the term) restoration of all to its primordial or original state. Where Paracletus might have ended with Apocalypse, Drought offered a glimpse of its result; a spiritual drought as much as a physical one, the annihilation of the sacred, dogs and cats living together; total fucking darkness in other words, with all semblance of hope a bygone afterthought, "like Adam and Eve at the end of time..." With Drought DSO essentially achieved for their theological explorations what they had previously done for the music from on Paracletus after Fas, drawing their arc past the point of climax as a sort of denouement. And all that with a refreshed , mathier take on that last album's style without losing the melodic heft.

Because Drought left the irredeemable fate of Man fairly cut and dried, I think it could have been a perfect place for Deathspell Omega to have called it quits. Of course I wanted nothing more for my favourite band to boldly return, I just don't think there was a clear path for them to progress; whether musically or lyrically, DSO pushed it further than anyone ever has (and likely ever will) in black metal. As such, the only places for the concept and music to go were, respectively, rebirth and regression. Those two terms arguably describe the Synarchy of Molten Bones more effectively than all else I could say about it. Deathspell Omega has, in 2016, drawn themselves back to the brink of annihilation and chaos. The album (arguably an EP at 29 minutes) more closely recalls the brutal calculated noise of Fas than anything before or since, to the point where it might be called its spiritual sequel. While there's part of me that bemoans Deathspell Omega not having kept up their innovative streak, or that a four year wait and supposed "full-length" status aren't justified by its runtime, all of it pales in comparison to the awe of hearing these masters in action again.

The Synarchy of Molten Bones isn't a game-changer the way Fas, Paracletus, or even some of the EPs were for me, but there hasn't been a doubt in my mind that the album well-deserves its instant acclaim as a masterpiece. I think if you've felt even slightly underwhelmed by the album, take a look at the competition. In addition to a quarter of my own life having come and gone, the time between Paracletus and now has seen a notorious surge of DSO clones. Some have been brilliant and most have been good (few have thankfully been flat-out bad) but I can't think of a single acolyte of theirs that comes close to capturing the technical insanity and atmosphere here. Even if it's 29 minutes long, it never feels that length. Cutting out a lot of the ambient and "mellower" sections from Fas, this is indisputably the most brutal and punishing Deathspell Omega have ever sounded. Nods to Fas are fast and frequent. With "The Synarchy of Molten Bones", the music opens up with discordant symphonic overtones, closely echoing the "Obombration" pair. The odd chord choices, tone, hell-- everything felt instantly familiar to my ears from the first listen, with ominously terrifying guitar screeches tossing a bit of a curveball early on. It doesn't take long for Deathspell Omega to fire up to full speed from there. I think some of the unhinged twang from Drought has found its way into the formula here -- some of the less byzantine moments even recall Paracletus -- but there is little doubt where Synarchy's true loyalties lie.

Conceptually, the album preaches a spirit of rebirth and renewal, though you shouldn't think hope has found a place in that equation. It's like Man has been brought up once more only to writhe in a world made now in Satan's image, rather than God whom He usurped in the last trilogy. Amid numerous references to Greek mythology (an idea I hope they continue to stick with), it feels as if DSO are taking the narrative voice of Satan Himself. There is a common reference to Iatros, that is a healer, likely referring to the continued struggle of God in this cosmic mess. The frequent idea of healing ties in well with the idea that the Synarchy of Molten Bones means to continue the exploration they left off with Paracletus. However, in truly Satanic fashion, even the Godly idea of healing here is twisted. The title "Internecine Iatrogenesis" says everything about DSO's theological concept of rebirth. With iatrogenesis literally meaning "brought forth by the healer" and internecine describing something as "mutually destructive", you can probably come to your own conclusions on Deathspell Omega's theology. Much like Fas, it's often difficult to tell where one song begins and another ends. I laud the return of this unrelenting chaos. There's barely a second for a listener (especially those with weak constitutions) to catch a breath. If you're coming as a returning DSO fan, you know the drill. The sound is constantly rife with blastbeats and frantic drum patterns that defy human understanding. The guitars are immaculately cold and are only sometimes decipherable under the drums and daemonic vocal articulations. Although the guitars and drums are roughly on par with albums past, Mikko's vocals might actually outshine his past collaborations with DSO. Given that the lyrics this time speak directly as Satan, it fits the album's style that his vocals would somehow become even more terrifying inhuman and bold. I do miss the stronger vocal integration on Paracletus, but the disconnect between the vocal phrasing and the frantic instrumentation beneath lends the impression of a Satanic sermon more than a pre-calculated performance purely for music's sake.

It's hard to express in words how powerful the atmosphere in Deathspell Omega's music really is. So many of their core traits have been elevated to the point of being near-clichés, whether by the orthodox black metal scene or the burgeoning wave of experimental metal from the current decade. It is fair to feel disappointed by the fact that the Synarchy of Molten Bones has fallen back on familiar ideas, as opposed to building a new framework for the current generation like I'd hoped, but it's ultimately asinine to criticize a band for sounding like themselves. For everything its worth, the apparent flaws of Synarchy are smoothed out by its depth and repeated listens. I might still consider the new album more as an EP, but for its length it works perfectly; layer upon layer of instrumentation and detail will keep any attentive listener rapt far longer than most albums twice its length. Only the production, which feels a step down from Fas, and a few lower than Paracletus, really stands out as a shortcoming, although it only seems that way in the context of their other masterpieces.

One question remains on my mind: Would people have lost themselves over the Synarchy of Molten Bones if it hadn't been released alongside under the fabled DSO name? I didn't think so, at least at first. But as I threw myself further into the album, listening to it, reading lyrics, pondering its concepts, there is no doubt it can stand on the weight of its own merits. This is the kind of crippling composition and musicianship only they of any are worthy to conjure.

As Deathspell Omega conduct their own rebirth, all others shall pale and kneel.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical.

Conor Fynes | 5/5 |


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