Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice reviews
Ulloz%20Zipxoc on July 15th, 2017
Absolutely a Modern Classic
Just by the artwork you can tell this oozes a certain atmosphere; it's as brutally black as a musty, wine-stained medieval tome on a three-ton altar sculpted of the same black marble as the pillars filing down past the scarred pews. The introduction, "First Prayer", sounds like it was recorded in this place. The effect is so immediate and encompassing that you can picture the monks chanting in Latin around you...
Then "Sola Fide I" bursts through with its fuzzy yet wicked riffs and pattering percussion and you realize you're in for a treat. This is not only one of the greatest black metal albums ever recorded, it is one of the best albums I have ever had the pleasure of owning. Deathspell Omega gives birth to its own brand here, something apart from the melodic and orchestral sound of Dissection, Sacramentum, or Emperor, or the purism of Darkthrone and Mayhem. This has elements of both, with the aforementioned fuzzy production but focus on brilliant riffs, which sound as though they are the aural manifestation of a universally-expressed anxiety for the retribution of dark, fetid rains upon mortal earth. Just listen to the beginning of "Odivm Nostrvm" and tell me it doesn't make you nervous, or the next track "Jvbilate Dea", which sounds almost hopeful. The riffs oscillate in a way that inspire horrific visions of merciless famine and disease, but also get me humming along without fail. It's the type of ingenious songwriting that was present on both of Dissection's 90s masterpieces, representing every reason I listen to this type of music. Every song here is worth listening to over and over, even the intermission tracks which are mostly slow and ambient and interlaced with dopey hooting meant to represent a God-fearing peasant. Quite a few of the songs follow a pattern of "ending" in the middle and pausing momentarily before throwing out a gorgeous riff equal in quality to what came before, albeit slower; this gives the songs a sort of two-in-one feeling, like this band just has so many ideas that they put them anywhere and everywhere without even bothering to tie it in to the first half. This off-kilter song structure is entirely intentional and is beautifully effective in teasing the ears of the listener into attention. DsO, it should be mentioned, is much more technical than other black metal groups, especially on later releases; here they blend both melodic and technical into their own special flavor that has caused me (and others) to fall in love with them and recognize them as one of the most original acts of the new millennium.
This is a consummate masterpiece of metal, blistering and pitch black and woven with such artfulness that, even at 76 minutes, it ends all too quickly. I can never just listen to one song, and I'm even tempted often to listen to the entire album. Anything of that level of quality deserves only the highest marks. It's a shame many other listeners weren't able to detect the red, succulent juices in this medium-rare marbled steak of an opus.
(originally written on Amazon.com)
Napalm_Satan on February 13th, 2016
A complete and utter musical failure. (II)
Subtitle: (If you seek a monument, look elsewhere.)
Approaching this album is quite an odd experience, to be honest. From what I have been able to gather, this was once hailed as a modern classic of black metal, something of vast musical magnitude that would forever change the face of the genre in a time of a supposed dearth in quality for many black metal bands. I wasn't aware of metal at all at the time; hence I am unable to comment on any of that. All I will say is that the reception surrounding this thing does really stink of a flash in the pan - an album that is more of a hype piece than something notable for its music. I don't give a shit about the lyrics, though clearly these guys didn't get the memo as to why so many black metal bands had satanic lyrics - it was about individualism and idiosyncrasy from the norm, as well a shock tactic for some. It isn't meant to be a submission to a deity, and the idea that anyone in the Orthodox movement worships Satan is bullshit - I guarantee that it is (was?) all an act.
However, I digress. What really matters here is the music, and to put it bluntly: This is honestly one of the most poorly executed notable black metal albums I have ever come across. Every last aspect of the album unquestionably sucks, and how this of all things was chosen to be a flagship release of all of metal continues to amaze me. It is tepid, boring, weak, sluggish, haphazard, and ultimately derivative and inarticulate. Infernal Battles is a better album than this, fuck, Satanic Blood is a far, far, far better executed album than this, in all of its brazen simplicity.
The individual performances of everyone here are nothing to be scoffed at. Everyone can clearly play their instruments competently, there is no sloppy playing or vomit-inducingly awful musical ideas at work here. The vocals are kind of interesting; they tend more towards a death metal growl than one would expect, having a more percussive and full quality to them than a standard black metal rasp, while still being high-pitched enough to be classed as 'blackened'. He almost reminds me of Abbath crossed with David Vincent (i.e.: with less croak.) The lyrics are a bit more discernible as a result of this, which perhaps led to this album's flag-bearer status of the Orthodox movement. On the whole it is a decent performance, nothing grating or weak, but it is a tad monotonous and generic.
A similar level of boring competency can be found in the instruments. The drummer again tends towards death metal tendencies with more fills and more complex drumming on the whole, along with the blast beats one would expect. A fairly impressive performance, and probably the best thing about this album. The riffs are quite varied and fairly memorable, and yet are so generic and lacking in identity that they could be passed off as riffs from any other band, and it would be fine. They do drive the songs somewhat, but lack in power for reasons I shall get on to. And of course the bass just follows the guitars, giving this album quite the low end.
And this is where it all falls apart. Oh sure, everyone is OK, but that is all. This is such a mediocre album with so little energy flowing through it that it comes across as deliberately restrained and completely sluggish in nature. Not once is this album even remotely malevolent or violent, it amounts to background music and nothing more. It doesn't tear your face off, it isn't that aggressive, and the band sound like they are half-assing it. This is an incredibly boring album that lacks anything truly memorable or interesting to its name, and its ridiculously long run time of 77 goddamn minutes really makes this a true slog of an album.
The production is a goddamn joke, and saps any power the music may have had. It is a parodic equivalent to the masterful production featured on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and drenches this album in a ridiculous amount of reverb. It buries the guitars and makes them sound really glossy and weak. The vocals are far too loud, and the when blasting the drums can't be heard at all, apart from the omnipotent low end from the kit. It becomes clear why they do this as you further dissect the music, but to the outside observer, it just sounds comically botched and shite. It is also another example of how inoffensive this thing is, because for such a blasphemous album, this is an oddly friendly (if completely annoying and pointless) sound. They would have been better off ripping the production from fucking Nattens Madrigal.
This music has been rammed together in the clunkiest of fashions. The music has been formed out of several big, non-fitting chunks that have been rammed together with no regard for flow or atmosphere. The end result is an overlong collection of songs that don't really go anywhere or do anything but plod along for an arbitrary amount of time before clumsily switching tracks to something else. The motion of the riffs themselves come across as awkward, the songs don't feel like a cohesive whole, and there are no points of climax at all in these. They just sort of... sit there, acting all extreme but coming across as completely incoherent and amateurish.
And it is here that another serious flaw of the album comes about - literally a quarter of the noise on this thing is completely unnecessary. The production for instance, makes the album sound very deep and large, in an attempt to make it sound like more is going on than there actually is. A substantial amount of delay is put on the guitars to achieve a similar effect. The album is full of fluffy crap like this - the most notable parts being the ambient malformations that are the 'Prayer' tracks (ooh! Praying! So blasphemous, you fuckers.), that only succeed in boring the listener to no end and fail at their objectives of conjuring an evil atmosphere and making the album seem more grandiose. They just kind of come out of nowhere, and amount to something like 'Alsvartr (The Oath)' - pretentious, skippable, plodding filler. 'Tomhet', this is not. Their goals with all this crap, along with the Gregorian chants of 'Carnal Malefactor' is so blindingly obvious, because all this extraneous fluff hasn't been integrated into the album at all, and its poor foundations would make the possibility of stalling for time seem ever more appropriate.
Another severe issue with this album is a sheer lack of atmosphere. This is a combined flaw from all of the aforementioned issues on this. There is a large detachment between this album and its listeners, and one factor is one I alluded to earlier - at no point does this shock or show any signs of life at all. It never tears your face off, it never makes you think 'holy shit!' in a way that any actual black metal classic would with a quirky performance or something interesting. It is mediocre and unmemorable, and this has been achieved through deliberate restraint. This album has the potential to be an intense artillery battery or a twisted ode to Satan himself, but it isn't, and suffers greatly for it. This isn't blasphemous, this isn't evil, this isn't malevolent, it is nothing. It fails as black metal, and in this husk's place is a repetitive, cobbled together core that doesn't ever set its musical ideas in stone even once. It never develops its songs, it never progresses, it flails about all over the place. The production further buries the sound of the music itself from the listener, leaving him to peer into the enormous artificial sonic cavern this album places itself in, wondering where the visceral intensity is. They were trying to go for something cold and distant, but such an effect is achieved through atmosphere and an actual good production job, not this reverb-laden mess.
Other issues would include this album's horrible pacing, having crappy non-ambient interludes strewn between clunky black metal that has been littered with squeaks and pauses, as well as its aforementioned 77 minute bloated run time, during which nothing of note happens at all, barring the melodic bits in 'Sola Fide I'. Those are the only sections where the album picks up at all, the one section where the album grows some fucking balls. Otherwise, this is a pretentious, pathetic excuse for black metal that drowns in its own mediocrity and attempts at grandeur, along with its terrible foundations. Given the overly derivative nature of this album - where by literally every idea heard on it has been taken from somewhere else (USBM, the Norwegian second wave, Hirilorn, Sweden, you name it) - the album doesn't have an identity of its own, exacerbated by failing to live up to its own Satanic preaching and being so badly done on the whole.
I think I finally understand why this of all things became the flagship of black metal for its time. Its inoffensiveness means it doesn't alienate any listener, whether they be a fan of Von, 1349 or Cradle of Filth. It is so superficial that you immediately think it is good without bothering to dig deeper, it deceives its listeners by burying its crumbling internals under a ludicrous amount of filler and fluff. It comes across as epic, grand and atmospheric, as a masterwork. The band knew they made something musically bankrupt, and tried to dress it up and pass it off as a cohesive and acceptable whole. It isn't. It is musically inarticulate, mediocre, horribly executed, pathetic, weak, childish, and flashy novel garbage, destined to be nothing more than a blip in black metal's positive development.
What a load of boring tripe.
DSOfan97 on August 2nd, 2015
One of the darkest albums ever released.
At the dawn of the last decade black metal had started to become stale. Few bands would release admirable albums and even fewer had the talent to actually revive the scene. Of course there were bands like Thorns, whose debut (and only) album is considered to be a classic, Leviathan, with Wrest's phenomenal work in "The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide" and "Tentacles of Whorror" and Blut Aus Nord with "The Work Which Transforms God". Yet nobody expected Deathspell Omega, a group that, until then was stuck in the worn out fashion of the cult black metal albums that Darkthrone and Burzum used to release in the nineties, would emerge from the shadows with something truly amazing. Due to the poor quality of their debut and the lack of focus in their sophomore release, Deathspell weren't exactly a popular band. That changed in 2004 when they released, "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice".
In this album Deathspell dared to do something entirely new to them and to black metal in general. First of all "Si..." runs for more than an hour as opposed to their previous works which barely exceeded the thirty minute mark. Instead of relying on the riffage they concentrated on a certain atmosphere which is present throughout the album. This dense, dark, heavy and smothering atmosphere was created by the use of some slower passages that appear between the thick layers of guitars, bass and drums, where the band displays tons of new elements and ideas. The album's production was a pleasant surprise for everyone, except for those who only accept the raw and staggering sound of early black metal releases. Every instrument is audible and the vocals top the result perfectly.
Hasjarl, who came up with the concept, had to spend two years in order to realise his vision. In those two years of silence Deathspell took a huge step forward and composed thirteen songs for their new opus. The three prayers are the slowest songs of the album with the exception of the first half of Carnal Malefactor. They are by far the most atmospheric pieces of the whole album. Sola Fide I and II are faster and the speed of the album slowly increases until we reach the final songs where the band calms down a bit. Then, with tracks like Blessed Are the Dead Whiche Dye In The Lorde and Jubilate Deo they play in an extreme way while in Odium Nostrum, they dare to incorporate more experimental rhythmic patterns.
The guitar work has left its mark on the modern black metal scene with its ever changing melodies and dissonances. The bass started to take the lead at some points as it did in their later releases, while the drums performed by Yohann Pasquier ( who used to be the drummer for Hirilorn) sound incredible. The result is an album with rich sound, not overproduced and with Deathspell's trademark elements already starting to take shape. For example the fact that the drums are high in the mix while the vocals are used as one more instrument.
Lyrically "Si..." feels like a liturgy albeit this sounds more like the negation of it, a declaration of faith towards the figure of Satan, which they accept as a metaphysical entity. Their new approach of orthodox satanism and orthodox black metal is strikingly good, while the unspoken lyrics which include some of the most sinister lines ever written, make the whole album sound even darker. Mikko Aspa is responsible for the vocals here. His performance is so damn good, that still, many artists try to copy his style without succeeding of course.
Generally "Si..." is an album that could have been flawless, but there are a few things holding me back from giving it a perfect 100% score. Its length combined with the playing style might exhaust some listeners at first. One has to be patient to enjoy "Si..." and that is not a bad thing, but compared to their next full-length albums, "Si..." seems inferior. Also, while Mikko's performance is great, the way he pronounces some words puts me off. That happens quite oftenly and it can clearly be heard in Carnal Malefactor, even though this track is one of my favorites from the album.
"Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" is one of black metal's finest moments for sure. The whole genre needed something refreshing back then and Deathspell Omega provided it in the best possible way, crafting an album that would go down in history as one of the darkest (if not the darkest) album ever made. Timo Ketola's album cover (derived from a line in Sola Fide I) depicts the themes of "Si..." in the best possible way, while the illustrations and pictures of massacres and mass graves in the booklet are to say the least horrific. All in all, "Si..." is an album worth your attention and your time. And it's obviously one of the most important black metal albums of the 21st century.
Favorite tracks: "First Prayer", "Third Prayer", "Jubilate Deo", "Carnal Malefactor".
ConorFynes on July 16th, 2015
LET EVERYTHING THAT HATH BREATH PRAISE THE LORD
It is dangerously easy to underrate how important Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice was for black metal in 2004. Not only did Deathspell Omega launch their sound thirteen miles deeper into avant-garde obscurantism with their subsequent masterpieces Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum and Paracletus; the decade since has been replete with halfhearted imitators, wishing to glimpse into the same well of truth and horror that impelled the mysterious French collective to such ambitious lengths. If Si Monumentum sounds any less groundbreaking, it is only in light of the mind-ripping works DSO would achieve hereafter. In a broad sense, the album may be seen as a bridge between the post-Second Wave stylistic confusion of black metal at the turn of the millennium, and the ubiquitous composer-provocateurs that define the genre today.
Even beyond the works it has inspired, Si Monumentum stands as a proud, albeit bloated monument unto itself. Multiple interlude tracks, sophisticated compositions, schizoid dissonance and even an extended trip into Gregorian choral music with "Carnal Malefactor" all lend themselves to an influence from progressive rock. While bands like Enslaved and Emperor had incorporated a prog influence into their work before, Deathspell Omega went a step further, cutting through the progressive tropes and distilling them to their source. Outside Si Monumentum's burstfire amping of black metal conventions, there's a broad sense of Western classical music (itself the grandfather of progressive rock and metal), filtered through such smoke and mirrors that you may not hear the classical influences overtly in all but the most prominent cases. What ultimately results from this stylistic alchemy of European musical tradition, however, is a sense of incredibly serious religiosity.
That relative 'seriousness' is Si Monumentum's great gift to black metal. That's not to say that the First and Second Wavers weren't potentially just as sincere about their malevolent inclinations, but fairly often those occult or negative feelings were channelled with a vulgar, even adolescent grasp of their subject matter. Satan hailing, goat-fukking mad libs don't mince words when it comes to espousing their respective bands ideologies, but the lyrics themselves are often easy to toss out on an intellectual basis. Compare that to what DSO decided to do with Si Monumentum. The album's lyrics strike me as an intellectually-backed dive into orthodox Satanism, devised in the mirror image of Catholic liturgy. Perhaps moreso than the album's musical innovations, Si Monumentum is set most apart by DSO's supreme navigation of their genre's central ideology. Retreats into Latin and erudite English (vocalised aggressively here by Finnish deviant Mikko Aspa) give the rich impression of facing Christian orthodoxy on its own playing field. The two albums since that have rounded out the band's trilogy have collectively manifested as the most in-depth exploration of Satan I've ever found in metal.
The three 'prayers' on Si Monumentum serve as atmospheric interludes to space out the album; I actually think they've turned out as some of the album's greatest offerings. "First Prayer" sounds perfectly dismal, like the opening notes of a Black Mass, complete with sampled choral voices. These choral voices (now virtually orthodox BM cliche) appear throughout the album, counterpointing the band's bass-heavy aggression in "Third Prayer", culminating in a gorgeous minutes-long a capella in the centre of "Carnal Malefactor". Deathspell Omega showcase a Gregorian choir with none but a ticking bass tone to remind the listener they're still listening to something off the beaten path. Other, more melodic sections of the album ring memorably, including the psychedelic fear of "Second Prayer", and the band's plodding affirmation to Satan at the end of "Jvbilate Dea".
Musically, Si Monumentum is defined by a collection of incredible, almost-perfect moments. Deathspell Omega's more traditionally-bound black metal exploits are still puzzled with technical, buzzing guitars and Aspa's exceptionally demoniacal vocal display, but the album nonetheless seems to pack on too much material that didn't necessarily need be included. Given that none of the material is weak so much as samey, it is difficult to point out any one or two tracks as being lesser than the rest, although "Blessed Are the Dead Whiche Dye in the Lorde", "Hétoïmasia, and "Odium Nostrum" seemed curiously void of their own 'immortal' passages.
Therefore, if Si Monumentum is not a masterpiece (and I don't believe it is), it is not for lack of skill or vision. A run-time nearing an hour and a half is unwieldy by virtually every band's standard, possibly doubly so in consideration of the band's heady intensity. Going overboard with their ambitions is ample indication of a band that only recently tapped into their purest creative self. Such is the case for DSO a decade ago. The years since have proven how far Si Monumentum was from actually delivering upon the extent of this band's power; 2007's Fas's jazz inflections and calculated madness would make it one of the greatest black metal albums of all time, and Paracletus' slightly more melodic rendering of its predecessor only led to good things. Though Deathspell Omega's third album is since dwarfed (if not in length, then certainly in stylistic aptitude) by the albums since, it was certainly the greatest step forward in the band's career.
EschatonOmega on May 24th, 2014
The Metaphysical Trilogy - Part. I
After two fairly run of the mill straight forward black metal albums and the departure of the previous lead vocalist Shaxul and the arrival of the replacement Mikko Aspa, France's D.O. did a complete redo on their sound, evolving from the not to impressive sound of "Infernal Battles" and "Inquisitors of Satan" to a more creative and progressive style of black metal. This shift in style to a more detailed and well thought out structure lead to this album being praised as this masterwork of "intelligent music" amongst critics in the metal community and the first full length record to showcase this artistic evolution was 2004's "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice", the first in a trilogy of albums detailing the relationship between God, man and Satan. "C.M.R.,C" detailing (and worshiping) the last of that trio, the lord of darkness himself. This devil worship theme is about the farthest thing from new when it comes to black metal, but D.O., who's band members are confirmed theistic Satanists, does it in a more mature way, as this is showcased as an intelligent expression of one's faith rather than the typical reason of being offensive and "rebelious". Of course, this aspect of theistic Satanism that the band members so strongly profess has come under attack by a small percentage of the black metal community as, because they are worshiping Satan on a metaphysical level, it is technically making them an Evangelical Christian band, as they are acknowledging the existence of Satan and therefor, in turn, also acknowledging the existence of the Judeo-Christian God. This is due to the ignorant viewpoint that any belief of any kind of God or some other higher power somehow makes you an intolerant, dogmatically religious, submissive, by the good book zealot (any Theology class will completely refute this) therefor technically, by such logic, classifying D.O. as a Christian black metal (AKA unblack metal, AKA white metal) band. This of course is just illogical and black and white thinking brought about by Atheist fanaticism and is just a small percentage of people who will reject it for that reason and should not be paid any attention to.
One thing that is very prevalent about this record is the album's Cathedral like vibe, meaning that the band puts together this album in such a way to essentially feel like an anti-Church unholy mass and something I consider one of this album's main strong points. This "churchy" quasai-religious vibe is convayed more or less in various aspects of the sound, both musically and lyrically, such as the heavy use of Gregorian choir, like the distorted sound bites on "First Prayer" and this very beautiful and bleak five minute section of Gregorian choir on "Carnel Malefactor", song titles (Sola Fide, Jubilate Deo, etc) being named after Christian chants and prayers and lyrical subjects generally being about Catholic mass forms of worship but all in the name of Satan, such as the song "Drink the Devil's Blood" being about Eucharistic unholy communion. This theme is one of the more interesting aspects of the album as the idea of taking Catholic traditions and turning them into Satanic rituals that (please forgive me if I'm wrong) is not something I see too many bands do. But the constant use of choir is something that I find particularly great about this album as its composition and adds a level of depth to the music making more varied and interesting to listen to and, as another reviewer noted, does give off the impression of being in a large scale cathedral. And even though its used pretty sparingly, when the choir that does come up, it adds so much and feels necessary to this bleak and very, very dark emotional feel that the band was going for. This kind of heavy atmosphere is created very well, giving off a sickly and at its more ambient sections, very eerie feeling that makes it a bit unsettling, as taking something that supposed to be hopeful and fulfilling for people and making it a channel for darkness and evil is an interesting way to go about it. As it always seems that depravity and wickedness seem to be at their most disturbing when mimicking innocence and/or purity.
The instrumental work is very good overall, but is flawed by some things. One of its strong points is the guitar and drum work and how viceral and blackened the riffs feel, yet have a degree of thought and complexity that keep them interesting to listen to and not just suffering from a black metal pitfall of taking one riff and replaying over and over again for an entire song. This thoughtful technicality shines yet still allows itself to be chaotic and blood pumping. Most of them have a great flow to them and feel very blackened and add to the atmosphere. Especially when the songs slow down to these more moody and atmospheric sections, mainly with these interlude tracks called "Prayers". Take for example the album opener "First Prayer". It plays this slow, downbeat guitar riff that slowly gets a bit heavier and the drums become a little more apparent, building tension and slowly easing into itself, before suddenly stopping about halfway through to leave way from this odd sounding recording of a riff that's being played in reverse. And behind all of this is this cracking and slightly distorted recording of a Gregorian chant that's meant to signify the opening of the "church ceremony" of the album. This perfectly lays the groundwork to open up what the listener is about to experience in the black atmosphere and vibe of the record. But with that being said, there are times on this album that fall short and don't feel quite as thought provoking or interesting to listen. There are a few tracks that drone on without doing much and instead feel very monotonous, tedious, they lack creativity and just in general lack the intricacy of the rest of the Tracklist. Such tracks as "Odium Nostrum" or "Drink the Devil's Blood" are more or less this flurry of very rabid instrumentation, but without much substance, without much variety or artistic sense and without much likablity as in they're very fast but don't have a lot going on technically and feel very loud and in your face but not very memorable or interesting.
Another aspect about the music that I have a somewhat mixed opinion on are the vocals. Now aesthetically, they sound very good. Mikko Aspa has a fairly unique style of this very throaty, kind of raspy low high growling that sound very sickly and a bit tortured and fit very well with the rest of the music, but at the same time, like some other aspects of the music, they're a bit monotonous. They rarely, if ever change in tone or pitch and pretty much stay exactly the same in many regards throughout the entire album, lacking variety and the sense of progression that most of the music has.
One other issue this album has is with its length, and for the content here, the album is just a bit too long. Clocking in at around an hour and seventeen minutes, because of the complexity and intricacy of the music, its long length makes the album feel a bit long winded and overall larger than it needed to be. Album lengths like this, I think, work best with more basic music, material that doesn't require a ton of thought or attention to appreciate, grasp and understand, where as music of a more progressive nature like this, shorter lengths work better because there is more going on and it does require the listener to be more aware and pay the music a lot more thought to grasp and when you have an album that's close to an hour and twenty minutes, it can get a bit overwhelming to listen to, and about 3/4 of the way through the record, I found myself getting a little tired of listening to it.
After giving this album a few listens, my opinion is that this is a very solid artistic vision, with a lot of good ideas and an interesting way to go about it Theological concept, but at the same time, its an album that demands a lot from the listener and can get exhausting to listen to. It has a lot of interesting styles and riffs, really great atmosphere and intriguing structures, but also suffers from less than ideal execution. I would say, undoubtly, that it is the worst out of the Metaphysical trilogy, but its still a smart, solid album overall and I do highly recommend it for people looking for a more thoughtful and progressive metal album, but know that it is imperfect and has a lot to for you to take in.
PhilosophicalFrog on May 8th, 2014
Norms, Patterns, Ideas
Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice was an incredibly influential album to me. I was taken aback by the presentation of the album, a towering behemoth of sound and horror, grasping at high-minded concepts with vulgar language and an incredible sense of aesthetic. Deathspell Omega was to me, like many others, the introduction to the Orthodox movement, propelled by intellectualism and occult tinges. It was a perfectly executed idea, and one that I dove into with voracious appetite. To put it simply, this album consumed me - I listened to it daily, memorized riffs and sections, studied the lyrics and symbols, embraced the strangeness of the occult. I was a fresh-faced teen fighting against the pillars of established religion using Gnostic knives of truth as weaponry, and submersing myself into the occult.
This album preceded my entire interest in the "higher ideas" outside of normal religion. So, naturally, I thought it was the greatest album ever written, a sentiment that stuck with me for quite some time (indeed, it wasn't until Kénôse was released that I enjoyed an album as much). Now, looking back upon my rabid reviews, fanboyisms and utter obsessive buying habits, I still love the album just as much, but in a completely different manner. Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice suffers from something to which too many ambitious projects fall pray. It is an incredibly dense, thoughtful, rewarding, and challenging album. It is filled with genius and unrivaled aesthetic choice, unparalleled in thought from almost any album released around the same time. It is an extremely impressive album, dauntingly so, nuanced and subtle, meticulous in thought, and most of all, it is a complete artistic vision. However, none of this particularly translates to the music in a commanding manner. The album, in spite of its grandiose ambient, falls flat upon repeated scrutiny. It is still worth most of the praise, but sadly, the gap between thought and execution is a tad too large, leaving Deathspell Omega balanced in a precarious manner.
It's a horrid shame too.
"The essence of Revelation lies in the fact that it is the direct speech of god to man"
There are indeed moments of brilliance musically - the "Sola Fide" duo contains wrestling riffs, breakdowns and tempo shifts composed around swirling vocal delivery and an ever-present state of confusion and panic, truly conveying the "holy poison" of those unearthly enough to hear the voice of God. The title track is a dizzying array of musicality mixed with unbridled violence and tension, with Aspa sounding like a vicious vicar on his pulpit, shouting "Holy holy holy, is the Lord God Almighty!". "Jubilate Deo (O Be Joyful in the Lord)" is a terrifying mantra rejecting the rule of God and his Son through cosmological destruction, sounding more dejected and frightened than spiteful and arrogant - owing itself to more of a Medieval tract than a philosophical essay on the nature of God. Moments like these are when the ideas behind the album match up with the music, these are incredibly memorable and interesting moments, bordering on sublime. But sadly, these moments are few and far between, with most of the album opting for a more straightforward approach.
"Between hope and fear"
Indeed, there is a subdued chaos running beneath the album's openers, the overall melodies resembling traditional black metal riffing with subtle hints of lurching in the form of odd harmonies buried deep beneath the mix (think of Mutiilation's earliest). It works very well, and this is an effect present in most songs on the album ("Hétoïmasia" and the title track are exemplary of this tendency) and with each swirling murky riff swimming beneath the prominent melodies, we see the rock upon which Deathspell Omega built its future. Halfway through songs, the listener is thrown through jarring riff changes, vocal distortions, and dissonant plummets, but all in a more controlled and less mathematical way than the later albums. Indeed, unlike the clanging dissonant peaks that Deathspell Omega climbed its later works, Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice was the foundation, something more solidly grounded in its past and rooted firmly in the soil of black metal; a necessary launching point for a much more ambitious career.
"There resides the fusion, there is the nucleus"
But, by operating within the standard norms of black metal, Deathspell Omega consistently pulls back the ideas that lead to those aforementioned moments of sublimity. They are always grasping at some huge moment musically, one that will match up with the mission of cosmic destruction, and then somehow reign it back in with a less than memorable melody or section of riffs. I understand that the repetition is intentional, it is supposed to resemble a religious ceremony after all, but most songs end up repeating the parts that are not worth repeating. Imagine then, this religious ceremony, that instead of repeating the priest's words through song, one simply said the words back, with no accompanied music, and no accompanied faith - rather just a blind retelling of the same words said every Sunday. The ceremony would then lose its hypnotic effect, and would be seen for what it is, people standing still in front of a strangely dressed man while strangely phrased things are said. To keep the divine intoxication, one must have a divine presence made known, and one must do this by having an awesome and fearsome delivery. Deathspell Omega just simply cannot keep that delivery through the whole album.
Songs like "Carnal Malefactor", "Odium Nostrum", and "Blessed Are the Dead Whiche Dye in the Lorde" simply cannot keep up with their concepts and promises, and come off as more bloated and boring than terrifying and inspirational, and songs like "Drink the Devil's Blood" and "Malign Paradigm" simply sound like bonus tracks (particularly the former because of it's traditional structure and rocking chorus). It's a shame too, because by that point in the album (the end), the listener should be wrapped up in a spell of mystique and power.
This is what is so frustrating about this album: it's clearly a labor of love and brilliance and dedication. You can feel the energy Deathspell Omega exudes, and the grand majesty that accompanies it, but only for a flash, creating an ultimately mundane experience. Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice is a memorable album, and it is definitely an album that all metalheads should experience, but it is not the earthshaking brilliance that it ought to be, which is more sad that anger-inducing. Ultimately, listen to the album, the subtleties, the textures, the moments of sheer transcendent bliss, and completely lose yourself. It's worth the first trip, but it's best left at that - a singular sublime revelation packaged perfectly rather than a work of art to be repeatedly visited.
A perfect artistic endeavor, a mediocre album.
ashvalkyrie on November 4th, 2013
There is nothing on this record that can invoke in me a feeling even remotely related to joy or appreciation. It is just empty. Hollow. Void. It’s an hour and a half long endurance test which, in my opinion, would be best suited for torturing political criminals into confessing high treason. The few good ideas found on this album, which are not a direct rip-off of other famous and not so famous bands, are mercilessly drowned into a sea of mediocrity and meaninglessness.
I must admit that I am really being subjective here. I hold a strong dislike for French black metal in general, and I particularly despise Deathspell Omega. I pretty much hate everything this band represents within black metal. I hate their pretentious, over the top “sophisticated” lyrics, trying to come off as “the thinking man’s” black metal, I hate their boasting of the rather dumb, if you ask me, Orthodox Satanist philosophy. I normally have no issues with any sort of ideology fused into the music – I enjoy quite a few NSBM albums (Absurd, for example), and I really dig Funeral Mist. But these are examples of bands that have what it takes to make a great album, which, of course, is great music – not the case here. I hate Deathspell Omega’s fans who pretend to be said “thinking man”, and for whom it is not that uncommon to not be that much into black metal at all.
It would seem to me that the intention was to make the album GRAND in every sense of the word, but it just falls short on every front. Imagine receiving a Christmas present in a box big enough to fit a whole car in, but there is only a fucking baseball inside – that’s what this album really is, stripped of all the cocky pretensions, useless “prayers” and Gregorian chants (which might be cool in their own right, but not when put right in the middle of a (supposedly) black metal album) and all rip-offs taken away. What is left is technical, I admit, but at the end soulless and empty playing which simply cannot grab your attention and borderline annoying, "intelligent" lyrics.
Musically this album does not offer absolutely anything that you haven't heard thousands of times already, even if you are only a casual black metal fan. Random ambience is scattered throughout the album in the form of "prayers" aiming to create dark, brooding atmosphere. Yet the sheer fact that they had to do that is proof that the album lacks musical quality and ideas. "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" doesn't have any of these, yet it still manages to make you feel like it's witching hour at the graveyard. Everything on this album is just so generic and predictable. Take every black metal-cliche you can think of, put them all together and voila! Most of the songs consist of a couple of riffs and the simplest of drum patterns and follow the formula "mid paced beginning - chanting/wailing - flurry" , with the occasional swapping of positions. Not a single time does the album deviate from this oh so well established black metal formula, leading to complete indistinguishableness of the songs, ultimately making this album harmless background noise at best. The vocal delivery is your standard black metal rasp, often slowed down to almost a talk, at times akin to Attila Csihar, but nowhere near his level.
It is not that Deathspell Omega are bad musicians, they certainly are talented. What they fail to do, or perhaps weren’t even trying to do, is put that talent to action and actually make music of any relevance and substance, instead of relying solely on aesthetics and trying to convey some sort of message which nobody really cares about, with the exception of confused individuals, mostly kids, who mistake random usage of latin words with higher intellectual capabilities.
But alas, the majority was foolish enough to be convinced that this inflated balloon actually has any musical value. This joke of a band was hailed as the leaders of a new wave of black metal, one that would push aside the boundaries and lead the way to new planes of existence for the genre. Of course, none of this happened and I hope this band fades back into the obscurity from whence it came, but still the mind boggles as to how on Earth did they get all the hype they did.
It is extremely hard to find any redeeming qualities of this album, apart from the band members’ sheer technical skill, which, sadly, was used to create such an abomination. I guess the ending of Sola Fide II was interesting, I actually listened to it a second time, after I barely got through the whole album for the first time. Apart from that, this album is to be ignored and never spoken of, in hopes that it would one day be erased from the collective consciousness of the black metal genre. Do not buy it under any circumstances. If you already have done so, then I strongly suggest you watch one of those YouTube videos on how to open a beer bottle – I am certain they had a “how to open a beer bottle with a CD” – part. That way you can actually put this garbage to some real use.
hells_unicorn on February 19th, 2012
All the disquiet over this?
Separating any sort of ambiguous intent or otherwise perceived intent within a work and the work itself should be a simple task, yet doesn’t often work out this way in practice. For better or worse, people just can’t seem to get past their own pet causes and simply enjoy something for its outward aesthetic beauty, a task which requires a bit more intellectual effort than one would guess. It is just simply a better idea to accept the objective reality that a craftsman will try to implant his own quirky niche on his trade and, occasionally in a fit of pretentiousness, pass it off as an orthodoxy that should henceforth never be deviated from. Throughout history there have been a number of pompous composers who have said some outlandish things in reference to their own works (Richard Strauss actually penned “A Hero’s Life” as a self-congratulatory autobiography of his own professed musical heroism), and it does little to diminish the importance of their work.
This preface is an appropriate beginning of an excursion into one of black metal’s more controversial affairs, the 3rd full length effort of Deathspell Omega in “Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice”, an album that fancies itself a sort of counter-church service dedicated to the biblical character known more plainly as “the adversary” (the English translation of Satan). The discontentment that has erupted from the metal community should seemingly be present in the scenes Christian minority (of which I am a part of), but it is actually amongst the large skeptic crowd. Truth be told, the heavy employment of religious symbolism and rituals found on here make this an all too fitting reaction, as any Christian who has any kind of familiarity with metal’s most infamous subgenre has no doubt become numb to this brand of mockery, and the implicit hostility to superstition in black metal circles is not really a universally accepted viewpoint in a demographic that is far from monolithic.
But putting aside the ideological scuffles for now, one thing that is often missed about this work is that in spite of a pretty consistent adherence to black metal traditions of the 2nd wave, there are a few interesting twists in the overall scheme of this album that make for an interesting listening experience. The first and most auspicious is the heavy use of Gregorian chant, giving off an air of solemnity that contrasts quite heavily with the darkened tableau of the guitars and backing rhythm section. The overall dimension of the sound has the feel and presence of a stage not all that dissimilar to one accommodating a pulpit, though the dirty and fuzz laden guitar character limits the overall scope to something more akin to a small building rather than a grandiose cathedral. Echoes of early Gorgoroth and Mayhem can be heard here and there, but the riff character leans a bit towards a flowing, ambient character more in line with Burzum, hinting at a sound that is slightly more agonized than it is horrid.
There is a fair share of weaknesses that become apparent in the delivery of this ambitious work, to the point where one could argue that the album is a victim of its own lofty goals. The most obvious is Mikko Aspa’s vocals, which are generally a 2-dimensional mixture of low end growls and mid-ranged barks that come off as little more than a declarative and dry sermon rather than an impassioned homily that should accompany a work of this professed magnitude. Almost as blatant is the codependence that these songs share with each other, an occupational hazard of sorts for any chapter found in a conceptual offering. Some blazing fits of olden, mid 90s Scandinavian glory such as “Jubilate Deo” and “Hetoimasia” bring home some wickedly fierce riff work and even feature Mikko at his moderated best, and can be easily enjoyed apart from the overall context of the album. But for the most part, when dealing with the slavish “Prayer” series in 3 parts with all the sampled trimmings and slower, doom leaning songs like “Malign Paradigm”, it’s tough to see these songs in any other context than simple segue material for a methodical whole, without which they would be pointless.
The dirty little secret about this album is that, despite the pretention on the part of the band itself, and the various critics that either lavish them with praise or denounce them as unintentional Christian musicians, it doesn’t venture too far beyond territory already explored and apart from the death metal-like vocals there isn’t much to make it terribly distinct. It is a good album in the sense that it manages to be dynamic within established practices and also manages to avoid being overly raw for the mere sake of rawness. It just doesn’t really strike out as something worthy of bold derision or brouhaha, but instead just sits comfortably among a number of Marduk and Watain albums that are worthy of an occasional spin. Sometimes music doesn’t need to be taken so damn seriously, even if the people creating it insist that you do so.
NausikaDalazBlindaz on January 19th, 2012
Concept makes very heavy demands on DSO
Very impeccably presented package with thoughtful lyrics and an excellent production that highlights a clear and powerful sound - this is the first impression I get with this recording. As concept albums reflecting on the nature of evil, the role of religious faith and the place humans occupy in this debate go, this album, the first in a trilogy, is unsatisfying and disappointing in a way.
The concept makes very heavy demands of the music that the album can't quite meet. The music by itself is quite good but doesn't boast any really memorable or outstanding tunes or riffs until track 7 and this is a problem in itself; a weighty subject matter such as "Si Monumentum ..." has needs a lot of musical depth and substance, plenty of atmosphere and considerable sonic dynamics, and even some emotional and intellectual bombast and intensity to interest listeners in its arguments. The DSO album lacks all of these. The precise sound quality is a liability of sorts because with everything up-front in the mix, there's no sense of space or depth. The constant feverish pace of the music leaves very little room for atmosphere or quiet time for listeners to ponder the issues that arise. Some listeners may find the dense and pretentious lyrics a turn-off. The power of the music, while necessary, is in-your-face constant from start to finish and won't help to engage listeners much. Boredom is an ever-present danger and after the recording finishes, no sense of the importance or the epic nature of the subject remains with people.
It's a real pity that the album doesn't grapple with its topic very well as DSO are very brave to tackle this debate over three albums. A combination of very raw, primitive and powerful black metal is needed with some thrashy punk influences, maybe some dark ambient or industrial elements and even an all-male Russian Orthodox cathedral choir instead of bloodless Gregorian chanting might be needed here. Satan's gotta have top quality music to represent him!
An original version of this review was written for The Sound Projector (14th issue) for the 2005 - 2006 year.
Noctir on December 22nd, 2011
Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice
Deathspell Omega's third full-length album, Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice is a very controversial record. It not only marks the band's transition from one style to another, but is one of the key examples of Orthodox black metal. Hints of this sound could have been heard on the material that they recorded after Inquisitors of Satan; however, those songs were shelved until being released on the 2008 compilation, Manifestations 2002. Released through Norma Evangelium Diaboli, in February 2004, this album has gone on to be quite influential for modern bands that wish to follow a similar path.
When I first came across this album, it was definitely something new. It had been out for a couple years, but I only had the first two albums from this band. I ended up spending a lot of solitary nights in the autumn and winter of 2006 / 2007 listening to this, along with Sargeist, Horna and Clandestine Blaze. Being in a strange mood a lot of the time, this suited the odd atmosphere. I found that it was more successful as background noise, rather than necessitating my full attention. Though I am aware that several other bands have come along and utilized a similar style, I have not actually listened to any of them so this retains some level of uniqueness in my mind.
It all begins with "First Prayer", which is an instrumental intro that stretches beyond the five-minute mark. It is very slow-paced, possessing more of a doom metal vibe, and the Gregorian chant and backmasked guitars add an eerie feeling. Right away, it is clear that Deathspell Omega was looking to expand its sound.
"Sola Fide I" introduces the listener to the band's new vocalist, Mikko Aspa of Clandestine Blaze. His voice is not nearly as good as Shaxul's, but it almost suits the softer music. The production is fairly good, but sounds kind of muddy. The end result is a guitar tone that lacks any sort of edge or rawness, seeming as though it is muffled. The songwriting displays a less straightforward approach, with a lot of dissonant chords and strange riffs that are meant to create a sense of unease in the listener. The best part of the song is the tremolo melody that appears around the middle and, again, near the end of the song. It is quite epic and memorable, whereas the rest of the riffs are more average.
The opening riff of "Sola Fide II" is reminiscent of Mayhem's "Pagan Fears", in some minimal way. The more varied and unpredictable arrangement is a step in the right direction, as far as working to carve out an identity of their own. Still, the riffs are not nearly as powerful and haunting as on the previous album. The last few minutes actually sound like a totally different song, and it features awful effects on the vocals. So far, the impression of this album is that the tracks are working together to create a certain kind of atmosphere, but that none of them are really intended to be able to stand on their own.
"Second Prayer" is another instrumental, and this one possesses an eerie and morbid feeling from the start. The open chords are gradually joined by other elements, with the rumbling of the drums and whispered voices rising from the background. The feeling conveyed by this song is difficult to describe, as I have never heard anything else quite like it. Once the main riff comes along, the atmosphere is like that of a nightmare that has become reality. You are imbued with a horrible feeling, as if you are wearing the wrong skin or, perhaps, just claustrophobic inside your own body. Everything around you appears somehow different. It may be that the sounds here allow your eyes to see the world for the true horror that it is and this realization is almost too much for the feeble human mind to bear.
This is followed by "Blessed are the Dead Whiche Dye in the Lorde", which hearkens back to the band's earlier material, in a sense, starting out at full force with blasting drums and high speed tremolo riffs. As the song progresses, the drumming becomes more simplistic and Rock-based, while the riffs take on a less-threatening tone. Though this actually sounds like a coherent song and not just one piece of a greater whole, it does not maintain a solid black metal feeling, throughout.
"Hétoïmasia" starts out with mid-paced riffs that conjure up a morbid quality, before things speed up and reaches a higher level of intensity. The song loses focus until the slower riffs re-emerge, accompanied by a sombre lead solo. The faster riffs seem more in line with the type found on Infernal Battles and Inquisitors of Satan, simply not executed quite as well. That could be due to the horrible production or even the out-of-place vocals.
"Third Prayer" is, basically, another instrumental interlude. There are some voices in the background and more chanting utilized, but these are secondary to the guitar riffs, which re utterly miserable and dreary. This is the sort of thing that one would expect to hear in the final moments of life, passing away from this world knowing that your entire existence was a waste and that you failed in every conceivable manner.
The title track is a good example of the horrid mixing job, as the drumming totally drowns out the guitar riffs. Only during the mid-paced sections are the guitars allowed to breathe, though the vocals seem to never end. Though this song includes some slower parts that add an eerie feeling, it still fails in the sense that it is not solid enough to stand on its own, outside of the context of the full album.
"Odium Nostrum" is filler, more or less. Absolutely nothing about this song stands out, in a positive way. It is beyond bland and does nothing to add to the overall atmosphere of the L.P.
The next song is "Jubilate Deo (O Be Joyful in the Lord)", which starts out with fast tremolo riffs that do a better job of slicing through the muddy production, with a colder and more crisp guitar tone. Late in the track, the pace slows down and the morose aura that permeates so much of the record bleeds forth. Disappointingly, the song fades out just as it is getting more interesting, with a nice sorrowful melody draining the life of the listener.
"Carnal Malefactor" is the highlight of the album. Clocking in at over eleven minutes, this is the longest track, though the length is extended artificially. The main riffs are slow and mournful, maintaining a funereal vibe and tying everything together quite well. The anguished melodies call to mind times of misery and loss, things that are gone and shall never return and a time that will live on only in fading memories that are also soon to pass into total nothingness. The pace picks up a bit, as a woeful melody tears through your being, carrying an epic vibe. This is followed by several minutes of sombre chanting, which actually works quite well in adding to the lifeless feeling. It really lulls the listener into a trance, which is abruptly destroyed as the music comes raging out of the silence. With a furious speed, the drums and guitars annihilate your spirit in a merciless assault. Only the shift to a more relaxed pace allows you to survive, though the more intense riffs return a couple more times.
While the album really should have ended with that track, a couple more attempt to follow it. "Drink the Devil's Blood" is a re-recorded song that first appeared on the Infernal Battles album. This version sounds more natural, as far as the drums go, but the sterile guitar tone and wretched vocals are quite inferior to the original. In most cases, if a band wants to re-record an old song it is better if they are capable of improving upon the original, rather than just proving that the old material was superior.
The album concludes with "Malign Paradigm", which is a slow-paced instrumental outro that does well to wrap things up and leave the listener with a rather depressive impression of the album. One gets the notion that the band should have abandoned black metal for funeral doom, or something of that nature. Though, in a way, they went on to abandon their roots anyway.
Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice is definitely meant to be listened to as a whole album, since few of these songs work well on their own. For what it is, this is not a bad record, though it would be the final Deathspell Omega full-length worth listening to. Overall, the music and atmosphere does not compare to Inquisitors of Satan and the whole religious obsession that dominates the lyrics is actually a turn-off. While this is not the great classic that many seem to think it is, it is worth a listen. Just do not expect the same level of quality as found on the previous records.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
Noktorn on December 3rd, 2011
A catastrophic artistic failure
After this opening paragraph, I'm going to make no mention of Deathspell Omega's ideological stance. As the album probably most formative in establishing the Orthodox Satanist concept as a "movement" (and musical aesthetic of black metal,) it can be difficult to separate the band's overt ideological bent from their music if you're a child. Fortunately enough for me, when I say that ideology is irrelevant to me in my music, I actually mean it. That isn't a roundabout way of explaining why it's okay for me to listen to NSBM- it's an actual state of mind (or lack thereof.) The dizzying amount of attention given to the Orthodox movement on an ideological rather than musical level indicates to me that the metal scene is not a tenth as perceptive as it collectively claims to be. It amazes me that so many people have suddenly become ideologically motivated when the ideology roughly dovetails with their own beliefs- in this case, a yearning for a more structured, dogmatic sort of anti-Christianity. For what it's worth: I'm completely unconvinced by the Orthodox movement. I don't think for a moment that even one percent of its supposed constituents monotheistically worship Satan. More irritating than the silly, juvenile idea itself is that so many people in the metal scene have turned their bullshit detectors off and enthusiastically embraced an idea no more intellectual and philosophically versed than the average goth teenager's ruminations on death and mourning while traipsing about the graveyard. From what I see, it's nothing more than a transparent sheen of marketing draped over what would otherwise be unremarkable music. But to snap back on point and conclude this rant: whatever Deathspell Omega believes is wholly irrelevant to me, and I'm perfectly capable of judging the music on its own terms.
With that obligation out of the way, we can begin.
I was getting seriously into black metal at almost precisely the moment when "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" was busy occupying the black metal scene's attention in a sort of artistic coup d'etat. If you weren't around for it, you'd be truly incredulous at the sheer level of fervor this album managed to create in its supporters. Granted, in the years since its release, the overwhelming enthusiasm has waned, settling into a more equitable (but perpetual) debate as to its artistic merits, but go back to around 2005 and it was inescapable. There was a large contingent of the black metal scene who fervently and honestly believed that "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" was the harbinger of an entirely new era of black metal. The term "third wave" was bandied about, as though the artistic progression that this album represented was equal to that of the early works of Darkthrone, Burzum, Emperor, and company. While it might seem ludicrous now, such interpretations seemed to compose the standard rather than a strange outlier. It was completely fucking insane, and I don't think there's a week that goes by where at least once I'm not woken up with night terrors over the geography of metal forums during that time. Posts about this album were like stalagmites in a cave: fucking everywhere and liable to impale you if you didn't watch your step. I haven't seen anything like it since in sheer breadth of influence on an entire section of the metal scene. It was inescapable, omnipresent, and due to these qualities started to sort of spin its own legend, making a future of albums created in reverence of this one appear to be an inevitability, whether you liked it or not.
The weird thing about it for me was that, despite the embarrassingly passionate arguments over its merits or lack thereof which dominated black metal discussion for so long, I simply didn't have particularly strong feelings about it. Much in the way that mid-era Nile completely eludes me, I felt as though I was fundamentally missing some key piece of information that would make this album come together as either sheer genius or absolute shit. Well, that's a bit of a rosy display of hindsight- I was immediately prejudiced against it simply due to its massive level of support. I knew then and continue to insist now that near-unanimous support for a modern album in the metal scene is nine times out of ten an immediate, perfect indicator of offensively flashy yet artistically inarticulate novelty. I listened to a few tracks off it and could barely muster up a stronger reaction towards them than a shrug of the shoulders and languid "I don't get it." On a purely musical level, that's where I still lie: curiously searching for what's supposed to make this such a polarizing release, but discovering at every turn nothing but a veneer of novelty and self-indulgent presentation wrapped around unremarkable music. The only thing that's changed over time is that, in the years since its release, "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" has, in my mind, become a perfect symbol for the sort of flashy but ultimately soulless music that I think entrances the majority of the metal scene. While it hardly upsets me on a sonic level, what it managed to do to black metal via its overwrought portrayal and unending hype (whether the fault of the people behind it or not) continues to irritate me in a way few other albums can. It's a bloated, self-important, relentlessly boring slog of an album which manages to make up for its prosaic musical qualities in its unbelievable ego. I think that, more than any other, this album is the one that sent the black metal scene moving in such an obtuse, irrational direction, and for that reason (mostly) alone I despise it.
I've struggled for a long time to figure out why this album ensnared the metal scene as swiftly and dramatically as it did, and I've come to the conclusion that there is no single conclusion. It seems to me that this album's runaway success was a combination of cleverly crafted music, good marketing and aesthetics, a fence-straddling design philosophy that got just about everyone on board, and sheer, dumb luck. I'm inclined to think that the last of those qualifiers is the most essential: without unbelievably perfect timing and execution, "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" would likely have been lost in time alongside the thousand other irrelevant black metal albums released every day. I think that the place this album occupies could probably have been similarly filled by a dozen other albums released around the same time, but this one ended up on top. The reasons for the metal scene's immediate seizing of it are many: a black metal scene desperately looking for some sort of concrete direction to move in, an ideology that was simple, forceful, and just far enough off the usual to be seen as edgy and unique, and an admittedly brilliant combination of underground and mainstream black metal elements that provided just about everyone something to enjoy. In a period of relative artistic stagnation (supposedly,) "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" arose like a leviathan to shock and amaze just about everyone in the metal scene. The way things worked out is remarkably similar to Hitler's rise to power: take an enfeebled group, give them direction, and watch them do the work for you.
It seems to me that those who most fervently love this album and lay such lavish praise upon it are black metal fans of a mostly mainstream variety. A lot of times, they're not "black metal people" in particular, rather than general metalheads who dabble in it periodically. It comes as no surprise that the less experience with black metal one has, the more remarkable this album seems to be. Owing to the members' pedigrees as underground musicians, "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" is, in essence, a fairly mainstream black metal record with stylistic elements informed by underground knowledge. In short: this album was the first exposure many had to tropes of the deeper reaches of the black metal scene, refined and presented in such a manner as to make them palatable to a more mainstream audience. I say with the utmost certainty that there's nothing on this album which hasn't been done before and better by other artists; however, it was usually done with worse production, inferior technical skill, or isolated within its particular stylistic sphere, rather than presented alongside a hundred other little elements much like it. When someone only kind of acquainted with black metal hears this album, they're struck by what sounds like dozens of new musical and aesthetic ideas emerging from nothing, rather than a very delicate process of copying and pasting from a thousand different reaches of the black metal scene.
Just about any individual element of this album can be traced to another band. As a simple example, let's break down the riffing. While technically adept and significantly more ornate than the usual, the bulk of the demonic, malevolent tremolo riffing that makes up this album's guitarwork is based off the sort of basic melodies that Dark Funeral would use. Despite the band's French origin, most of the more dissonant and aggressive riffing on the album is carved directly from the Swedish school, but intentionally gussied up with more elaborate, roundabout fretwork and a slightly grimy guitar tone which suggests more is going on than there actually is. The languishing, wailing melodies of "Carnal Malefactor": Hellenic melodic work ala Varathron but presented in a more stately manner. The impressively darting and oddly joyful slashes of melodic tremolo that dot the "Sola Fide"s? A very obvious reference to Taake, and, ironically enough, Hirilorn in fits and starts. Even the more turbulent, openly dissonant, dungeon-like material is just a reinterpretation of Leviathan and other grumbling USBM artists. It's not that Deathspell Omega have a brilliant, multifaceted style of their own: it's that the members of the band are excellent craftsman who know how to weave different parts of the black metal scene together into a relatively convincing whole. There's not a single moment of truly unique melodic thought on this record; every last riff is an alteration of one heard elsewhere, or the principles of another black metal scene repurposed for Deathspell Omega's context. It's a black metal Lady Gaga: a sort of "Robocop" album composed of other, more obscure records and artists.
What Deathspell Omega truly have going for them is their ability to tie these seemingly disparate elements together into what appears to be a unified whole- but still, I think that's more trickery than skill. The sheer bulk of the album's running time isn't really indicative of just how much brilliance went into it so much as a calculated attempt to let their pieced-together, strangled compositions breathe. The "Prayer" tracks, the Gregorian chant interlude of "Carnal Malefactor," and the dozens of other little squeaks, pauses, and breaks that dot the album are there precisely to maintain the illusion of a grandiose, classically assembled work, when in actuality, they're stalling tactics to prevent the listener from noticing just how much the band is repeating themselves and how awkwardly much of the material is assembled. If you were to cut out the obviously extraneous filler sections of the album, you'd be left with a release probably two thirds as long, but also one missing many of its most "impressive" aesthetic elements- but more on that later.
No more obviously does the band's clumsiness in actually assembling straightforward black metal songs emerge than on aggressive, simple tracks where sound effects and other clever distractions aren't an option. A fantastic example: "Drink the Devil's Blood." One of the simplest and most traditional songs on the album, it becomes immediately apparent that Deathspell Omega are at a loss as to how to properly create and release tension through composition alone. The riffs are stripped down to avoid dicey melodic maneuvers, but the clumsy way in which they're connected end to end tells the whole story. Beyond the flash and overblown aesthetics, Deathspell Omega's raw songwriting ability isn't very far above average. In fact, as a result of being spoiled by the band's aesthetic allowing them to artificially manipulate song structures, it feels like they've actually suffered as a result. Frankly, without the extras loaded on every conceivable surface, the actual black metal on this album is below "Infernal Battles" in structural intelligence. While that album was a simple slice of Gorgoroth worship, it still possessed leagues more elegance than this one does insofar as the relationships between riffs and the motion of the songs overall. Another fun example is the truly bizarre, punkish closing of "Sola Fide II," where a rocking, midpaced transitional passage is established only to abruptly end in the most unsatisfying and awkward way possible. It's the musical equivalent to being asked to solve a problem on the board in 9th grade while in the midst of a spontaneous adolescent erection: regardless of how you try to hide it, every guy in the room is going to know what's going on, and as soon as you're out of class you're going to get ripped into by everyone within earshot.
Of course, Deathspell Omega were fairly careful to design their overall aesthetic in such a manner that the filler elements seem more integral to the overall effect of the album than they actually are. A lot of fuss is made over the "Prayer" tracks, and oddly enough, I don't have a lot to say about them. If a slow, instrumental black metal song laced with samples is supposed to be particularly impressive, consider me a jaded fuck, because neither compositionally nor aesthetically do they seem particularly beyond the average dark ambient artist. If what makes them significant is their proximity to more "normal" black metal songs, I can't think of much of a response outside of the person impressed by such a juxtaposition desperately needing to hear more black metal records. They don't come off as particularly convincing or malevolent, considering how relentlessly upbeat many moments on this album tend to be, and in and of themselves they tend to be repetitive and not particularly gripping on an atmospheric level. Between these tracks and sound effects draped over excessive repetitions of the same riff, or even more impressively, full-fledged abdications of the song structure (ala "Carnal Malefactor,") an alarming amount of time and energy is spent on pulling the listener AWAY from the songs themselves in order to manufacture a sense of unity and cohesion that would be otherwise absent.
Beyond these major structural deficiencies, though, all the other lauded elements of this record are merely reflective of uncritical minds with musical tunnel vision. The drumming is lauded as a cut above the average for black metal technically, which it is, but it's simply informed by pretty basic death metal technique- nothing a decently capable extreme metal drummer wouldn't be fully aware of, and it's just a preponderance of lazy black metal drummers that gives the listener the impression that this particular performance is exceptional. Mikko Aspa's vocals tend to be somewhat more theatrical than the usual, but nowhere near the degree that even Attila Csihar reached on "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas," which, amusingly enough, mostly leaves him in a no-man's land where his average is neither aggressive and forceful enough to match up to the instruments around him nor unusual enough to rise above the morass. Coincidentally, the much-lauded production style, with its warmer, bassier tone and acoustic richness, is nothing more than a more modern interpretation of what was also present on "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas": the spacious reverb on the drums and the cloudy yet warm guitar indicate that that album was a clear point of reference for mixing. While the production is more aesthetically unified than a lot of underground black metal albums, it's hardly a move towards the unusual considering that this sonic style was pretty standard before cold and thin became the norm.
Really, though, all the technical and structural issues of the music are secondary to the album's greatest flaw: a distinct and omnipresent lack of atmosphere- ironically, a point that most of this album's supporters reverse entirely and view as its greatest strength. Unfortunately, due to the oddly tactical nature in which the album is plotted, many opportunities to generate true atmosphere are lost. In the interest of straddling so many lines- dissonant versus melodic, raw versus refined, technical versus droning, among others- Deathspell Omega intrinsically sacrifices the aesthetic focus and intensity necessary to build a truly distinct and gripping atmosphere. While the album has balance in spades, it comes at the cost of true personality. The guitar tone is sloppy and overdriven but the overall production is pretty clean. The vocals are dramatic and stately, but never so much that they run the risk of alienating a more tenderhearted listener. The riffs are technical but deliberately restrained so that no one will be lost attempting to follow them. The album is an exercise in obsessive gear-switching and shortcutting, which in my eyes, leaves it completely unable to properly suspend my disbelief and soak in the hellish, blasphemous vibe that the band is so obviously desperate to craft. In their pursuit to establish a refined spearhead for a new era of black metal to follow- all black metal, not a specific style- Deathspell Omega has systemically sanded off all the edges of their music, leaving it safe, nonthreatening, and mawkishly flailing in the wind, unable to determine a real direction or an authentic artistic ideal to pursue.
The failure of "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" is a microcosm of the failure of Orthodox black metal as a whole: in its feverish pursuit to document and perfect the "whats" of black metal, the more ephemeral "whys" have been left behind, and along with them any opportunity the album, or the movement itself, had to truly define itself. Like a first date with a girl who thrusts last month's negative STD test results at you before you've even shared a kiss, this album is so caught up in its mastery of ritual and decorum that no real connection has a chance to flourish. It's not that "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" is an unlistenable album (though its unbelievably long running time certainly gets taxing,) but despite its following of established patterns and tropes from all corners of the metal scene, it fundamentally fails to compel the listener in any significant fashion. It lacks personality, presence, and longevity, and only by the grace of a generally unobservant and willfully ignorant musical community has it been granted the status it's somehow managed to achieve. "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" is not merely a failure, it's the arch-failure: the beautifully concise example of how a math problem where the process of solving is followed to the letter can still be completely wrong when performed by a student with no understanding of the underlying reason behind the steps he takes. You can't fool all the people all the time, and over past seven years, the truth has finally started to set in: that "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" is a shallow, artless, and ultimately disposable album, doomed to be nothing more than a footnote in black metal rapidly passed over in the pursuit of greater things.
(Originally written for www.trialbyordeal666.blogspot.com)
thomash on February 22nd, 2009
A Masterpiece of Mockery
Deathspell Omega’s Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice has established itself as one of the most influential and controversial black metal albums to date. It has become the most famous and influential album in the burgeoning ‘Orthodox’ style. In my opinion, the album is a triumph, developing an incredibly evil, hypnotic atmosphere. However, the band’s references to Christianity and many listeners’ suspicions of theistic Satanism on their part have attracted a good deal of criticism. However, my understanding of the album leads me to believe that Deathspell Omega sought to satirize Christianity and develop a thoroughly secular, if potentially spiritual, worldview in Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice, one that uses Satan symbolically in the service of a metaphysical and ontological argument. Furthermore, the musical composition is richly textured, varied, and effectively atmospheric. Thus, the album refines a philosophical criticism of Christianity into an art form.
As the song titles and lyrics demonstrate, the album’s structure is based on the Roman Catholic liturgical Mass. It begins with introductory hymns and prayers (First Prayer, Sola Fide, Second Prayer), moves on to the liturgy of theistic Satanist orthodoxy beginning with “Blessed are the Dead Whiche Dye in the Lorde” and finally transitions to a Eucharistic theme with “Drink the Devil’s Blood.” Throughout, the band inverts and satirizes Christian dogma. Pictures in the album booklet mock Christianity as corrosive and perverse. Using direct quotations from the Bible and Hymnals, the lyrics demonstrate that they can be used in the worship of Satan just as well as they are used in the worship of the Christian God. There doesn’t seem to be much of an ontological difference between a ‘great and terrible’ God who demands sacrifice and a powerful, supernatural Satan; Christians merely assume that their faith was established by one rather than the other. With the lyrics, the band satirizes the blindness and groupthink that Christianity demands as they “immolate on thine altar the spirit of individuality.”
The worship of Satan in Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice also functions a meditation on the inevitability of sin: Deathspell Omega claim that “there is none righteous enough to resist” Satan in the “Sola Fide.” This is an interesting choice because it implies that describing human nature as sinful necessarily implies the worship of Satan, the “Carnal Malefactor,” since the Sola Fide is, in Christian worship, the expression of faith. Emphasizing the power of sin, as Christian theology has done since Augustine, implies some form of faith in Deathspell Omega’s Satan. It seems impossible for anyone to not worship Satan if they accept that humanity is essentially carnal, acting upon appetites that include destructive, ‘evil’ impulses. Thus, Satan is tied directly to humanity’s being; it is impossible to be human without being Satanic.
Thus, for all of the album’s references to religious rituals and theology, their concept of Satan doesn’t seem theistic upon close examination of the lyrics. The band implores the listener to become “One of His million hands; One of His million eyes/ One of His million brains shining with utmost devotion/ A molecule of The One with many faces/ While of thy soul remains but ashes cold…” In this passage, Satan is (again) described as humanity itself, representing its base, carnal nature; Deathspell Omega asserts that this is its true nature. This also gives the album’s parody of religious faith the additional function of an analogy. Deathspell Omega observes that basic human impulses are self-evidently valid in human experience, which is similar to faith since faith demands the acceptance of its dogma as self-evident truths.
The crucial difference is that Christian dogma is not self-evident; it is not a necessary characteristic of human experience. Thus, there is something dishonest in denying and censuring the Satanic facets of human ontology: “Cursed is he that removeth awaye the marke of hys master to please men and not to serve in secrecy.” Instead, Deathspell Omega calls us, not only to reject the religious burden of guilt, but to glorify and accept Satan as a necessary part of our being, not as an independent being. We might object that the concept of Satan is one that only has meaning if society has maligned the impulses which the band intends to embrace, but the band seems to believe that society inevitably demonizes human impulses that do not contribute to social cohesion. Their ideal Satanist never escapes having to make “the blinde to goe oute of hys waye,” forcing him to adopt an adversarial, critical attitude consistent with the album’s tone.
The composition and texture of the music develop a pervasive atmosphere; one that manages to be relaxing, even hypnotic, without sounding any less evil, depraved, and bizarre. The album achieves this because it demonstrates two features that are not generally as well-developed in most other black metal albums. The first is that the album is almost completely continuous; tracks don’t really end but, rather, lead into the next piece with little or no interruption. The most notable exception is between the “Third Prayer” and the title track, which highlights a transition between the introductory rites and the liturgy in the album’s ongoing black mass. Generally, voices enter gradually such that the album moves naturally from one track or riff to the next. Nevertheless, each track manages to develop its own sound and identity; Deathspell Omega manages to keep the ideas and riffs fresh throughout the album. Thus, the album keeps to the plan of a ritual of thirteen stations – the thirteen pieces are all distinct stations, but are part of a coherent, fluid whole. Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice is, essentially, a concept album, which is certainly a novel project for a black metal band.
Second, the album uses polyphony more extensively and to greater effect than any other black metal that I’ve heard to date. Deathspell Omega has written distinct guitar and bass parts throughout, virtually, the entire album rather than merely keeping them in harmony with each other. While there is often a prominent lead guitar part, each instrument tends to develop its own melody and riffs in ever-changing relationships with the other voices. However, on those tracks which are more simply composed, such as “Odivm Nostrvm,” the band manages to put together riffs capable of carrying the song. The album features complexly structured uses of harmony and dissonance, alternating steadily but at varying paces throughout the album. Furthermore, atmospheric sounds, i.e., of water, wind, or voices, contribute further to the album’s richly textured, layered sound as well as supplying for more fluid transitions between tracks. This allows the album to convey a sense of an ongoing ritual and of evil simultaneously. Furthermore, it allows for the album to develop a more varied, dynamic sound. In short, the album’s polyphony is well-composed and contributes to the development of the band’s artistic vision.
Needless to say, to effectively develop the style that Deathspell Omega is pursuing on Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice, the band needs some very accomplished instrumental abilities. The most obvious demonstration of the musicians’ talent is on drums, which play much more intricate parts than on most black metal albums. The drums play a lot of different beats and, even, fills, occasionally leading the sound rather than playing a merely supporting role to the guitars. Indeed, the drums often approach a melodic style, almost playing double duty as a rhythm section and independent melodic voice, which is highly unusual for metal. Despite all the different roles the drums are playing on the album, they nevertheless manage to complement the guitar riffs perfectly, highlighting their pulse and inflection. As complex as they are, they are so carefully put together that they seem almost completely intuitive; rhythmically inclined listeners should find themselves drumming along. (My style inclines more toward air-guitar, but my air-drum kit gets some use every time I listen to this album.) Last but not least, the drumming is incredibly precise, but still human; it was clearly recorded painstakingly by a very talented drummer because there are no mistakes to be found on this album. While there are several points where the drums are not present, they remain one of the most impressive features of the album.
As has been hinted at earlier, the bass also takes on a more active role on this album than in most black metal. The bass often plays parts that are not direct harmonies with the rhythm or lead guitar, acting as another voice. Also, the bass is fairly present in the mix. While there are other black metal albums that are more bass-driven, Mysticum’s Streams of Inferno for one, the bass is still audible enough. It’s not so loud that it draws your attention but it is loud enough that it contributes to the texture and that you can hear what it’s doing fairly clearly. The main obstacle to hearing it, if any, is that the texture of the album is so rich that it’s difficult to process the entire composition on the first listen, particularly because the bass keeps to the rhythm very closely throughout the majority of the album. However, this only means that the album yields more on repeated listens, when the bass parts are easier to appreciate. The only possible complaint I could make is that the bass tone is a little fuzzy; actually, the guitars are as well but they manage to remain clear whereas the exact notes the bass plays are, on occasion, difficult to make out. Generally, this is only a problem when the bass is clearly not adhering to a simple harmony with the guitars, which means that it’s really not a very significant problem with the production; it only becomes a problem when the composition’s complexity exacerbates it.
Of course, the guitars are quite prominent on the album. Their tone is simultaneously warm and biting in a delicate balance of harmony and dissonance. They’re not so dissonant as to be irritating to listen to, as on some Abigor records, but they’re also not so thick that the dissonance is lost in a sea of tone. Often, this balance is maintained by using the lead guitar (on the left in the mix) to introduce dissonance while the rhythm guitar (on the right) maintains a somewhat warmer tone. However, at other times, both guitars take on both roles. Even though there is a distinct lead guitar much of the time, the difference between lead and rhythm guitar isn’t very clear; the rhythm guitar often plays parts of equal or greater complexity and prominence as the lead guitar.
Furthermore, the guitars maintain interest throughout the album by adopting many different melodic styles and riffs. There are a handful of tracks on the album, “Blessed Are The Dead Whiche Dye In The Lorde” and “Odium Nostrum,” for example, which prominently adopt riffing styles typical of somewhat rawer styles of black metal but this only represents one of the many melodic sensibilities that the album explores. Nonetheless, the riffs are very catchy when they appear; a good comparison is late Judas Iscariot. However, the album’s primary innovation melodically, the key to its compositional success, comes in its unorthodox use of chord progressions, which would ironically inspire later orthodox black metal, such as Ofermod’s Tiamtü and Ondskapt’s Dödens Evangelium, as opposed to earlier orthodox black metal in the style of Antaeus and Katharsis.
However, I have never heard as complex a use of chord progressions as on this album. The album’s many different voices manifest themselves through their different uses of chord progressions: whether they compose a melody from the chord progression, tremolo-pick the root note in a similar fashion to the traditional black metal style, or deviate from the main chord progression to provide dissonance, the guitars never rely on chord progressions as a songwriting crutch. Instead, the guitars use the chord progressions to develop hypnotic atmospheres that are, nevertheless, jarring. In this sense, the album often feels like the offspring of a strange union between Gorguts’ Obscura and minimalistic black metal a la Burzum or early Darkthrone. The result is an album that is so compositionally rich that it transcends black metal; this isn’t just great black metal, it’s great art, in the broadest sense possible. I venture to say that this album could be compared to many classical movements in its compositional variety.
While the vocals are extremely well-done, they are, for me, just icing on the proverbial cake. The harsh vocals fit the atmosphere perfectly as they sound malevolent and deliberate. Also, they sound as though they are almost comprehensible; I felt like I could almost make out what was being said but I soon realized that my efforts were in vain. However, the sense that there is something being said by the malevolent voice, if you could only make it out, contributes greatly to the horrific atmosphere. It’s a proven technique in horror to play on the audience’s paranoia, which this album manages to do. However, the album also features some unusual, for non-orthodox black metal, clean vocals in the form of chants. They seem to have been professionally done and are well-executed. Furthermore, the clean vocals mark the progress of the album’s ritual as in “Carnal Malefactor:” the Gregorian chant gives way to a more aggressive, energetic black metal assault as though to demonstrate that the ritual is strengthening the immanent power of evil.
Finally, the production and sound on the album is excellent. The various instruments are mixed very well, such that they are clear and complementary. No instrument really overshadows the others or is overshadowed, with the occasional exception of the bass. Furthermore, the album’s sound is evocative; the drums sound full, the guitars warm for black metal, and the album often uses echoes to give the impression of space. It really feels as though there is a ceremonial chamber on the other side of my speakers as I listen to the album. In the mind’s eye, the album conjures visions of black masses, dark chapels, and bloody altars more powerfully than any other album I’ve ever heard. Despite not being the most aggressive black metal album out there, the sound is nevertheless more evil than the vast majority of black metal, let alone metal in general. For many, I think that’s the greatest endorsement I can give Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice.
Of course, I can’t know for sure exactly what ideals informed Deathspell Omega’s artistic vision for this album. Satanism can be conceptualized and practiced in many different ways, so it’s not really an impeachment of this album even if the band’s brand of Satanism is ‘spiritual.’ However, I feel that I have demonstrated that the lyrical, compositional, and sonic qualities displayed on the album make for brilliant black metal. While I believe that the album is really about confronting primal evil, Satan’s monument around us, as an aspect of our own humanity, ultimately, it is the listener’s experience and interpretation of the album that is important. I think this will tend to vindicate it as a great work of transgressive art. If you’re in the right frame of mind for some complex, evil black metal, then I can recommend this album without any hesitation whatsoever. Indeed, I feel that any listener who evaluates Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice objectively will acknowledge the album’s merits even if they are not fans of Deathspell Omega’s style at all. I’ve rated the album accordingly, as it is only held back from perfection, or as close to perfection as any work of art can come, by some very minor flaws.
Seraphlaim on December 6th, 2008
If You Seek His Monument, Look Around You
It's difficult to imagine "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice", becoming anything less than representative of the best of 3rd Wave black metal. With the lack of new ideas that emerged from established 90's acts after the turn of the millennium musicologists will point to Deathspell Omega as a primary reason black metal continued to evolve instead of losing its relevance or becoming fodder for nostalgic retro visitations.
What Deathspell Omega does cannot be put in a box, however an approximation follows. DsO take the sloppy & lo-fi ideal of black metal (especially early Darkthrone & Mayhem) and tightens the playing but not the production. Then DsO layers this with avant-garde curiosities currently within the style, less profoundly but until this record, most successfully represented on Blut Aus Nord's work through "The Work Which Transforms God". However, while BAN prefer to create cyclical atmospheric prisons DsO delivers dissonance with the frenetic playing of unconventional signatures & arrangements. Further, DsO underscore the brutality bookending this created discord with ambient sections or chant. The band developed this technique more on follow-up EP "Kenose", but especially on "Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeturnum". Often and repeatedly, the violence overtakes the atmosphere without warning so that over the course of the album the listener leaves feeling battered.
This playing of complex rhythms exceedingly fast and Deathspell Omega's effective use of dynamics is not the extent of appeal here. These facets of the bands sound were established, at least in primitive form, from the beginning. Mikko Aspa's lyrical influences, specifically his interest in post-surrealism and Georges Batailles is a critical element that further seperates DsO from their peers. Bataille's chief fascination was with excess (if you care to you might start with his book, The Accursed Share) and its capacity to redefine economies and to oppose God. He is perhaps one philosophic evolutionary notch above Ayn Rand. When most black metal appeals to the gut, inspiring boy-like nostalgia for wonder of monsters or mythology, either actual or metaphorical (ie. nationalism) or, just as likely, attempts the fortification of adolescent arguments of nihilism with tenuous invective and vitriol, DsO stimulate intellectually while delighting or frightening, depending on the listener's temperament, with their subversive purpose and insistence to remain at the very edge of will. On "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice", Deathspell Omega reinterprets Scripture so as to appeal to the listener's logic while undermining and even inverting the Scripture's intent. The artistic componant of the packaging is a deliberate continuation of the lyrical device. To the point, the booklet includes a particularly incendiary example of vintage pornography, likely from Batailles time when it would have inspired him to eventually inspire DsO. By including the photo, DsO posits the argument quite effectively that it isn't pornography at all, but art that illicits a stark, real emotional response. Hence, the example of the power of excess is established.
Deathspell Omega's critical flaw on a theosophical level is to over-estimate the value of man's logic when applied to the extra-dimensional world beyond us, which of course is where God, Satan and their answers are. If Deathspell Omega's music can't be contained in box, certainly neither can God. DsO have poured over their dissection of the minutiae of God, parading their powers of discernment (as did Batailles), but in leading with their heads instead of their hearts, find nothing but failure, frustration & fear. God has no interest in an unthinking church, but that organ does not have the capacity to know God. This struggle is, more than anything, what DsO's music is about. The misery their struggle has created has fueled an undeniable masterwork and vaulted to prominence the most exciting development to emerge from the black metal underground in 15 years.
Kruel on May 27th, 2008
Deathspell Omega, though never an interesting band, had made some competent black metal. And then, on this album, they suddenly changed their music to "Orthodox," or theistic, which is basically CHRISTIAN, "black" metal. And this album, while becoming THE album representative of the "Orthodox black metal" movement, also seems to get a lot of praise as a masterpiece of "intelligent" black metal. Hahahahahahaha. NO. This shit is the complete antithesis of intelligence. I am genuinely perplexed to see how many people think this is actually intellectual. Are they so mindless to think that if you throw in random Latin lyrics, you are intellectual?
So... exactly why is this so fucking stupid? It should be obvious if you have a brain. This pile of shit is about theism. They think God, named "Satan" in this case, actually exists. There is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of God, and it takes an extraordinary amount of idiocy or a continual brainwashing starting from childhood in order for someone to believe in a nonexistent invention of ancient human ignorance. In fact, I cannot even be sure if the members of Deathspell Omega actually believe in Satan as a deity. It sounds totally absurd, because if you hate Christianity enough to play black metal, you should be able to see through the bullshit that religion managed to make the herd of mindless lambs believe in. Anyway, whatever their intention was - making music genuinely based on their bullshit belief or trying to get attention by faking theism - this is completely stupid.
There were many black metal bands that have invoked the name of Satan. But those were metaphorical. Satan was representative of anti-establishment and anti-Christian attitude, and liberation from the ignorance of religion. Gaahl, when asked in an all-too-famous interview about what the thing that fuels his music is, replied "Satan," and then when he was asked about what Satan is representative of, answered "freedom." Indeed, black metal is about freedom and the strength of individuals, as opposed to the Christian submission to the supreme power of God. Here, it is the exact opposite. This is authoritarian, demanding a lack of coherent thinking, and this follows the Bible and God. This is basically Christian music, only with the word "God" sometimes replaced by "Satan." (They actually directly refer to Satan as "God," too, at times.) This is not about becoming powerful and being the master. This is about servitude to God, being his slave. This is not black metal - this is Christian music.
This is Christian music, and a successful one at being that (even if it is a failure as a piece of music). No Christian could have put it better - this whole thing reeks of religious fanaticism of the utmost level. The speaker in these lyrics is really a mirror image of a devout Christian fanatic - words such as faith, holy, father and son, baptism, and divine are frequently used, and there is even a line which reads "holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty." Sure, a large number of pioneering black metal bands, including Gorgoroth itself (though Gaahl was not one of the founding members anyway), incorporated theistic language into their music. Satan, devil-worship, rituals, Nordic gods, ... However, those bands did not mean it literally, and expressed anti-Christian ideals through such language. But Deathspell Omega's lyrics mean it. They mean theism. They express Christian thoughts. Satan himself, while being portrayed in a very Christian perspective as the "corruptor and pervertor," is also very reminiscent of the Christian God here, demanding submission from his followers. And there are some exceptionally atrocious lines. Who but a Christian would utter the words "let no human knowledge impeach Divine Truths?" How could anybody even think of claiming this album to be intellectual? It is not merely stupid, but anti-intellectual. This almost seems like it is marketed for the church, to aid them in the quest of brainwashing children into fearing Satan and believing in God. Indeed, if I were a priest, I would use this CD as such a device; play this to the children, tell them this is what Satanists made after hearing the calling of Satan and that only through God can you be salvaged from dying from the hands of those merciless Satanists who are the root of all evil, or something along those lines. And this album would make sense to priests, because this follows the exact same line of thinking as the Christians, just with certain words replaced with their antonyms. And the music itself is very suiting to these concepts.
Right from the beginning of the album, you get a prayer. Yes, this is supposedly a black metal album, and they wrote songs for prayer - and this is not the typical usage of prayers in black metal as in "a-Christian prays-and-then-the-army-of-black-metal-storms-with-riffs-to-destroy-it" type of thing. This is Deathspell Omega itself praying. Why the fuck would any blakc metalhead want to hear a fucking prayer? Prayers make me cringe in real life, and it is no different here. The prayer is in reverse, yes, but that still cannot save it. It just shows how shallow the mindset behind the music is - "let¡¯s just do everything Christians do, but in reverse!" This album is really anything but intellectual. And this prayer is used thrice throughout the album, in different forms. All of them are annoying bullshit.
However, these prayers are musically speaking better than the actual songs. Not because they are good, of course not. It is because the actual songs are utterly boring crap. The riffs are technical, at least by black metal standards. You can hear that the guitarist is pretty busy picking all those chords and tremolo notes. Add some arpeggios. But the riffs have nothing to grab your attention except for annoyance. They appear to be disjointed even within a single riff, and there seem to be a bit of toying with complex or irregular rhythmic variations, but when it does appear it just annoys the listener, rather than really achieving anything. The hazy guitar tone with little distortion is another problem - it makes the riffs less recognizable and gives the album a frustrating atmosphere. The vocals, which are lower-pitched than standard black metal vocals (though these are not complete death-growls), frustrate the listener as well. The overall music is very nebulous without much of an emphasis on anything. This might come off as inoffensive to the untrained listener, and hence my comment on its marketability to Christian priests. But of course, this is very offensive to the ears of a black metalhead.
Technical indeed, compared to most black metal bands. But is this really compositionally complex? It is often made out to be one of this album¡¯s "intelligent" aspects, in addition to the lyrics. While the composition here is not exactly the apex of stupidity that the lyrics are, it is still far from intelligent. Either there is not much of a complexity to begin with, or it is done so subtly that it is basically unrecognizable - both amount to the same thing: boringness. And even if we assume that this is a very complex work, it still does not make this a masterpiece of any sort. There were many bands that preceded and did better with complex compositions. Abigor is a prime example of this. That band actually achieved something by interesting contrast of two guitars and incorporating a variety of very progressive song structures. Lunar Aurora is another great example. Deathspell Omega does nothing interesting. The riffs are technical but technicality does not make for good music. The bass guitar seems to be doing some work independent of the guitar, but it is nothing in comparison to truly masterful basswork like that of Nagelfar's Srontgorrth. The songs do not progress - just a collection of riffs, which are not high in either quality or quantity, without any climax - and each song is not very distinguishable from another. This is a critical flaw for an album that aims to be artsy and complex, because if you are just going for cool three-chord riffs and headbangingability, just putting same idea in every song and a simple song structure for each of those is going to work given that the riffs are awesome and the vocalist rocks, but not when it has none of the "fun" stuff - and this album has even less fun than pretty much any album that tries to be sophisticated. There is nothing that grabs your attention immediately (except for the prayers of course, which are totally repulsive), and no musical appreciation is brought even after multiple listens. A complete failure, this is.
All this atrocity is not the end. This is already crappy and offensive, but Deathspell Omega just had to prove their Christianity, as if the prayers were not enough. Yes, Carnal Malefactor features four fucking minutes of monk chants. Absolutely no guitars, no drums, no bass, no harsh vocals - just clean Christian hymns. They may be singing "blasphemous" lyrics, but the words are hard to recognize and the lyrics still suck anyway. This is just downright in-your-face utterly offensive suckage. No adjective can describe this... well, there is one: Christian.
Again, this is not black metal, although musically it may be considered to share certain similarities with some black metal bands. Black metal is thoroughly anti-Christian, and you cannot truly oppose something while espousing its core ideas. An Islamic fundamentalist who claims to be thoroughly anti-Christian is in essence only mimicking a Christian fundamentalist. And Deathspell Omega is in the same league as those people. An attempt to incorporate theism in black metal is an exercise in futility. To accept an assumption given without any evidence, and furthermore, to kneel before, succumb, and worship the assumed deity - it is clearly opposed to everything black metal stands for. When the ideology expressed through a work is directly contradictory to its aesthetics, it loses all its merits. The part of this album resembling black metal is a failure on two levels - the aesthetics have no value, and it is conflicting with the ideals it is conveying. The Christian part, such as the prayers, does hold some form of value, but a clearly negative one. Thus, Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice is at the nadir of anything imaginable in the field of art.
Black metal is about Satan. And yes, Deathspell Omega worships Satan, the enemy of Christianity. However, that amounts to nothing when the object of worship is nonexistent. Black metallers should believe in Satan. But Satan is the personified ideals of anti-Christianity, not the character appearing on the world's best-selling fiction. Black metallers should not submit to Satan. They should become Satan themselves. Black metal is about Satan, but it is not about throwing in the word "Satan." Just because one invokes the name of Satan does not mean that it is truly Satanic. One can complete Satan's work (and this is in a metaphorical way) with or without directly referring to his name, and one can be serving the will of Yahweh and Jesus with or without using the word "Satan." Deathspell Omega's Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice is a case in which the word "Satan" is used to serve Yahweh. And indeed, it is quite successful, in that it deceived a lot of "black metalheads" into thinking that worshipping a biblical deity is "cool" and "true."
Indeed, this is not just simply another Christian "black" metal act. This is worse than any straightforward Christian "black" metal, because this utter bullshit is masquerading as the "new black metal that is pushing the boundaries and will save black metal, taking it to another level." Complete bullshit. This is Christian metal, disguised in the name of "Satan," appealing to the mindless sheep that cannot grasp the idea of what real black metal is. This is built upon bullshit ideology, with no musical substance that will make it worthy of a listen. This, along with the entire "Orthodox black metal" garbage, should be forgotten. THIS is the worst offense black metal can ever receive, not Christian "black" metal. Theism has no place in black metal, and theistic bands cannot be called black metal no matter how much they try to emulate the aesthetics of black metal. One can only guess whether they are genuine about their faith in Satan as a deity or just in for the money and fame. But one thing is clear: those theistic bands are highly reprehensible either way. The "Orthodox" trend should be eradicated.
Again, I repeat: this is not black metal. This is Christian music.
hailmarduk666 on May 6th, 2008
This is the most evil album ever
Deathspell omega made a move away from the traditional sense of black metal, and decided to incorporate some new elements, where they succeeded in producing on of the most intense musical experiences that I have ever heard before.
The band outdid themselves, straying from the more Clandestine Blaze, one of Mikko Aspa's side projects, which is doomier, and slower, to a driving, well-produced maisma of intelligently evil and hateful music.
The beginning of this album starts with a blasphemous prayer, where instead of portraying hope, lyrically and musically exuded fear, and disdain for the cross, and everything that it stands for. The Gregorian chants adds an element to this dissonant, wandering track...it sends chills down my spine. This band infused the utter blasphemy of the lyrics with the mood of the music in flawless fashion.
For one thing, this album is an absolute monstrosity. 13 songs, and 70+ minutes of mind-boggling hypocrisy definitely makes this an album that is difficult to sit through, not because it is bad, or boring, but because of a strange inner need for reprieve because of the tone of this album. The guitars are much deeper than even the previous DsO album, and they added complexity to their music that has never existed in the past. This band after IOS release and splits from the past, have upped the ante, and raised the bar of brutality and ingenuity regarding song-structure, progression of music and lyrical content together, and complex beats that keep the album moving like a rushing rapid, thrashing you hither and yon, while you drown on the deep meaning and Satanic influences that His monument altogether obvious.
Satanic incantations, blasphemous Biblical passages...spitting lyrically and musically upon the cross...it is all here for a black metal band that is ahead of it's time. The voice that Mikko has is different from any other black metal band that I have ever heard. He sounds the same in Clandestine Blaze and Stabat Mater, but the depth and musical diversity pales in comparison, and his deep, raspy vocals do well to add to the doom and impending diabolical take-over that is the main theme of the album.
Overall, I have never heard a more deep, soul-wrenching performance in my life. I think this album is the pinnacle of where black metal came from and is going. More on the avant-garde side of bm, but only because of the fusion of demonology, and Latin strewn throughout, the text of holy books, and the spiteful music that this band has written...Complex riffs, very technical drumming, atmospheric sound effects, the slight reverb from the vocals, all make this the black album of black metal.
I recommend this album for anyone who dares to explore the progressive side of black metal, stepping outside of the box, and showing how the music can evolve into something that exponentially deifies the dark side of man. Ave Sathanas!
ISadistikI on July 8th, 2007
Points for effort, no points for substance.
After releasing two very much old school BM releases, the legendary French band Deathspell Omega decided to change things up a bit (even though past interviews state anyone meddling with the BM sound should be killed.) The result was SMRC, an avant-garde release if you will. It’s very much hailed by those who have heard it. I’m part of a small majority that thinks this album is indeed flawed. While not particularly bad, I find it to be hollow and empty.
The album opens up with one of three “prayers.” These prayers are essentially interludes and aren’t songs per se, but they go beyond a simple break between songs. Each one develops itself as it goes on and has its own vibe. I have to say these three prayers are actually my favorite part of the album. Each one is actually quite powerful, though all very simple. These prayers divide the album up into sections. Each section includes three songs including the prayer, with the 4th section beginning with Carnal Malefactor.
While it’s evident that DSO put a lot of effort into this release, the music itself is lacking. The riffs are what I find so…blank. Yes they’re original and out of the ordinary, but I fail to find anything within them. DSO utilized a lot of riffs on the higher end of their fretboards throughout the album, a lot of them trying to evoke a very powerful or emotional feeling, with Carnal Malefactor being the most obvious example (as well as the most effective.) These riffs are thrown in with lower-ended, “heavier” riffs. I must say that this doesn’t work well at ALL. The songs that came out the best are the ones that stick to one side or the other, like Jubilate Deo. It’s confusing as to which DSO wants to be assaulting you or placing you in a state of awe, because you’re thrown from each side of that spectrum way too often. Even when you’re not, the riffs just don’t evoke anything a lot of the time other than sounding kind of cool or interesting. The drumming is varied to an extent and can be very good, but most of the time is blasting its way behind the riffs. The vocals are pretty high in the mix and there sure are a lot of them. They sometimes take the focus off the music itself because of their sheer presence. But they’re quite good, and it’s clear that DSO take their metaphysical Satanist beliefs very seriously. The lyrics are very good and eerie in that it’s almost unclear as to which DSO are singing about god or satan. Examples of this are in the song titles, like Jubilate Deo (O Be Joyful In The Lord) and Blessed Are The Dead Which Dye In The Lord. Obviously these are about Satan, but it’s the manner in which they talk about him which can be very eerie.
The album is not without its moments. As I said, the prayers are all great. Jubilate Deo is a great, powerful song. Carnal Malefactor is also very good. While it starts out rather cheesy it gets very good. There are a couple of great riffs and the chants in the middle are beautiful. The closer Malign Paradigm is kind of cool too. But overall the riffs are kind of useless. They’re all very original and well thought-out, but they lack substance. I think this album is all flash in a way. It all SOUNDS cool and evil, but a lot of the riffs, upon examination, really aren’t. There’s no depth. I’m sure there’s an absurd amount of people who disagree with me, and I truly do see why this album is so praised, but I think it’s a album that with a closer look is very lacking at its uttermost core.
chainsawexecution on February 20th, 2005
One of the best Black Metal albums ever.
I've liked all the works of Deathspell Omega since their debut album "Infernal Battles", being great Black Metal played in an old fashion way, but backed up with infernal melodies, lyrics and the true -spirit- of insanity. But, just because their earlier albums were great, doesn't mean they were that original.
With a quite shocking change in vocals, production and presentation, this album did create some new ground for the band, and came as one of the greatest suprises of 2004 to me. It's still Deathspell Omega though, but now better than ever!
There are 13 songs on this album, three "prayers", nine blasting black metal compositions and one instrumental outro (Malign Paradigm). Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice is a very massive album, and you will soon enough see that much time has been spent on crafting this album as a whole. This certainly doesn't make it easy to listen to, and it will with its 77 minutes slowly tear you apart.
The guitar work here is good; it gives a very psychotic feel, with many insane fast riffs and some really good melodies (for instance in Sola Fide I and Carnal Malefactor), The bass never sticks out too much but it's there, Drums are played very good with enough variation to give the songs diversity and power. Vocals are very good as well; deep, dark growls that fits the dark production of this album great. My favorite song on this album must be Carnal Malefactor; an 11 minutes long composition that is just stunning.
The lyrics to this track are as well some of the best on this album, in my opinion.
There are also three "prayers" on this album.
These rather monotonous, very disturbing pieces were originally meant to be introductions for three of the DLP's four sides (the fourth one being the majestic Carnal Malefactor). If you expect nice harmonic tunes to give you a break, then you're wrong...
There is also a incredible depth in the lyrics and concept of this album, but that's not something I will talk about, since everyone should make an opinion of their own...
DsO have taken their insane sounding riffs found on "Inquisitors of Satan" and improved them even more, added a better production, deeper vocals, more complex lyrics and came up with one of the best Black Metal albums ever.
If the next album will be even close to this, then I'm afraid that's essential as well...
crazpete on October 1st, 2004
Monumental Intelligent Blasphemy
This album may be one of the most underappreciated yet thoroughly well-crafted pieces of black metal ever unleashed. Every aspect of the music and recording is given attention befitting a great work of intense concentration, so that even the most simple and straightforward moments of this experience are thoroughly polished and undeniably powerful.
The album itself is a musical work of art to be experienced in its entirety. It begins with a simple distorted guitar line that hovers on two distinct dissonant intervals; a second and a diminished fifth that waver in hypnotic droning though a brief riff that is repeated again and again. Within a few repeats, a voice appears providing counterpart: an initially nebulous accent delivers what sounds like a Middle Eastern or Indian sung prayer, echoing out of a musty decrepit temple. Finally, the distorted guitar line is re-voiced though a clean guitar passage played backward, giving an ethereal ambiance to the tone, which is enhanced later by more of the same chanting. With the reverse tone of the clean guitar track underneath, it becomes apparent that the strange prayer vocals were actually a European choir-like chant in reverse; and the listener realizes that what is being presented is a black mass. The nature of the guitar line is given further significance since the dissonant interval being played over and over again is indeed a diminished fifth: the infamous ‘Diablos en Musica’ that the Catholic Church banned in the middle ages for sounding too Semitic and/or evil. Intermittent noise one first might think is due to a poor production morphs into ambiance as a thick and dark echo of industrial noise decends over the music. As each of these musical ideas that are so often mentioned in the metal community yet rarely given form converge into one intro, a glimmer of the depth and intelligence of this album begins to manifest. Despite the heavily cerebral nature of the intro, the percussion provides a well-developed metal sensibility to it all, and it sounds more like a doom-influenced section of a lost Slayer intro as the percussion builds, sputters, and reforms with greater crescendo in the most theatrical yet passionate way a metal intro can. This is indeed metal music one can sink their teeth into.
The next song begins with a much more traditional black metal flourish as thick distorted guitars and full black metal orchestration bring forth a dark and mid-paced intro riff that with no repetition leads into a semi-typical raging riff of simple dark power as minor bar chords meet with small flourishes of a clean dissonant chord. Three basic riffs move in quick blocks of structure to build a simple black metal aesthetic reminiscent of mid-era Darkthrone or early Immortal, laced with some thicker chords that call to mind more early Satyricon, Emperor, Ulver, or even Abigorian phrasings. At 2:14, all reaches an unexpected catharsis as the guitars leap upwards about two octaves to give voice to a deceptively singular riff of expansive emotional power, played in the same jazz-mutated-folk style as Kvist, Shade, Taake, or some chords Shining is fond of. This expansive set of 9th and even 13th intervals gives a completely different and reverential quality to the rather simple and angry dark nature of the earlier riffs, and this riff stands on its own to dig deep within the listener to bring forth that most envied emotion in darker music: a completely unique and unnamable sense of combined awe, fear, disgust, and yearning that only the most proficient of black metal bands can summon. The riff falls completely away to lead to more refrains of the earlier darker sections, only to come back again with a buzzing solo buried within its expansive tones.
The next song uses the same formula: many darker simpler riffs organized into small foundational sections of song that lead to a cathartic main riff, voiced in a higher octave, of raw emotional power as thick expansive intervals are voiced with blurred and distorted speed picking of a quite distinct nature. Repeat listens of each song reveal a classical structure of organization that is often just shy of being ‘correct,’ yet containing the purposefully wrong number of refrains or repeats to keep the work off-balance and full of tension on all levels as minor chords resolve to dissonance in the most satisfying yet incomplete way.
The album’s overall craft comes into sharp focus as more of the album is revealed: each section of three songs appears in a distinct set of voice, production, and mood. In fact, each set of three songs begins with some perverted form of ‘prayer,’ leading the listener to contemplate the nature of this occurrence of sets of 3 and their significance within this work of blasphemy. As has been noticed elsewhere, this idea of the album containing small sub-albums has been voiced by the band itself and is entirely intentional; planned on being central to the packaging of the vinyl double-disc.
Overall, the level of musicianship displayed by all the members here is stellar. The guitars flawlessly present organically shifting and yet jarring riffs of thick intervals and chords not normally voiced by metal music. The bass carries its own weight as a separate harmonic instrument very capable of playing its own harmonies and counterparts. Drums perform their job as a unique black metal instrument of blended ambiance, complex enough if carefully listened for, yet almost transparent within the larger framework of each riff set and overall song. Vocals gurgle forth traditional black metal of a lower register than many screeching incantations, and are often silent to let each riff or subset of riffs introduce itself before launching into narrative blasphemy. Definitely one of the better vocal performances I’ve heard, it becomes an instrument with a rhythmic phrasing and timbre unique among other voices, and the gurgling full low nature of its pitch gives it an unexpected power.
The album is breathtaking in its cohesion and yet vast and varied stylistic grandeur. Each song and subset of songs is unique and yet part of a distinctly larger whole. The guitar tone is scratchy and hollow, yet filled with warm reverb to provide a rich sound. Drums are given a clean piercing sound which is slightly compressed to provide it with a clear yet not jarring voice. Bass is given a warmer lower register and uncharacteristically little high end, allowing it to reside beneath the guitars as a voice that manages to both mesh and be distinct. Each song may reveal slightly different production values, adding more depth to a repeat listen. In fact, this album needs quite a few complete listens to draw out even a hint at all it has to offer. Layer after layer of musical, organizational, and aesthetic meaning can be derived from this release; and only the first song is even partially mapped out of its meanings in this review. This is a work of art in the academic sense: it can mean many things to many people, and takes on significant power as a singular composition of tone and voice, as a work of music, as a specific orchestration of a larger composition, and as a work of aesthetic emotional expression. Highly recommended for the devout listener eager to devour a complex work of dark musical art worthy of many repeat listenings.
Hellegion on May 13th, 2004
I should say, right up front, that this is NOT typical DSO... it has almost perfect production, the songs are more varied, and there is way more depth than the old releases. This is such a deep album that many people will have a hard time getting into it right away (I had this problem, but I realized the genius of the recording anyways).
I guess you could almost say that if Moonfog was a French label, this would fit perfectly. The only thing I can really compare this to is the typical Moonfog sound, but much better done and with a bit of the French BM sound to it. It is really original, the riffs are melodic (occasionally very brutal, though, but not in a death metal way), the drumming fits perfectly, and the bass has a nice, dead tone to it. Vocally, it is varied... he does a lot of voices on this. One reminds me of Satyr a lot, but in general his voice sounds really refreshing. Sounds almost nothing like the shrieking of the previous album and EPs, I must say.
Songwriting is really DSO's forte (as it should be... they ARE musicians, after all). As I said earlier, there is a lot of depth here... it is very refreshing, being that this genre unfortunately has bands like Black Witchery who have the depth of a soul bowl. Songs will plod along at a mid-pace and then just suddenly explode into total chaos, while still retaining the depth and originality of the rest of the album. I dare you to find me 5 other bands that can so perfectly pull this off. There are Gregorian chant samples here and there, most notibly on "Carnal Malefactor". This song could reduce a hardened black metaller to tears. It is one of the most perfect BM songs I've ever heard.
I took off 5 points because it DOES get boring after a while. It might be because it is so long and the songs sometimes sound the same, but this is not enough of a complaint to really tarnish the review. Overall, an excellent black metal album.
Highlights: Sona Fide II and Carnal Malefactor.
Vlad_Tepes on April 3rd, 2004
Drink the Devil's Blood.
I've been a fan of Deathspell Omega ever since I checked out the song Lethal Baptism from Inquisitors of Satan. As I was impressed with their style of raw, old school black metal played competently with a refreshing sound, I soon looked into thier other albums. What I found was a sense of tortured melancholy, sad hooks and melodies(More predominant on the splits, which usually contain their longer songs.)combined with pure hatred and all out aggression; the likes I hadn't heard since Darkthrone's glory days. I was highly impressed by this band and they soon became a favorite of mine.
When I heard that a new album had been released, I instantly downloaded it, not suspecting such a foremost change in the sound. Gone is the raw, thin production and the screeching death-like vocals, which is replaced with perfect, crisp production(that still maintains an icy touch) and a growling, chanting voice. The vocalist spits out similar hate filled words, but the lyrics have more direction and are much better written. Once the intial shock of change sinks in, one realises this band hasn't really changed that much, and maybe they've changed for the better, as this is a very original album. The hard-hitting raw guitar riffing is still here and the sorrowful passages are as good as ever; even challenging those portrayed on The Suicide Curse. As previously stated, the lyrics are well written and focus on similar subjects; Satanism, the essence of the devil. The main change in the sound is not just the production, but the songwriting. While previously they were writing solid raw black metal songs, they've now written a solid, almost perfect album, not just a collection of songs. The songs on Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice are fully thought out and developed, riff after riff, lyric after lyric. Everything on this album flows perfectly. Even the somewhat oddly placed samples(reminscent of Funeral Mist's 'Salvation'). Halfway through the spinetingling, droning masterpiece that is Carnal Malefactor(This may be DSO absolute crowning achievement), the song comes to a halt and we are treated to a fitting choir piece with an ambient noise in the background. This captures the pure essence of sorrow and sadness. Deathspell Omega have made their mark on todays black metal scene with this album, defining a more original sound for themselves. If this is part one of three, I can't wait for the others. Superb work.
Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice track list
|2||Sola Fide I||05:13|
|3||Sola Fide II||07:53|
|5||Blessed Are the Dead Whiche Dye in the Lorde||05:47|
|8||Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice||06:31|
|10||Jvbilate Deo (O Be Joyfvl in the Lord)||06:07|
|12||Drink the Devil's Blood||04:31|
Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice lineup