Before 2010 one could easily accuse the metal scene of suffering from creative deprivation. There was this immeasurable period which consisted of plenty of good works, but nothing truly astonishing coming out of the factory gates. As with many of these things it depends how high your own standards climb, or at least how jaded you’ve become, but there has been a sense of quiet elation maturing within the last eighteen months as we find ourselves on an upturn of quality extreme music. Maybe a lot of bands threw the towel in, finding their derivatives just weren’t cutting the ice as they’d expected, bored of yelling at the downloaders for stealing their only way of making cash before realising that – being human beings with brains, hands and working CNSs – they could go out and actually do something more lucrative rather than sitting in their bedrooms buzzing out locrian scales and dreaming of plaudits from monochrome print zines while the labels fall over themselves to give them advances.
What this has meant is that true innovation has been allowed to bubble to the surface once more, and DSO, for their part, have kept consistent. Seeing as this is their sixteenth release since the days of their rather lacking debut “Infernal Battles”, the band’s output has been nothing less than prolific. This time round DSO have opted for a more concise and streamlined approach with Drought refusing to contain any songs longer than four and a half minutes: gone, or at least temporarily absent, are the days of the twenty minute avant-garde pastiche. But Drought is all the more effective for this; DSO’s songs are normally so uncompromising, so unremittingly crammed, that Drought’s stance of providing us with much shorter song lengths is a breath of fresh air and a welcome distraction from the norm of the output in the current black metal scene.
There seems to be an entirely different thought process at the centre of this EP. Drought feels like a transition, though to exactly where is unknown. Opener “Salowe Vision” has a barbed, jazzy feel to it, as if Bohren und der Club of Gore ratcheted up their acidity and paid homage to Tsukamoto’s eeriness rather than David Lynch’s. It’s a beautifully corrosive track, toxic and alien in its melody, setting the stage fittingly for the full-on, relentless follow-up “Fiery Serpents”, its title doubtless a reference to Paracletus’ artwork. As usual things from this point take on a brutally unpredictable and chaotic ferality as “Scorpions & Drought” and “Abrasive Swirling Murk” deliver more rusted, razorlike dissonance with only the one minute “Sand” providing any kind of oasis. The EP ends with the instrumental “The Crackled Book of Life”, a far more laid-back closer which could easily have found its way onto Blut Aus Nord’s 777 Sect(s) or Desanctification. It seems that here DSO play with both their influence and their influences.
As you should have noticed by now, all the track titles bear a strong relevance to the album title, referencing dryness, aridity and the scorched lifelessness of the desert. There are even hints within “Salowe Vision” of desert rock guitar, with lingering phased chords throbbing in and out of the background as DSO construct an auditory scaffold of solitude for us to get lost among. As the EP progresses the sonic forms before us change like mirages, things get darker and darker, and the haunting nocturnal moans in the closing track take us somewhere more preternatural, more underground. Wherever the music takes us though, it’s not just a drought of viridity but of outlook, presence and spirit where the only voids around us are filled with the insensible reminder of everlasting death and finality. This is a drought of hope.
Even though this EP offers nothing massively new for devotees of Deathspell Omega, it doesn’t really need to. It’s extremely welcome to tread the same ground the band has been walking on in their recent history. Deathspell Omega are one of the most enigmatic and fascinating bands that black metal has ever contained, and this EP is among the finest metal releases of 2012. Mimicked but not bettered by the likes of Dodecahedron, Deathspell Omega continue to create music that’s enlivening and vivacious, poisonously thick in its atmosphere, algorithmic in its complexity and tidal in its power and fluidity. Cruelly short at only 21 minutes, Drought will leave most listeners undernourished and pining for more, but that’s an experience all too rare in metal these days.
01. Salowe Vision
02. Fiery Serpents
03. Scorpions & Drought
05. Abrasive Swirling Murk
06. The Crackled Book Of Life