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Review for 'Deathspell Omega - Inquisitors of Satan'
Deathspell Omega are currently known for being one of the more talented Black Metal bands out there within those that can be classified as "Modern", "Unorthodox" or even "Experimental", who for the past decade have been producing an endless stream of specialist Black Metal albums and EPs that are all regarded as top quality works by those who enjoy their distinct hybrid of dissonant guitar tones, abrasive drumming, unnerving riffs and complex song structures. The truth is that no label can accurately describe Deathspell Omega's current sound, as it's something more akin to a sinister version of Blut Aus Nord, a band that itself is already hard enough to categorize with precision.
However, some people forget that Deathspell Omega, before changing their sound to it's current form, started out as a standard Black Metal act in the vein of early Darkthrone. Furthermore, they played this traditional brand of Black Metal extremely well, better than most in fact, and the prime example of this is without a doubt their second album, Inquisitors Of Satan, released in 2002 and re-released a number of times since.
With the information you have just been given, and taking a glance at the cover art and the album title, Inquisitors Of Satan is exactly what you would expect it to be: a French take on Norwegian Black Metal. Well, to be honest, it is actually a great deal better than you would expect it to be. I have my own personal theory for explaining this. Having formed as late as 1998 and releasing Inquisitors Of Satan in 2002, Deathspell Omega were able to gradually and thoughtfully plan their attack, ingesting the best Black Metal that their Norwegian peers had to offer over the previous decade and eventually putting it all together through their own talented songwriting abilities, creating one of the finest Black Metal albums to ever come out of France, if not the best. Their winning formula was already apparent two years earlier with the release of their debut album, Infernal Battles, but only on Inquisitors Of Satan does it come together so seamlessly.
As usual, I will refrain from going into detail for each song and simply give a brief summary of the album's structure and contents. It all kicks off with "Unknown Lands Of Desolation" where Deathspell Omega confront you straight away with some Darkthrone-inspired riffs and some great vocals, with the song gradually revealinh what the album is all about by adding even more memorable riffs and using Shaxul's vocals to their full potential as the song progresses. For all it's musical similarities to the long-since established Norwegian pioneers Darkthrone, it's the vocal performance that really gives Inquisitors Of Satan it's own identity.
Following this excellent starter are three great songs that mix the simplistic songrwriting that Fenriz showcased on Transilvanian Hunger with Deathspell Omega's own suberb tremolo-picked riffs, each one more saturated than the last with themes of darkness and death, leading us to the fifth track, "Succubus Of All Vices", one of the albums more memorable tracks. I don't want to give the impression that the rest of the album is in some way inferior in comparison to "Succubus Of All Vices", but simply it is hard to ignore the truly epic and unforgettable riffs merging the song together, with stellar performances from all musicians throughout. Next is the title track "Inquisitors Of Satan", again combining some old school Thrash Metal interwoven with some great tremolo-picked guitars that all fits together fantastically.
Finally, "Decadence", the album's closing song and the longest track on the album, is where Deathspell Omega live up to their namesake and literally entangle you in a spell with what has to be one of most amazing Black Metal songs ever written. It begins with a deceivingly simple and oppressive riff, but just before the 2 minute mark is reached, something truly amazing appears out of fucking nowhere. I won't go into details as it's best if you find it out for yourself, but let's just say this song is for me the deciding factor in ranking this album amongst the very best the genre has to offer.
Okay, so Inquisitors Of Satan isn't the most original or the most creative Black Metal albums released, but who gives a fuck? It's executed with such perfection and succeeds so efficiently at what it sets out to do, that even being released long after the genre was considered "dead" this album keeps the spirit of Norwegian Black Metal alive without even proceeding from Scandinavia, a goal that so many other countless albums from bands of all backgrounds hopelessly fail at achieving. This album is priceless.
What other albums sound similar to this?
Unfortunately, Deathspell Omega only released one other album in this style of traditional Black Metal, and that album is their first full length titled Infernal Battles and released in 2000. Infernal Battles has some sublime songwriting on the first four tracks that sound exactly something out of Inquisitors Of Satan, however the remaining four tracks are from a demo and don't retain the same quality in production. In any case, Infernal Battles is definately worth checking out for the first four songs alone. As mentioned above, after releasing Inquisitors Of Satan, Deathspell Omega switched to a more unorthodox and superficially abstract hybrid of Black Metal that is difficult to pin down to an easily descriptive subgenre, but if you are curious as to what Deathspell Omega's current sound is like then we recommend you begin with either their 2007 album Fas - Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum or their most recent full length, Paracletus, released in 2010.
As for similar albums to Inquisitors Of Satan by other bands, we can begin with well known classics such as Darkthrone's brilliant Transilvanian Hunger, which was most likely Deathspell Omega's primary source of inspiration upon creating Inquisitors Of Satan, either directly or indirectly, as well as Burzum's Det Som Engang Var which shares similarities as far as the hypnotic riffs and screeching vocals go.
However, when searching for something that gives off the same feel as Inquisitors Of Satan, the album which you will probably enjoy more than any other is Sanojesi Äärelle by Finnish Black Metal masters Horna. This is an epic release spanning two CDs and containing 85 minutes of nothing but the most excellent of raw Black Metal goodness that can be found on Inquisitors Of Satan. After investigating the aforementioned classics and Horna's Sanojesi Äärelle, you can check out the rest of Darkthrone's early albums, as well as all of Horna's other killer albums such as Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne and Ääniä Yössä. Other honorable mentions are Luror's Iron Hand Of Blackest Terror, Armagedda's The Final War Approaching, Clandestine Blaze's Fist of the Northern Destroyer and Ravencult's Temples Of Torment.
In a nutshell...
Deathspell Omega's Inquisitors Of Satan is neither the bands most original nor it's most popular album, but in my opinion it is the best album they have ever made, making up for it's lack of creativity by accomplishing what can only be described as one of the best homages to the Second Wave of Black Metal's Scandinavian roots. Epic and memorable riffs, a cold, dark and deathly atmosphere, piercing vocals and hypnotic drumming, it's all there and it's all performed flawlessly.
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