(Southern Lord/Ajna)

01. I
02. II
03. III

RATING: 8/10

"Mysterious," "Kvlt," and all those other underground black metal descriptors apply in the most sincere of ways to French act DEATHSPELL OMEGA. Southern Lord once again ensures that a quality black metal product is available to those living outside the northernmost forests and desolate cavernous regions. This time it is "Kenose", a three-song album (with tracks titled simply as "I", "II", and "III") featuring 37 minutes of complex arrangements, eerie trance, and ravaging speed killings.

While inhabiting an experimental black metal realm, the approach on "Kenose" does not rely on the thick distortion or raw production values of bands like LEVIATHAN or XASTHUR to make its statement. Considering what a band like NEUROSIS might do with black metal arrangements, one can begin to comprehend the avant-garde nature of much of what is going on here. Just don't take the comparison too literally. The drumming alone is full of rich textures and percussive tapestries. In many ways, it is the key to the album's success. Even with the trippy moments and mesmerizing sections, there is much more in the way of a death metal approach here. While you would not mistake "Kenose" as a death metal album (the bleak soundscapes and all-around grimness keep it firmly in the black metal realm), much of the delivery falls unmistakably into said category. A good portion of the vocal work is not too far removed from what you would hear from Ross Dolan on an IMMOLATION album, albeit with a far more varied approach. Beginning with a slow tribal build, light picking, and breathy spoken parts, a brief choral section serves as a gateway to a maelstrom of blasting annihilation and numerous pace changes for the first track's almost 16 minutes of plague spreading. The twists and turns continue from there, including several sections of furious speed picking, frightening echoes from the unknown, and the long rings of dying chords that slowly fade into oblivion.

"Kenose" is a richly rewarding listen and one that never allows you to get too comfortable, whether from the standpoint of adventurous arrangements or a general unease with the atmosphere created therein. The combination of a strong sound mix, accomplished musicianship, and pure aural dread makes "Kenose" a particularly engaging experience. Add to that the digipack packaging with a 40-page booklet and you've got yourself a winner.


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