In several aspects, Paracletus isn’t the album I anticipated. I’m sure I’m amongst many who thought the band might intensify the more chaotic moments of Fas and drag them out into breathless tests of listener endurance, and whilst the album is littered with sections that blur blast-beats and dissonant guitar lines into a bewildering noise (take the previously reviewed “Devouring Famine”), they’re embedded in a much more diverse narrative.
Stick Fas and Paracletus back-to-back and the differences are explicit. Fas’ climactic moments feel like collapsing into a howling inferno – guitars flicker between discordant shapes, the reverberating cries of phantoms lurk beneath – the whole thing judders through you like an intense chorus of demented voices, as chaotic as it is tightly unified. And when Fas isn’t ferociously angry, it’s forever threatening to be so – “quieter” sections creep with quivering rage suppression, holding back until the next eruption mere moments later.
But where its predecessor painted everything in sickening tar-black, Paracletus calls upon a much more varied palette. On occasions it departs from ferocity altogether – for example, the grand melody that closes “Phosphene” manages to be gorgeous and melancholic without slumping into that over-epic symphonic drivel. Perhaps my favourite aspect of the new album is the guttural, distorted bass line that punches in some of the slower grooves with a deeply satisfying force, whilst injecting a sludgy heaviness into the suspenseful build-up during “Dearth”. Everything’s a bit more distinguishable in terms of the production too, with the intricate fretwork a full and crisp presence at the fore of the mix.
This is also evident in the composition itself. There’s a clarity and comprehensibility here that wasn’t present in Fas, particularly in the case of tracks like “Have You Beheld The Fevers?”. It’s still a brutal and direct listen, but overall it’s not so much of a bewildering one, continuing to demonstrate compositional complexity and unparalleled musicianship without leaving a startled and overwhelming listener behind.
So whilst the past couple of releases have worked towards pushing Deathspell Omega into uncharted levels of intensity, this release sees that intensity incorporated more expertly into the picture. And although it will take a month or two before I’ve accustomed to Paracletus enough to properly gauge where it stands alongside the rest of their discography, at the moment it feels as though it may just stand as their greatest work yet, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one placing it highly amongst my top releases of 2010.