American Horror Story: Freak Show puts faces to the monsters that walk among us, case in point Twisty the Clown! Lords of chaos and insanity, Orion (Behemoth), Daray (Dimmu Borgir, ex-Vader) and Heinrich (ex-Decapitated) of Vesania, give these monsters a soundtrack. Back in 2007, Distractive Killusions, a motley jester of an album, crossed my path. The album packed a modern unorthodox mix of Polish black metal and symphonics all pulled together with charming melodies and the kind of maniacal cackling that set my heart on fire. A short while later my enamour with Distractive Killusions had me tracking down Vesania’s God The Lux (a more straight forward offering), followed by their début Firefrost Arcanum, secreting an unexpected mid-period Emperor and tech death influence. Now, seven years on from Distractive Killusions, will Deus Ex Machina suffer the trappings of moving towards an ever more commercially driven sound, or will it deliver the intrigue and snarling grandiloquence of the band’s early work?
Deus Ex Machina doesn’t entirely recapture the vitality of Firefrost Arcanum, rather the new album steers the band ever closer to commercial success. “Halflight” is a logical and easy transition from where Distractive Killusions ended off. It launches in a fairly straight forward, clunky manner, introducing you to Orion’s blackened shrieky growl that easily handles the dramatic vocal theatrics and croaking cleaner contrasts, a signature of Vesania‘s over-the-top delirious sound. Daray’s barrage of bullet-like blast beats form the backbone of each song, but as with the twisted nature of the components themselves, Daray keeps his drumwork in a constant state of flux. For example, “Halflight” shifts from blackened blasting and contorts into alluring fills which end off with a plodding march as the folly dies down. “Innocence” and “Disillusion” jump aboard the black ‘n roller coaster, while “Vortex” lends to the insanity by sounding like a vile horde of chomping insects.
Siegmar’s brassy symphonics and noise samples are reminiscent of something you’d find on a grind album and piano interludes marry up well with Orion and Valeo’s guitar dramatisations. Often times the album’s insanity leaves you wondering whether multiple tracks have been smashed to pieces and the shards reorganised and crudely stitched back together so that Vesania can have the last laugh at our ensuing confusion. There’s no one specific personality that can be applied to Deus Ex Machina. Tracks like “Disillusioned” and to some extent “Dismay” veer off towards Eudaimony‘s bleak maturity, “Innocence” is the kind of circus I’ve been waiting for Vreid to deliver and “Scar” has contrasting textures that bring to mind the macabre tone of Polish counterparts Obscure Sphinx.
With recording undertaken by Sound Division Studio and mastering by Scott Hull (Visceral Sound Studios), Deus Ex Machina has the same modern commercial production qualities of Distractive Killusions. The productions are so similar that the two albums even share the same dynamic range, and though it works with the symphonics, it could be improved upon.
The front-end of Deus Ex Machina along with the final track “Scars” delivers all the trippy unease of an hour with geeks, freaks and oddities under the big top, and it’s this dark depravity and devilry that I hoped the band would deliver. The back-end of the album is whole different horror story, significantly pulling down my score. “Notion,” “Disgrace” and “Fading” may as well be Season 2: Asylum escapees; they don’t stick in the slightest or hold my attention despite repeated plays and for the most part, by the time they make their appearance, the tomfoolery starts to feel overdone and my attention tapers off. Ditch the filler and we have a winner.