- "This world contains neither meaning nor justice!"
The Furnaces of Palingenesia is the seventh studio album by French avant-garde Black Metal band Deathspell Omega, and the band's 14th release overall. Like all Deathspell Omega albums since Si monumentum requires, circumspice, it is a Concept Album. However, it is lyrically a major departure from the band's previous releases. Trading in the dense theological poetry of their earlier work, the album instead presents itself as a tract from a secret political faction calling itself "The Order". Over the course of the album, the narrator unfurls a vision of a terrifying dystopian world in which the Order holds absolute dominance over all aspects of life, culminating in the implied destruction of civilization.
Musically, the album also represents something of a departure from their previous work, having been recorded live in a studio on analogue gear, and with somewhat more dynamic mastering. The band indicated in an interview after the release of the album that this shift in approach is a consequence of their shift in subject matter. They even considered performing it before live audiences, but the schedules of some of their members prohibited it - quite a surprise from an Anonymous Band.
The album proved controversial on its release, sparking fierce debate as to how sincere its lyrics were. Some reviewers saw it as a satire of fascism and totalitarianism, noting the self-aware irony throughout the lyrics, as well as the narrator's attitude as a Card-Carrying Villain. Others saw it as an outright NSBM album, noting the extensive connections assumed vocalist Mikko Aspa has with far-right politics. Ultimately, the band clarified their intentions in an interview with Bardo Methodology, confirming their stance as firmly anti-authoritarian and noting their political disagreements with Aspa, who evidently had no hand in the writing of the album.note
- Neither Meaning Nor Justice (2:16)
- The Fires of Frustration (4:59)
- Ad Arma! Ad Arma! (4:09)
- Splinters from Your Mother's Spine (3:12)
- Imitatio Dei (4:56)
- 1523 (3:37)
- Sacrificial Theopathy (2:37)
- Standing on the Work of Slaves (3:23)
- Renegade Ashes (5:23)
- Absolutist Regeneration (5:27)
- You Cannot Even Find the Ruins... (5:19)
You cannot even find the tropes...:
- Album Intro Track: "Neither Meaning Nor Justice".
- All for Nothing: "You Cannot Even Find the Ruins..." would seem to refute the narrator's earlier claim of creating "an Order so perfect as to last a thousand years and then forevermore", showing that after the inevitable collapse of this society, there will not even be ruins left over to indicate it ever existed.
- Anarchy Is Chaos: Inverted; the record deconstructs totalitarian systems to show how chaotic they are for the masses of people who suffer under them:"We shall leave sufficient doubt about the Laws - or change them on a whim - so as to breed superstition, therefore turning adults into insecure, foolish children, stuttering panicked words of flattery and idolatry in a vain bid to tip the scales. We shall make sure that the smallest of your dreams is guaranteed to turn into a nightmare so that your thoughts never wander from the here and now. Today we protect, tomorrow we abandon you.
Behold the fatal process of human civilization, and lets raise a glass as the hour of redemption has come."
- Big Brother Is Watching: Described as an essential aspect of the Order."Loneliness is a feeling we will relieve you from; from the barren shores of the north to the heart of the empire, thou shalt always feel the scrutiny of the Eyes."
- Brainwashed: Taken to a terrifying extent on The Furnaces of Palingenesia. From "Imitatio Dei":"We shall make you so impervious to the world that should all the Angels descend upon you and prove you wrong, you would simply shut your eyes and stop your ears, for they would not deserve to be either seen or heard. Our teachings shall shield you from the world and turn you into an island in dead waters with high cliffs and no coves."
- Breather Episode: "1523" is considerably softer and more melodic than the rest of the album.
- Capitalism Is Bad: A theme of The Furnaces of Palingenesia. (The album isn't any more complimentary to authoritarian communism, though; see Take That! and The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized below.) From "Absolutist Regeneration":"Those who nourish the famished shall be left to starve. Those who heal the wounded shall be maimed. Those who console the lamenting souls shall be buried alive, their stomachs filled with ignominious larvae. Rats shall feed on the eyes of those guilty of empathy towards their fellow men. That which is not our credo is not to be."
- Card-Carrying Villain: If you take him at his word, the narrator of Furnaces is the most on-the-nose fascist of all time, openly admitting that his promises of utopia are lies and he views his followers as pathetic and expendable.
- Concept Album: A much more straightforward example than usual for this band.
- Crapsack World: The world under the Order is a totalitarian nightmare.
- Day of the Jackboot: The Furnaces of Palingenesia as a whole is about this. It's explicitly referred to in "Renegade Ashes"."We shall march and march and the sound of our boots on the asphalt shall fill our hearts and minds entirely. It is only within the collective body that you are whole, outside of it you are incomplete and maimed. Walking over the precipice in communion is easier than to acknowledge yourself as the cripple that you truly are."
- Deconstructive Parody: The Furnaces of Palingenesia is one of totalitarianism and politics more generally, suggesting that humanity's innate flaws doom all systems of rulership to corruption and chaos. The lyrics are spoken from the perspective of a would-be dictator and illustrate the vacuity of his concepts of freedom, truth, and power, which he even shows some signs of self-awareness about, but he ultimately doesn't care (e.g., "When confronted with facts that would contradict our credo, we shall speak out even louder, invoke our Order with brazen words and march forward with the arrogance of the doubtless"). This was the subject of some disagreement among the band's fans and detractors, but was explicitly confirmed as their intention in the Bardo interview.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The video for "Ad arma! Ad arma!", though the final scene has some splashes of blood.
- Doublethink: The Furnaces of Palingenesia is suffused with this to the point of self-awareness, which is one of the problems a literal interpretation of the album faces. Indeed, this trope is pretty much invoked, which has led several reviewers to compare it to the Trope Namer. One of many examples, from "Standing on the Work of Slaves":"It is our immaculate faith that shall allow us to exercise coercion effectively but also to resist coercion when confronted by the impious. When confronted with facts that would contradict our credo, we shall speak out even louder, invoke our Order with brazen words and march forward with the arrogance of the doubtless.
You will be made to deny the dissonance and conflict that is at the heart of the experience of our World. You shall join the chorus of praise that flows from the absolute perfection we have created by the sole power of our will. We shall bleed you white, but you will think that it is an act of unconditional love."
- Another particularly memorable one, even displayed prominently in the LP packaging, comes from "The Fires of Frustration":"We will grant you freedom from freedom."
- Another particularly memorable one, even displayed prominently in the LP packaging, comes from "The Fires of Frustration":
- Downer Ending: "You Cannot Even Find the Ruins..." ends with the implication that the Order will take what's left of humanity with it when it eventually collapses.
- Dystopia Justifies the Means: The Order dispenses with even the pretense of creating a utopia, instead openly admitting that their society will be an authoritarian nightmare whose only real ideological principle is absolute power.
- The Empire: The Order explicitly seeks to dominate the planet, as like all fascist movements it requires constant expansion and conquest to sustain itself.
- Enemy to All Living Things: The Order's mission is explicitly anti-life, both human and otherwise; choice quotes include "Thou shalt scar the earth with barren furrows" and "Those who heal the wounded shall be maimed". The final track implies that they eventually even destroy themselves.
- Epic Rocking: Either Subverted or Double Subverted depending upon one's stances. This is the band's first full-length album since their debut not to contain a single track surpassing six minutes in length, but a lot of the album's tracks can perhaps be considered movements of a longer piece, since it's frequently difficult to tell where they even begin and end. In particular, the first three songs on side two ("Sacrificial Theopathy" through "Renegade Ashes") could be considered three movements of an eleven and a half-minute epic.
- Everyone Has Standards: The Furnaces of Palingenesia is a textbook example. The band had spent most of its career advocating for a philosophy of evil, but Furnaces, particularly when taken in conjunction with the Bardo Methodology interview, suggests that the rise of authoritarianism in recent years has been too evil for the band's standards. This may also be a real-life case of a HeelFace Turn.
- Evil Is Hammy: The narrator uses extremely grandiose imagery to illustrate his worldview.
- Excited Show Title!: "Ad Arma! Ad Arma!"
- Fading into the Next Song: The only clear gaps on the album are before and after "Absolutist Regeneration".
- For the Evulz: The narrator is fully aware that the Order's stated goals are self-contradictory and impossible to achieve; he knows that the Order's only real purpose is the exercise of power for its own sake, and revels in it.
- Full-Circle Revolution: A theme of The Furnaces of Palingenesia, as the band explains in the Bardo interview:"The word palingenesia has multiple meanings, the biblical one being Last Judgement. The title of the record is therefore also an allusion to the fact that every rebirth, every revolution, already contains its own Last Judgement from the very beginning. That judgement is, as anyone whos watched the video to Ad Arma! Ad Arma! knows: Thou shalt scar the earth with barren furrows. A revolution starts with the incredible recklessness and optimism of youth, with an overload of energy almost kinetic in nature that may shatter the old world but, eventually, if history is any guide, will also devour its own children. It goes without saying that the judgement on our current world has already been uttered; it takes a lot of Valium to not hear the cracks, everywhere."
- Genre Shift: Not musically, but lyrically. The Furnaces of Palingenesia steps away from the dark theological poetry that defined the band's past record for something more akin to a straightforward political manifesto from a society that would make the Party shiver in horror. To further the point, every song excepting the final track is written out in prose.
- A God Am I: "Imitatio Dei" makes clear that the Order explicitly seeks to replace God in the minds of its followers."The key to our doctrine shall be given only in the heavenly futures, those that lie beyond the boiling shores of struggle. Simple words shall be uttered, then placed in the midst of a tortuous maze, and rendered full of mystery. The System is born, the System provides answers. You shall renounce to sincere understanding so as to gain absolute certainty. You will stand unmoved by the pleas of reason, knowing that within the heart lies the conscience of the Order."
- Gratuitous Greek: "Standing on the Work of Slaves" uses the phrase "kléos áphthiton" ("κλέος ἄφθιτον"), which means "immortal glory" (helpfully translated by the band immediately beforehand). This is a recurring phrase throughout the works of Homer, especially The Iliad, which the band also references in the same stanza. Strangely, the same phrase also appears in Sanskrit works (as "श्रवो अक्षितम्", "śrávo ákṣitam"), suggesting an origin in Proto-Indo-European.
- Gratuitous Latin: "Imitatio Dei" means "Imitation of God", and "Ad arma! Ad arma!" means "To Arms! To Arms!"
- Green Aesop: A central theme of the album; the album argues that authoritarianism is fundamentally a death cult that will lead to the destruction of human civilisation (especially when combined with capitalism). The band also argues that humanism - at least in the sense of placing of human concerns above those of the natural environment - is fundamentally destructive, ironically enough, to not just the natural environment but, ultimately, to humanity itself, reflected in a warped quote from Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the first song: "Everything is degenerate as it leaves the hands of the Author of nature; everything becomes good in the hands of Man." This is discussed further on the band's page and in the Bardo Methodology Interview.
- Homage: It contains several passages reminiscent of Ved Buens Ende, a Norwegian band who were arguably the Ur-Example of dissonant black metal.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: A clearer example than anything else in the band's catalogue. It makes clear that there is no greater force for evil than human forces of power.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: The Furnaces of Palingenesia portrays this as a necessary component of the fascist mindset, showing how fascists must cover for their failures and insecurities by viewing themselves as inherently superior beings who are unjustly repressed by masses of corrupt subhumans, and how their leaders turn this sense of resentment into fanatical devotion to the state and genocidal hatred for all else."We shall base our ladder of dignity on things that are innate, things that require no skill nor exceptional aptitudes, so as to rally the masses of the inept and the interchangeables."
- In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: A central theme to all of Deathspell Omega's work, arguably, and certainly a central theme of The Furnaces of Palingenesia, seeing as its very title is based on the band's thesis that every violent revolution contains the seeds of its own destruction. The album ends with the Order (and, depending upon the listener's interpretation, all of human civilisation) destroyed so thoroughly that no traces of it are left. The band remarks in the Bardo Methodology interview, "It goes without saying that the judgement on our current world has already been uttered; it takes a lot of Valium to not hear the cracks, everywhere." They also argue that humanity's destruction of the natural environment will result in the undoing of human civilisation, as seen in the Green Aesop quote on the band's page here.
- Live Album: A variant; it was evidently recorded live in the studio.
- Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!: Deathspell seem to think that Percy Shelley was a bit of an optimist."You cannot even find the ruins
of the jewels of yesterday
theyre ashes gone
memories wiped clean
You cannot find any jewels
among the ruins of today
for a thousand years"
- Loudness War: A less extreme case than most of the band's discography, coming in at DR7. Still a bit clipped and muddy, but not nearly as severe on this count as their last several releases. The album was recorded and mixed live on analogue gear, reflecting a new production approach, though the master still appears to have used digital technology.
- Million Mook March: Parodied in the "Ad Arma" video. We see legions of identical human figures marching in lockstep, but they're walking directly into a guillotine.
- Mood Whiplash: "1523" is quite subdued by the album's standards, and the transitions into and out of it are fairly abrupt.
- Mouth of Sauron: The Bardo interview implies that the narrator isn't the actual leader of the Order, but something more akin to this, and furthermore that the Order doesn't actually have a single leader. This is quite similar to how in 1984, Big Brother is very likely not a real human being, but a simple figurehead for the Party.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Order are directly based on the Nazi Party, as well as numerous, more obscure fascist movements elsewhere. The narrator also gestures towards Mao Zedong at one point, and the Bardo interview mentions the Khmer Rouge as another reference point.
- New Era Speech: The Furnaces of Palingenesia amounts to a long, loquacious, evidently self-aware one from a would-be authoritarian dictator.
- No Name Given: We don't know the narrator's name. Probably intentional - we never learn anything about Big Brother, either.
- Not So Different: The narrator explicitly notes this about the Order's enemies. From "Sacrificial Theopathy":"Thou shalt not feel confused when our enemies begin to resemble us, mirroring us, mimicking us, for by doing so they are marching to the beat of the Lost, toward the pits of History."
- Order Versus Chaos: Subverted; the Order is incredibly chaotic for the citizens under its rule. One of many examples of Doublethink on the album, and possibly an oblique Shout-Out to Nineteen Eighty-Four, given the Party's paradoxical slogans of "War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance Is Strength."
- Protest Song: Surprisingly, a major lyrical theme on The Furnaces of Palingenesia. The primary topic being protested is authoritarianism, but the lyrics are pretty unsparing in their criticism of many aspects of modern society. This was explicitly confirmed as intentional in the Bardo interview.
- Purple Prose: Even by the band's standards, the language here is quite grandiloquent. This time it is also written in prose (except for the final track). Probably deliberate, for reasons mentioned above under Evil Is Hammy.
- Putting on the Reich: The Order is meant to be a sort of apotheosis for every totalitarian movement throughout history, but their most direct inspiration is the Nazi Party. Hence, they use a lot of Nazi-esque imagery and rhetoric throughout the album. "Absolutist Regeneration" refers to "a power that will purify the world, born to last a thousand years", an obvious reference to Hitler's vision for a "thousand year reich", while the video for "Ad Arma! Ad Arma!" contains references to Nazi iconography, such as architecture reminiscent of Albert Speer's plans for a post-war Berlin, a Million Mook March that hearkens to Triumph of the Will, and lightning bolts shaped like the sieg rune raining down from the sky and impaling people. The band is explicitly condemning this, as confirmed in the Bardo interview.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The Cultural Revolution certainly wasn't, anyway. From "Ad arma! Ad arma!", utilising an almost verbatim quote from Mao Zedong:"Nothing from the world of yore deserves to be preserved, every particle is infected and corrupt. The great cleansing shall take as long as necessary, for power exclusively stems from the gun barrel: on a glorious dawn, the odour of tear gas shall replace the scent of fresh-brewed coffee, the dust of crumbling buildings shall darken the horizon and fill your lungs as the sun reaches the zenith, victorious chants will resonate at dusk to the rhythm of cracking necks and the gunfire of mass executions. Behold the glorious beauty of unrestrained, fraternal compassion and love!"
- The album as a whole is a condemnation of violent revolution, discussed above under In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves and Full-Circle Revolution. It should be noted that the band says nothing either on the album or in their interviews to condemn peaceful revolutions, but their stance that humanity is an intrinsically violent species suggests that they are sceptical that such a thing will occur.
- Royal "We": Used throughout the album by the narrator, who is speaking on behalf of the Order.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: A Deathspell Omega trademark, still in full force here.
- Siamese Twin Songs: If you weren't looking at your media player, you'd be hard pressed to tell where many of the songs begin and end. "Neither Meaning Nor Justice" into "The Fires of Frustration" and "Sacrificial Theopathy" into "Standing on the Work of Slaves" into "Renegade Ashes" are particularly subtle transitions, and the only thing making "Imitatio Dei" into "1523" any less subtle is the shift in song style. The last few track divisions are the only occurrences of silence on the album apart from the necessary side division after "1523", the latter of which only occurs on the LP version.
- Sinister Surveillance: Extensively used by the Order. See the quote under Big Brother Is Watching for one such example.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Does this one even have to be explained? It should be noted, however, that this album may perhaps be read as a textbook demonstration of a George Carlin quote, "Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist." This album essentially serves as a catalogue of how the band's ideals have been violated again and again throughout human history, and therefore of why they possess no hope that we will ever do better.
- Sliding Scale of Libertarianism and Authoritarianism: The Order is, of course, a fascist dystopia. The band's sympathies, as confirmed in the Bardo Methodology interview, can be plausibly read as anarchist, though they don't actually use the word to describe themselves: having expressed doubt that government or violence can ever lead to justice, there is essentially only one place to go, even if they also possess doubt that we can ever actually get there.
- Soprano and Gravel: Most of the lyrics are screamed (seemingly by at least two vocalists at once), but "Renegade Ashes" has some clean singing.
- Spiritual Successor: Lyrically it's very much a new frontier for the band, but structurally it has quite a few similarities to Paracletus, most notably by having melodic intro, interlude, and outro tracks that break up the album.
- Stealth Parody: The Furnaces of Palingenesia would seem to be a completely straight example. When it was released, fans and detractors were divided as to whether the band was condemning or espousing fascism, to the point where the Bardo Methodology interview seems to have been conducted in no small part to dispel such arguments.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "1523" and "You Cannot Even Find the Ruins..." are arguably downplayed cases, being less harsh than the surrounding material; the vocalist even downplays (without completely eliminating) the harshness of the band's usual vocals, instead employing almost a sort of croaked whisper.
- Surreal Music Video: The video for "Ad Arma! Ad Arma!" mostly consists of very abstract, vaguely fascistic imagery.
- Take That!: The entire album is one to fascism. The video for "Ad Arma! Ad Arma!" particularly mocks the conception of a "master race", as the human figures in the video, rather than being the sort of empowered ubermenschen that most fascists see themselves as, are instead shown as a legion of faceless, wretched beings willingly lining up for their deaths.
- The same song also seemingly mocks Mao Zedong's maxim that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun" by deconstructing the horrors of his regime. Under this reading, later on the album, "Absolutist Regeneration" also mocks the "thousand-year empire" that the Nazis aimed to set up. The band explicitly intended these as condemnations, as confirmed in the Bardo interview, which is itself full of Take That!!s (and is all the more powerful for it).
- Another possible one in "Absolutist Regeneration" is "we will clean out the marsh at all costs". This is, we might note, very similar to a slogan strongly associated with the forty-fifth president of the United States, "Drain the swamp". Given the number of paraphrased slogans of other demagogues found on the album, the similarity may well have been intentional.
- Textless Album Cover: As is typical.
- Villain Protagonist: The Furnaces of Palingenesia is narrated by a fascist dictator who borders on being an Omnicidal Maniac. The band cited Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones, a novel about an SS officer, as being influential for the development of the lyrics.
- Villain Song: Like pretty much all the band's work. The Furnaces of Palingenesia is a particularly strange example by their standards, though, because whereas a lot of their previous examples came across as sincere, this album is suffused with self-aware irony that suggests that the stances being depicted on the album are too depraved and cruel for the band's tastes.
- Vocal Tag Team: Several vocal passages are overdubbed, and since this album was recorded live in the studio, it's more or less indisputable at this point that the band has more than one singer.
- War Is Glorious: This idea is mocked in "Standing on the Work of Slaves". They don't actually quite explicitly say that War Is Hell, but it's pretty close. In the process they also throw in a Shout-Out to Homer (more than one, actually).You shall aim to resemble the heroic Achilles, at war under the walls of Troy: a godlike figure, possibly Death incarnate. To those begging for mercy at your knees, you shall answer with a blade through the throat, to the defeated you shall show no respect: their bodies will be desecrated. When you fall, we promise you remembrance, immortal glory: kléos áphthiton. After all, what wouldnt men do, only to escape oblivion
- Witch Hunt: Apparently an essential aspect of the Order's philosophy."Suspicion shall be your companion, for if you conceal blemishes, your comrades must certainly hide blemishes even more severe. Your glance shall always be on your brethren and you shall weigh their worth constantly; which one of them shall be found wanting today? Do not fear to denounce an innocent and have him sentenced, thou shalt only fear to be too lenient with a deviationist."
- You cannot even find the ruins...