Funeral Doom Metal

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Funeral doom is a sub-genre of doom metal which has many of the hallmarks of more traditional doom, e.g. low tuned guitar work creating an extremely heavy sound and slow tempos. The tempos in funeral doom are generally even slower and often likened to and give the impression of a funeral dirge. It contains death doom elements and often shares the growl style vocal work of that sub-genre as well as cleaner mournful vocals. The use of keyboards is common, generally used to create atmospheric ambient passages. Bands such as Sketicism, Thergothon, Esoteric and Evoken are considered pioneers of the genre in the early nineties.

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Showing only albums and EPs | Based on members ratings & MMA custom algorithm | 60 min. caching

AHAB The Call of the Wretched Sea Album Cover The Call of the Wretched Sea
AHAB
4.47 | 10 ratings
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EVOKEN Embrace The Emptiness Album Cover Embrace The Emptiness
EVOKEN
4.49 | 6 ratings
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ESOTERIC The Pernicious Enigma Album Cover The Pernicious Enigma
ESOTERIC
4.40 | 10 ratings
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ESOTERIC Epistemological Despondency Album Cover Epistemological Despondency
ESOTERIC
4.40 | 8 ratings
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ESOTERIC The Maniacal Vale Album Cover The Maniacal Vale
ESOTERIC
4.36 | 15 ratings
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ESOTERIC Metamorphogenesis Album Cover Metamorphogenesis
ESOTERIC
4.38 | 9 ratings
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MONOLITHE Monolithe I Album Cover Monolithe I
MONOLITHE
4.45 | 4 ratings
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EA Ea Album Cover Ea
EA
4.50 | 3 ratings
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AHAB The Divinity of Oceans Album Cover The Divinity of Oceans
AHAB
4.40 | 5 ratings
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SHAPE OF DESPAIR Shades of... Album Cover Shades of...
SHAPE OF DESPAIR
4.39 | 4 ratings
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EVOKEN A Caress Of The Void Album Cover A Caress Of The Void
EVOKEN
4.41 | 3 ratings
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COLOSSEUM Chapter 1: Delerium Album Cover Chapter 1: Delerium
COLOSSEUM
4.41 | 3 ratings
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funeral doom metal Music Reviews

BELL WITCH Mirror Reaper

Album · 2017 · Funeral Doom Metal
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adg211288
US funeral doom metal duo had released just two full-length albums, Longing (2012) and Four Phantoms (2015), when their line-up was split in two following drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra's departure. Bands change line-up all the time but this change was tragically made all the more profound when a year later, in 2016, Adrian Guerra passed away. Mirror Reaper (2017) is the group's, which now consists of Dylan Desmond (bass, vocals) and new member Jesse Shreibman (drums, vocals), first new recording since then. The monolithic, eighty-three minute long single song album can be seen as a eulogy to their fallen comrade, whose presence is still felt by the insertion of some vocals recorded before his untimely death at the age of just 35, credited under 'the words of the dead'.

Because Mirror Reaper is so long, physical versions of it have to split the song into multiple parts. The CD version has two discs with the track split into two (titled As Above and So Below) while the vinyl is also a double, with the track split into four parts. It's worth pointing out at this point that at least in the case of the CD version the physical pressing does NOT come with a download code so buyers can also obtain the full uninterrupted version of the album. Without confirmation, I'd assume that the vinyl is the same. This, while I won't allow it to affect my rating in this review, is a considerable omission to make in my view, making Mirror Reaper one of the extremely rare cases where the physical version can be deemed inferior to the digital (more so because the digipak packaging is one of the most shoddily made I've ever encountered).

In any form Mirror Reaper is a daunting journey, one that I'm certain most potential listeners will want to think hard about whether they even want to try taking it. Those that do will definitely need to find themselves in the right frame of mind, and set aside enough time to take the whole composition in during a single sitting regardless of whether you're listening to the seamless digital version or the four part vinyl version. A piece like this loses its impact if you decide to take a break of any length and while at least in the case of the CD version the split between the As Above part and the So Below part does make sense, So Below doesn't work near so well as a stand alone track.

Funeral doom metal is known for its plodding pace and atmosphere of misery and that's exactly what is delivered on Mirror Reaper, via some quite extended length non-metal sections, especially during the So Below part of the song. No idea is treated like a flash in the pan thing, but is drawn out for ages. The vocals range from growling to hypnotic chant to subdued singing. Despite the growls, there's no forays into actual death-doom like the works of Evoken or Esoteric, so it's pretty much a dirge from start to finish. In that sense, Mirror Reaper may just be an example of funeral doom metal at its most pure, though since there are no guitars and it's all done on bass the sound is a little difference to the average band. At least it's a pure funeral doom metal sound until one of the non-metal passages hits, then it's something else, yet still very much funeral and very much doom, just without the metal.

Mirror Reaper is not, understandably, an easy album. I expect that many who give it a go will find it to be too much in one way or another. To many, this will be far too long than any one song has a right to be. For others the length in itself won't be an issue but the snail's pace tempo will be. For more still it will be how it actually sounds. Mirror Reaper is certainly a dreary affair, even depressing at times, but that's hardly surprising given the genre and backstory and the death of Adrian Guerra. It's true that the point, musically speaking, could likely be accomplished in a much shorter yet still lengthy composition and that to some ears it may have been better for it. Those people will be entitled to their opinion, while I will remain steadfast in mine that they just don't get it. All things considered it seems highly appropriate that Bell Witch went all out with Mirror Reaper and produced something that will stand tall as a monumental work of what funeral doom metal is all about. This is their tribute to their fallen bandmate and it's certainly not found wanting. Even being so long there's definitely a coherence to the whole composition so that despite all the pitfalls it could fall into it never actually feels aimless.

Mirror Reaper will not go down as an album that will grace my speakers with any kind of regularity, but it's one I'm pleased to have taken the plunge on for when the mood strikes. Bell Witch have crafted a quality, well thought out work here.

AHAB The Call of the Wretched Sea

Album · 2006 · Funeral Doom Metal
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Warthur
This is the debut album by the German funeral doom outfit Ahab, and as you might guess from their name and the title it's a Moby Dick-inspired piece. Drawing heavily on the similarly-themed demo The Oath - The Hunt and Ahab's Oath are rerecorded tracks from there - it showcases a group with a delicate and nuanced understanding of their chosen subgenre, who are able to add their own twists and turns to the funeral doom metal formula and refresh it. Daniel Droste, in particular, is a star player on the album for his light but significant use of keyboards - check out that mournful droning organ tone that the album kicks off with and which excellently sets the atmosphere.

BELL WITCH Mirror Reaper

Album · 2017 · Funeral Doom Metal
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renkls
When a group of artists intrinsically tie a personal tragedy to the creation of their art, it becomes an inseparable aspect within it. Such has clearly been imbued in the creation of Bell Witch's massive, emotionally crushing third full length outing, Mirror Reaper. Envisioned as one continuous, 83-minute composition, spanning two disks on CD, 2 double sided LPs or seamlessly in digital format, Bell Witch have created a monumental, sombre eulogy to their ex-drummer and vocalist Adrian Guerra.

Glacial in pace, yet extreme in scope, Bell Witch craft introspective bass lines which ring out with the sense of grief. Traversing the length and breadth of what's on offer, the composition offers peaks and valleys, near silent moments ringing with the subtle, yet unmistakable musings of an organ - to massive soundscapes of crushing emotional weight.

It is hard to overstate the diversity of the primarily two-man drum and bass guitar band, forcing out your feelings with every twist and turn on offer. The subtle insertion of the late Adrian Guerra's vocals impresses even heavier the weight of emotion Mirror Reaper works with. Even in the lengthy minimalist passages late in the composition, the band gracefully and gradually lead us through highly emotive territory, with near perfect segues into organ passages, before driving forward to a cyclic, cathartic close.

Few albums can respectfully represent an emotion with as much legitimate weight and personal circumstance so seamlessly woven in. While its surface length and ponderous nature warns off casual listeners, the passage through grief is not something that comes fast, and as a eulogy to Guerra and a gigantic slab of emotional ritual, you would be hard pressed to find a representation of grief as primal, cathartic and yes, as beautiful as Mirror Reaper.

MORDOR Odes

Demo · 1991 · Funeral Doom Metal
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siLLy puPPy
With a name like MORDOR which depicts the fiery aftermath of volcanic eruptions and steaming pits of lava rendering nothing conducive to lifeforms, it’s no wonder that well over a dozen metal bands from around the world have claimed this band name as their own. However only one of these bands can lay claims to being the first to create a hybrid of musical forms that would later be considered by many to be the first example of what would later be tagged funeral doom metal. This MORDOR arose in Lausanne, Switzerland out of the ashes of the black metal band Ärog which existed from 1987-90 never having released a single piece of their work. After a falling out with the drummer, the remaining duo of Dam Gomhory (vocals, keyboards, drum programming) and Scorh Anyroth (vocals, guitars, effects) set out to create some of the most despondent and depressive music ever recorded.

MORDOR released only two demos, ODES in 1991 and “Csejthe” in 1992 and then both together as a compilation shortly thereafter with one two-track EP emerging two years later. While these demos were released originally on cassette, like many underground artists of the era they would eventually find their way onto CD releases with bonus tracks. While emerging more out of the black metal lineage of the underground scene rather than doom metal itself, MORDOR nonetheless found the perfect marriage of the doom laden depressive atmosphere which took the snail-paced tempos to new extremes. Those attributes coupled with the droning chord distortions that reverberate to infinity and despairing tortured vocalized agony ensured only the most hopeless and nightmarish of sonicscapes to be experienced at the time.

ODES was only a demo but still clocks in just a couple minutes or so shy of the hour mark with only three tracks. The first and last clock in at over the 20 minute mark with the middle just shy of a mere ten. Although ODES qualifies as funeral doom metal with its dirge-like dissonance and nonchalant percussive march into oblivion, the elements of drone metal were hot on the heels of Earth were also on full display however the vocals are more of the black metal ilk sounding something like Mayhem on valium at times. The atmospheric dark ambience also brings Burzum’s later work to mind but these three tracks are far more devastating to the human psyche than anything Varg Vikernes could ever conjure up.

The three tracks have distinct flavors despite creeping out of the digestive pits of dismay, despair and utter mortification. “Dark Throne Of Blasphemous Evil” lives up to its title with punishing undulations of creepy dark synthesized terror in sync with lo-fi down tuned distortion doggedly eking out every possible second of sustainability. Moans of anguish beset the psyche while dirging drumbeats intersperse the dread while sonic frequencies add syrupy slow musical scales that seduce the spirits to commit vile and repugnant acts of horror. “The Great Kat Is God” shockingly begins as a Mozart piece and then finds the melody snuffed out by an oscillating synth and slightly more upbeat percussion. The vocals are more sung on this one but just as tortured and demented. This one has a slight guitar riff that recurs. “Lamentations For Corinne” provide a funeral organ riff as the marching drumbeat slowly ascends from the underworld. A guitar lick slowly ratchets up the tension, first with a melody and then into utter chaos while dungeon synth keyboard dirges emerge from nowhere and then fall into oblivion. At over 25 minutes in length the track builds up to the emotional breaking point.

Recommended for those who love to investigate the origins of the funeral doom metal sound and who crave the lo-fi errancy of the metal underground. The tortured soundscapes evoke the most inhospitable lower strata of the metal universe where melody is twisted and tortured into obsequious slaves to uphold the tyranny of torment and to crucify and extinguish all hope. The atmospheric black metal aspects are far superior to the likes of Burzum or wannabe followers. MORDOR successfully interpreted the fiery hellish landscapes of the J.R.R.. Tolkien universe into nail biting sonic reality. While funeral doom metal, atmospheric black metal and drone metal would quickly all splinter off into their own self-regulated subgenera within the greater metal universe, MORDOR display on this early demo the crossroads where they once all gathered together with the same goal of creating the utmost minimalistic melancholy that the world would most like never even hear. Scary stuff this one.

ESOTERIC Epistemological Despondency

Album · 1994 · Funeral Doom Metal
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siLLy puPPy
SURREAL METAL 101

There were some bands that jumped on the bandwagon of a certain trend and ran away with it and then there are those that knew exactly what they wanted from very start. Birmingham, England’s ESOTERIC are amongst the latter as they quickly distinguished themselves from the ever expanding doom metal universe into the extreme melancholy of the early funeral doom metal world. Along with early pioneers Thergothan, Skepticism, Funeral and Mournful Congregation, ESOTERIC excelled in the total submersion into the ultimate depressive atmospheric snail-paced dirge metal that ceased to exist in the physical world and opted to sublimate into a more hallucinogenic state of mind where echoey power chords take on droning characteristic accompanied by ethereal and wickedly depressive ambience to create some of the most surreal metal ever to exist.

ESOTERIC meant business as their career began and has revolved around slow and doom-laden metal that takes its sweet time to unfold its freeze-dried fury around you only to captivate your soul and entrancify your spirit into a phantasmic surrender of the will. Even with the demo “Esoteric Emotions - The Death Of Ignorance” the Birmingham band was all about sustaining a depressive atmosphere for over an hour. The demo clocked in at an astounding 82 minutes and was the prognosticator of entire career as every ESOTERIC album since has been a double CD fortified with endless drifting action of depressive doom metal action that is the equivalent to a sonic Salvador Dalí copulating with the early potentials of Black Sabbath and the countless emulators that emerged in their wake.

EPISTEMOLOGICAL DESPONDENCY is the debut album of ESOTERIC which appeared after their demo tape made a huge impression on the personal at Aesthetic Death Records who realized quite quickly that they had a rather unique musical entity on their radar. After all the legalities ensued, ESOTERIC recorded their debut album and set out to create one of the weirdest and most demanding albums of the mid-90s. While based in the world of doom metal mostly due to their molasses flowing guitar riffs and distortion to forever techniques, ESOTERIC is somewhat of a hybrid between the early 90s doom metal of Skepticism, Evoken and Pantheist cross-pollinating with some sort of sluggish ambient electronic band such as Coil with valium-esque synthesizer laden keyboard riffs that take the term “downers” to a whole new level.

ESOTERIC has been quite exemplary in their ability to tweak their sound ever-so-slightly on album after album but they proved themselves worthy quite well even on this gem of a debut that not only immediately separates them from the pack of death doom and funeral doom progenerators but also displays an emotional depth of character that few were capable of experiencing during the day of production. EPISTEMOLOGICAL DESPONDENCY is like no other of the day. This album is literally capable of causing extreme depression and suicidal thoughts much like legal drugs that have been promoted since. Personally i have no need for such chemical mind inducing intruders when such sonic therapy such as this exists. Literally nothing else before or since can compare to ESOTERIC’s bizarre and surreal take on doom metal and this debut is the perfect introduction to the phantasmagoric sonic reality of this strange band. ESOTERIC is one of my all time favorite bands and this debut reminds me why that is so time and time again. Do start here!

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