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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WOE UNTO ME A Step into the Waters of Forgetfulness

Album · 2014 · Funeral Doom Metal
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Funeral doom metal has become the slowcore genre of the metal universe with its snail-paced guitar stomps, lugubrious atmospheres and provides the ultimate downer music for a world in perpetual crisis. So many bands have gotten in on the act that started so long ago and from every part of the world too. WOE UNTO ME comes from the unexpected setting of Grodno, Belarus and formed in 2007. This band followed in the footsteps of Esoteric, Evoken, Mournful Congregation and so many others and debuted in 2014 with A STEP INTO THE WATERS OF FORGETFULNESS.

In many ways a typical funeral doom offering, WOE UNTO ME’s debut features sprawling tracks, five in this case with the majority close to 10 minutes or more. It also spreads out to a near hour’s listening time at just over 54 minutes. Gloomy, restless atmosphere darken the skies while guitar stomps provide a jagged contrast with heavy distortion and rarely deviate from power chords. Likewise the bass and drums simply lollygag to the tenebrous procession with nothing but time to pass painfully slow but with musical accompaniment.

Typical in many ways for sure but WOE UNTO ME is a bit different than other funeral doom bands as it employs not one but three vocal styles. Primarily the clean male vocals of Sergey Puchok but also the harsh growls of guitarist / drummer / keyboardist Artyom Serdyok. And if that wasn’t enough the feminine charm of Julia Shimanovskaya is added to spice things up even further. The band is a sextet with bassist Ivan Skrundevskiy, guitarist / drummer / keyboardist Dzmitry Shchyhilinski and keyboardist Olga Apisheva rounding things out. With three keyboardists in the mix, you’d better believe this is an atmospheric one.

The 13-minute opener “Slough Of Despond” sets the tone for the jaggedly depressive album with a series of competing atmospheric constructs and a deranged piano roll slowly and at glacial speed finally giving way to the death doom metal extravaganza that comprises the majority of the album. The growly vocals aren’t as prevalent as one would expect with the clean vocals making themselves quite at home but in the end it actually works out quite well because the established atmospheres and choppy guitar parts deliver all the gloom and doom needed for this funeral scene. The closing 14 minute closer “Angels To Die” is perhaps the most melancholic track to exist.

The tracks are about as mournful as you can get as WOE UNTO ME perfectly manufactures the perfect melancholic atmospheres with the right amount of metal and because of the richness of the neoclassical darkwave that accompanies the guitars, bass and drums, the band has excelled in making a really effective slice of funeral doom metal. Too many of these bands sound alike but this one managed to stand out from the very beginning. WOE UNTO ME seemed to summon the very melancholy that the nation of Belarus has endured as a collective especially after having lost so many of its inhabitants in the last century to so many tyrants. It’s almost a genetic given that such an album could emerge from one of the largest funeral graves on the planet.

QUERCUS Verferum

Album · 2019 · Funeral Doom Metal
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QUERCUS from the Czech Republic has been cranking out its mood-dampening funeral doom metal since as far back as 2001 and has surprisingly kept the same lineup of Ondřej Klášterka [aka Lord Morbivod] (vocals, guitar, drums), Lukáš Kudrna (vocals, bass) and Marek 'Markko' Pišl (pipe organ, keyboards) for the entire ride. VERFERUM is the band’s fifth album which continues the members’ foray into the world of funeral doom metal with avant-garde elements most notably in the form of a Baroque sounding pipe organ that gives the band its own unique spin on the lugubrious effects of funeral doom.

Known for lengthy sprawling albums that almost certainly clock in over an hour’s playing time, VERFERUM follows suit which in this case just misses the 62-minute mark. With four tracks that ooze on at a snail’s pace, QUERCUS (ironically the name comes from the Latin name for “oak tree”) exemplifies the typical nature of funeral doom metal with nonchalant chugging doom metal compositions that seemingly could extend to infinity yet truncated at some arbitrary length for the sake of recording purposes.

Every track exceeds 10 minutes with the majority of playing time dedicated to the outstanding closer “Passacaglia D minor, White and Black Darkness” which plods on for well over 23 minutes. Thematically tackling the subjects of the natural world, the human condition and societal woes, QUERCUS directs a demented dreadfulness encapsulated in a series of cyclical riffs and topped off with J.S. Bach inspired pipe organ runs which is the band’s saving grace as the comps themselves are fairly standard in the world of funeral doom in a Mournful Congregation stylistic approach. While not as creative as Esoteric, Evoken or Skepticism, QUERCUS nevertheless scratches the funeral doom itch with a proper dose of doom and gloom.

With impending atmospheres to depress the most optimistic and giddy amongst us, QUERCUS indeed delivers the goods with leisurely lallygagging and sombre strolls through darkened soundscapes that emulate the cover art of stagnating in a bog in some remote region. Falling more into the world of death-doom metal, the vocals mostly exist on the growly side but clean vocals alternate for contrast and the third track “The Pu-erh Exhumed” exists as a grow-free respite reminiscent of the cleaner acoustic passages of classic Agalloch. Unfortunately that track is very generic and milks a one-trick pony into a near 11-minute snoozer.

While the first two tracks provide a competent glimpse into QUERCUS’ unique take on the world of funeral doom, it’s the grand finale which slinks on for over 23 minutes that is the biggest treat on VERFERUM with a satisfying Bach-esque pipe organ accompanying the plodding doom stomps and somnambulating percussive drive. The pompous organ prowess in tandem with the death growls is pure magic in its mood melting methodology which extinguishes all hope and propels the spirit to experience the equivalence of an unfortunate falling into quicksand.

Overall this album is uneven. The low points are low and the high points are high but in the end it’s a compelling funeral doom experience with only the third track providing filler of any sort. If that would’ve been edited from the mix i would love this album a lot more but this album is highly recommended for the massive mystical experience of “Passacaglia D minor, White and Black Darkness” alone with the first two tracks providing the proper fluffing for the ecstatic experience to come. Perhaps a bit less experimental and avant-garde as previous releases but still a decent descent into the darkness that only funeral doom metal can delivery.

AHAB The Divinity of Oceans

Album · 2009 · Funeral Doom Metal
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UMUR
"The Divinity of Oceans" is the 2nd full-length studio album by German doom/death metal act Ahab. The album was released through Napalm records in July 2009. It´s the successor to "The Call of the Wretched Sea" from 2006. The latter is a concept album telling the story of the hunt of the great white whale "Moby Dick" (Herman Melville´s novel from 1851). The fascination of stories of the ocean is continued on "The Divinity of Oceans", which is another aquatic themed concept release. This time telling the real life story of "The Essex", an American whaler from Nantucket, Massachusetts, which was sunk by a sperm whale in 1820. A real life event which inspired Melville to write his novel. So there is definitely some conceptual continuity at play here in terms of themes.

The story is quite dark and bizarre, and definitely fit for a metal album, as the surviving men had to abandon the shipwreck of the Essex and sail around 4.000 miles in small whaling boats, with little fresh water and food. The men died one by one of starvation and thirst, and the remaining men had to cannibalize the corpses to survive. It even came to the situation being so dire, that they had to draw lots, to determine which of the still living men had to be sacrificed for the others to eat. Yes real life horrors perfectly suited for a death/doom metal release.

Stylistically the material on "The Divinity of Oceans" continue the slow, doomy and crushingly heavy death/doom metal style of "The Call of the Wretched Sea (2006)". Ahab have honed their songwriting craft and playing skills since the debut album though, and the riffs are generally stronger and the tracks more varied and dynamic than before. The main vocal style on the album are deep unintelligible growling, but there are several sections featuring clean vocals on the album too, and they work very well, providing an extra melancholic atmosphere. Atmospheric is actually the primary word I´d use to describe "The Divinity of Oceans". It´s both an ultra heavy and at time pretty brutal and dark release, but above all it´s atmospheric and succeeds in painting pictures in the listeners mind of the desperation of the shipwrecked sailors.

As with most releases in the most slow building and slow paced part of the doom metal genre (what many people refer to as funeral doom), it takes patience and the right mood to sit through an album like "The Divinity of Oceans". To take in the massive doses of heaviness but also to savor and appreciate the more mellow and melancholic atmospheric sections. To give the artist the time to tell their story.

"The Divinity of Oceans" features a heavy, dark, and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly. So upon conclusion it´s a high quality sophomore album by Ahab and to my ears a step up in quality from the otherwise great debut album. A 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved (and may even be a little too conservative. I can highly recommend this album).

SHAPE OF DESPAIR Return To The Void

Album · 2022 · Funeral Doom Metal
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As one of the earliest dukes of depressive metal musical marches, Finland’s SHAPE OF DESPAIR has become one of the most recognized names in the microworld of funeral doom metal along with Esoteric, Skepticism, Mournful Congregation and Evoken. This band has been quashing confidence and suffocating sanguinity for almost three decades now and finally after a seven year absence has returned to deliver a suffocating cloud of dirging doom and gloom with its fifth studio album RETURN TO THE VOID. Yes, the void has sunken to even greater depths with disheartening subject matter ranging from the pandemic to ceaseless wars and a world of utter injustice. It seems the wellspring of depression is in no danger of running out of steam and SHAPE OF DESPAIR is back to outline this fucked up world in musical form! Oh woe is me :/

In many ways funeral doom metal is quite predictable. It’s probably safe to assume that it will never cross-pollinate with disco, gleeful power metal or Irish drinking songs. No way! This genre is all about ripping your heart out of your ribcage and throwing it on the floor and stomping on it until you wish you were dead. But how good it feels! Somehow funeral doom has become my favorite form of musical dread especially in the greater doom metal world and SHAPE OF DESPAIR has truly lived up to its name by shaping the despair into jagged little shards of musical glass and hurling them into your very soul until you cry like a little girl wanting your mommy to save you from the bogeyman. Ok, i made that up but hopefully you get my drift. SHAPE OF DESPAIR means business and although not the most prolific act in the metal world continues to deliver a satisfying product that will offer all the hopelessness in musical form that you could possibly want.

A typical funeral doom metal release, RETURN TO THE VOID offers a bleak journey through six tracks that almost hit the hour mark just passing 57 minutes and in its wake the band delivers its classic mix of grungy power chord stomps augmented by eerie atmospheres, a mix of clean and death-doomy guttural growls and a long procession of plodding hypnotic cyclical grooves that seem to succeed in ripping a new hole in your soul. One of the biggest complaints about funeral doom metal is that it exists in such a specific pigeon-holed microcosm of the metal universe that it offers little in variation at least in terms of tempo, timbres and tones are concerned. There are basically a few musts in the funeral doom world. Slow plodding dejecting grooves in tandem with suffocating atmospheric keyboard effects. Swarms of distortion ooze out of the guitar and bass guitars while the drums provide a punctuated percussive drive without ever getting wiggy on ya.

Sad but true but somehow funeral doom metal bands find a way to distinguish themselves from one another and even manage to craft albums with subtle variations from what came before but none of this will ever be as in your face like Judas Priest trying to tackle a progressive rock album or something of the sort. Basically SHAPE OF DESPAIR delivers exactly what one would expect from a top dog funeral doom band of its caliber, namely more of the same! Emotional devastating displays of discouraging bleakness seemingly mourning the abrupt decay and death of all of creation. In addition to the expected elements RETURN TO THE VOID offers various vocal dynamics of previous works with Henri Koivula dishing out both growled and clean vocals and Natalie Koskinen adding a haunting female energy to the otherwise male dominated soundtrack to a death camp.

As with many an old timer band from the last years of the 20th century, SHAPE OF DESPAIR is definitely stuck in a world of its own making but does so in a very satisfying way. This band has been consistent from the beginning in delivering the goods in the funeral doom realms lurking deep in the underworld and in that regard succeeds in crafting a melancholic march like cheerless chariots extinguishing existential ecstasy. While this new release will probably not draw in many new converts, for those already in the SHAPE OF DESPAIR cult of doom and gloom, this one will not disappoint one little bit. An excellent addition to the funeral!

AHAB The Call of the Wretched Sea

Album · 2006 · Funeral Doom Metal
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UMUR
"The Call of the Wretched Sea" is the debut full-length studio album by German doom/death metal act Ahab. The album was released through Napalm Records in September 2006. Ahab were formed in 2004 and released a demo EP that same year titled "The Oath" (re-released in 2007). The two EP tracks "The Hunt" and "Ahab's Oath", were re-written and re-recorded for "The Call of the Wretched Sea". Ahab have taken their name from the captain of the Pequod, who is the obsessed whaler hunting the great white whale Moby Dick in Herman Melville´s novel from 1851. "The Call of the Wretched Sea" is a concept release telling the story of Moby Dick.

Stylistically the material on the 7 track, 67:32 minutes long album are atmospheric doom/death metal played at a slow pace (usually refered to as funeral doom). It´s dark, it´s crushingly heavy and the abysmal deep and unintelligible growling vocals are brutal and eerie (the band occasionally use other types of vocals, but the growls are the dominant vocal style on the album), but there is a bit more to "The Call of the Wretched Sea" than that. Ahab successfully incorporate atmospheric post-metal traits and soaring lead guitar melodies, which ensure variation and entertainment value throughout the album. It never becomes just repetitive riffs and rhythms, as Ahab always come up with something either surprising or interesting to break any possible monotony. The creative songwriting is one of the great strengths of the album and Ahab deserve praise for their adventurous approach to composing.

"The Call of the Wretched Sea" features a dark, organic, and heavy sound production, which suits the material perfectly. The often multi-layered soundscape works fine and all details are audible, even though the sound production is pretty raw. So upon conclusion "The Call of the Wretched Sea" is a high quality debut album by Ahab. It´s an album which may require a couple of spins to sink in although it´s obvious from the first listen that this is something special, but it´s also an album which is equally rewarding in the long run, as the listener will find new details and atmospheres to investigate with each listen. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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