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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EA Ea Taesse Album Cover Ea Taesse
EA
4.54 | 6 ratings
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SKEPTICISM Stormcrowfleet Album Cover Stormcrowfleet
SKEPTICISM
4.41 | 12 ratings
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ESOTERIC The Pernicious Enigma Album Cover The Pernicious Enigma
ESOTERIC
4.37 | 14 ratings
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ESOTERIC The Maniacal Vale Album Cover The Maniacal Vale
ESOTERIC
4.35 | 19 ratings
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ESOTERIC A Pyrrhic Existence Album Cover A Pyrrhic Existence
ESOTERIC
4.50 | 5 ratings
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HAMFERÐ Tamsins Likam Album Cover Tamsins Likam
HAMFERÐ
4.46 | 6 ratings
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MONOLITHE Monolithe I Album Cover Monolithe I
MONOLITHE
4.39 | 6 ratings
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EVOKEN Embrace The Emptiness Album Cover Embrace The Emptiness
EVOKEN
4.33 | 10 ratings
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EVOKEN Atra Mors Album Cover Atra Mors
EVOKEN
4.25 | 12 ratings
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AHAB The Call of the Wretched Sea Album Cover The Call of the Wretched Sea
AHAB
4.22 | 18 ratings
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MONOLITHE Monolithe II Album Cover Monolithe II
MONOLITHE
4.33 | 5 ratings
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ESOTERIC Subconscious Dissolution Into The Continuum Album Cover Subconscious Dissolution Into The Continuum
ESOTERIC
4.22 | 10 ratings
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Return To The Void
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SHAPE OF DESPAIR
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funeral doom metal Music Reviews

SHAPE OF DESPAIR Return To The Void

Album · 2022 · Funeral Doom Metal
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siLLy puPPy
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.

EA Ea Taesse

Album · 2006 · Funeral Doom Metal
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siLLy puPPy
While the band name EA may sound like a really lame name for a metal band, it all starts to make much more sense once you discover that the term was borrowed from an ancient deity of Babylonian mythology which when taken into consideration with the lengthy dreamlike funeral doom metal that this band cranks out. EA is a band of mystery with absolutely no information to be found due to the band’s desire to remain in complete anonymity and let the music speak for itself. While there is speculation that this band is actually from Russia, on its Bandcamp site it lists Cody, Wyoming as its place of origin but it has also listed Antarctica thus adding more enigmatic uncertainty to anything about his band at all.

One can only go by what the band claims itself and it seems that EA relies on ancient sacred texts written in a dead language for inspiration and crafts a musical vision that is purportedly interpreting the voices of the ancients that have finally reached us through the centuries. Whatever the case EA formed in 2005 and released its debut EA TAESSE which is a 54 plus minute song split into three parts. The basis of this funeral doom metal like bands such as Esoteric, Shape Of Despair and others is a slow plodding display of sustaining guitar drones that take on a dirge-like procession accompanied by the punctuated beats of drums. EA is exceptionally talented at crafting an atmospheric counterpoint which is where the true diversity of the album resides.

In addition to the plodding guitar distortion, EA employs classical piano runs, synthesized ambience and choir melodies which give the overall music a melodic melancholy that goes above and beyond the duty of the average funeral doom metal band. Although this gives EA TAESSE the feeling that it is really a dark ambient album with metal accoutrements instead of a bonafide extreme metal release, it nevertheless is quite effective in crafting some of the most ethereal and surreal sounds laid out in a doom metal procession regardless of subgenre nomenclature. One could even go as far as calling this symphonic funeral doom metal and that would probably be the best description of it. Despite the extreme slow plodding of the guitar riffs that include a soaring lead as well as a bass driven chord sustain, the tempo does pick up from time to time with heavier emphasis on the bass and drums but the atmospheric river of melancholy remains steadily perched above the metal content to infuse an impending sense of dread.

Like any music of this type, you really have to be in it for the long haul and have no expectations of head banging fury or be in a hurry to rush through it. This is music that oozes into your soul and slowly coats it with an emotive cloak of atmospheric awe. While mostly instrumental, growly vocals do emerge from beneath the guitar fuzz and atmospheric ambience but overall vocals are quite rare save the incessant choir melodies that anchor the melodic constructs to the rhythmic dirges. In between the long haul of epic riffs and emotive oversoul themes are acoustic insertions, melodic guitar leads that soar like a drifting glacier as well as moments of pure ambient music and horror elements. There are also speculations that due to the fact that EA sounds similar to the Russian Melodic Death Doom act Откровения Дождя (known to non-Russian speakers as 'Revelations of Rain’), that at the very least there could possibly be some members involved in this project.

Whatever the case regarding this mysterious band’s identity and whereabouts, one thing is for sure and that is that EA delivers a satisfying 54 minutes plus of quality atmospheric funeral doom metal laced with haunting melodies and dirges of doom sounding unlike any other in the field. Although it’s tempting to lump all such funeral doom acts in the same category, it’s really the subtleties that make or break such acts as the tightrope tension walks are what make it a compelling listen or simply one that irritates to high heaven. Personally i find EA TAESSE to live up to the hype that it exudes an epic timeless feel that very well could be the voices of the ancients channeled through modern day musicians. At the very least, what a cool gimmick! EA has released so far 5 albums but this is perhaps the best as it perfectly exemplifies some strange ancient Babylonian ritual that has been all but lost in time.

THERGOTHON Stream From the Heavens

Album · 1994 · Funeral Doom Metal
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Finland’s THERGOTHON was one of the earliest pioneering funeral doom metal bands along with the Russian Вой (Voj) and Swiss Mordor by having released its debut EP “Fhtagn-nagh Yog-Sothoth” as far back as 1991 with the aforementioned two bands. THERGOTHON was formed in Kaarina, Finland in 1990 by by vocalist Niko Sirkiä, drummer Jori Sjöroos and guitarist Mikko Ruotsalainen as a death metal band but quickly switched over to doom metal followed by Sami Kaveri joining as a second guitarist. A demo titled “Dancing In The Realm Of Shades” preceded the EP.

Looking like the band was set to sail, that’s when everything went topsy turvy with Kaveri leaving the band so THERGOTHON decided to focus exclusively on recording music in the studio and not play any live shows. As the band’s doom metal sound began to evolve it grew slower and darker with elements of death metal but went beyond the mere hybridization of death-doom and crafted eerie atmospheres with the inclusion of keyboards. The band had finished recording its one and only album STREAM FROM THE HEAVENS as early as 1992 but due to significant delays but finally found a home on the Italian record label Avantgarde Music.

STREAM FROM THE HEAVENS officially was released on 15 June 1994 and is considered one of the earliest landmark albums of the funeral doom metal subgenre and remains popular in the modern era often appearing on top funeral doom metal album charts. The lineup had been significantly reduced since the band’s inception and on this album has become the mere trio of Niko “Skorpio” Sirkiä on vocals and keyboards, Mikko Ruotsalainen on guitars and Jori Sjöroos on drums and vocals. The album hosts six dirge-like tracks with some such as "Yet the Watchers Guard” and “Elemental” hovering around the nine minute mark thus showcasing a sneak preview of the standards by which funeral doom metal would evolve.

Sirkiä has explained that the music was created to express the existential fear that one experiences at the end of adolescence when one is thrust into a cruel unforgiving world and all the pent up uncertainties that go along with it. While many Scandinavian extreme metal bands were falling into either the black metal route or the death metal routes with increasing speeds, intensity and jarring characteristics, THERGOTHON seemed to exhibit a form of paralysis and went the opposite direction by slowing down tempos to a snail’s pace with doom-laden guitar riffs and a bass and drum rhythm section to follow. While this type of music can easily become boring quite quickly if not infused with an inspiring methodology of keeping things interesting, THERGOTHON added creepy keyboard crafted atmospheres that haunt the background while the thunderous guitar stomps sustain and proceed in their funeral march processions.

There are also moments of homegrown folk music creeping in as well and while the majority of vocals are evil sounding guttural death growls and also sporadic clean vocals in the style of Viking music popularized by bands like Enslaved on later releases. As far as i’m aware this was quite rare at this point in time considering Amorphis is often cited as a pioneer in adding folk elements to their death metal release “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” which also appeared in 1994 so considering STREAM FROM THE HEAVENS was finished as far back as 1992, the addition of Finnish folk elements to extreme metal may actually originate with THERGOTHON. In addition to the growls and clean vocals which include moments of liturgical chants, there are a few spoken word moments which seem to represent a sermon of some sort only not the kind your grandparents would approve of for sure.

Of the three pioneers of funeral doom metal which found THERGOTHON in third place, it’s this band that seems to have gotten the credit as most inspiring innovator of the style probably because they did it in a way that was the most accessible and in the process inspired the entire funeral doom metal subgenre with several bands such as Rigor Sardonicous, Mournful Congregations, Beneath Oblivion and Ea crafting similar sounds to this sole THERGOTHON album. While not as surreal as bands like Esoteric or as hardcore as bands like Skepticism, THERGOTHON gracefully constructed that fine line between glacial doom metal with a dungeon synth accompaniment which was utterly unique at the time and still holds up well some 26 years after its release.

URNA Mors Imperatrix Mundi

EP · 2005 · Funeral Doom Metal
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URNA was formed in 2003 in Cagliari on the island of Sardinia off Italy’s western coast by Roberto Mura (vocals) and Marco Z (guitar, bass). The band was formed with the idea of bringing many ideas of black metal into the mix but the duo quickly became enamored with the sounds of the atmospheric black metal hybridization of dungeon synth with industrial from the likes of Tronus Abyss along with the slow plodding doom metal of Void of Silence, both emerging from Italy’s underground metal scene.

The project evolved into a blackened form of ambient funeral doom metal and the duo released a debut demo titled “Justia Funebria” which some databases consider the first proper album but since it’s impossible to find anywhere to hear it i will ignore it and consider this following EP titled MORS IMPERATRIX MUNDI to be the first available to listen release which came out in 2005. There are actually two versions of this one. The first was a four track EP that consisted of four tracks and clocked in at 34 minutes while a re-release on the GSP label came out in 2014 with two extra tracks that basically doubled the playing time with the 25 minute closer “Incipit modesta vita (Malus vivendi).”

Despite the EP status this is basically a full-length album although it’s possible that this is designated as an EP because the original release featured three original tracks and the bonus cover of Mayhem’s classic “De mysteriis dom sathanas.” The sounds on MORS IMPERATRIX MUNDI really does blur the line between dark ambient / dungeon synth, atmospheric black metal and gloomy funeral doom metal. The production is excellent as it captures the bleakness of space synth in the cold impersonal universe while capturing the droning distortion of doom metal chords and plodding rhythms. The black metal aspects come in with the raspy vocals, guitar tones and overall feel.

The first three tracks are hypnotic and flow like molasses as synthesized sounds provide a percussive drive while metal oriented distortion from guitars sustains. The only true black metal performances comes from the Mayhem cover and it is actually quite a decent cover equalling or excelling the quality over the original. The two bonus tracks on the 2014 edition are more or less lengthy excursions into dark ambient soundscapes that ramble on for lengthy processions down various avenues much like a Klaus Schulze album as it provides an alienating effect. The 25 minute closer eschews guitar altogether and drifts off into the vastness of space.

Funeral doom metal covers a wide range of styles ranging from the guitar driven lo-fi offerings of Skepticism to the ethereal and surreal sonicscapes of Esoteric but blackened funeral doom wasn’t quite the thing back when URNA cranked out their series of albums that merged the two styles of metal into a single musical paradigm. Like many funeral doom releases, this one requires patience and the ability to passively let the random sounds float by but for my personal likings i find this one to hit all the right notes with production precision that allows all the elements to be heard and a nice mix of gritty metal sounds with spaced out dark ambient and dungeon synth. Not quite as out there as Esoteric but approaching that side of the spectrum.

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