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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SKEPTICISM Stormcrowfleet Album Cover Stormcrowfleet
SKEPTICISM
4.43 | 11 ratings
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ESOTERIC The Maniacal Vale Album Cover The Maniacal Vale
ESOTERIC
4.31 | 17 ratings
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ESOTERIC The Pernicious Enigma Album Cover The Pernicious Enigma
ESOTERIC
4.32 | 12 ratings
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HAMFERÐ Tamsins Likam Album Cover Tamsins Likam
HAMFERÐ
4.43 | 5 ratings
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EVOKEN Embrace The Emptiness Album Cover Embrace The Emptiness
EVOKEN
4.33 | 8 ratings
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AHAB The Call of the Wretched Sea Album Cover The Call of the Wretched Sea
AHAB
4.27 | 14 ratings
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MONOLITHE Monolithe I Album Cover Monolithe I
MONOLITHE
4.38 | 4 ratings
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EVOKEN Atra Mors Album Cover Atra Mors
EVOKEN
4.21 | 10 ratings
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ESOTERIC Subconscious Dissolution Into The Continuum Album Cover Subconscious Dissolution Into The Continuum
ESOTERIC
4.18 | 9 ratings
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ESOTERIC Metamorphogenesis Album Cover Metamorphogenesis
ESOTERIC
4.15 | 11 ratings
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ABYSSMAL SORROW Lament Album Cover Lament
ABYSSMAL SORROW
4.17 | 5 ratings
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SHAPE OF DESPAIR Shades of... Album Cover Shades of...
SHAPE OF DESPAIR
4.10 | 5 ratings
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ВОЙ Кругами вечности

EP · 1991 · Funeral Doom Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The Soviet Union was an impenetrable fortress of sort that covered a staggering portion of the entire landmass of planet Earth and remained a bastion of state controlled everything where Western influences were repelled like mosquitoes in a DEET factory. Despite the strict censors and gatekeepers suppressing the thoughts and actions of the populace, tenacious souls managed to smuggle in music and other forbidden paraphernalia that would thrive in the underground. In the world of heavy metal, despite bands like Iron Maiden being outside the reach of hungry metalheads wanting to join the world party, bands like Aria picked up the slack by creating homegrown versions.

When the USSR collapsed in 1991 under the pressures and onslaughts of western interference, suddenly an entire universe of music flooded into a deprived culture and literally changed the entire scene in a blink of an eye. Extreme metal was one of these forbidden fruits to rampage into the hearts and minds of the youth and suddenly new paradigms were sprouting all throughout the lands from the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia all the way to the western port city of Vladivostok, however the larger cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) were the quickest to adopt the new world ways.

One of the earliest bands to jump on the bandwagon was вой (Voj) which means “howl” in Russian. This band sprouted up around 1991 when Russia became a new nation and eschewed the 80s heavy metal scene and instead adopted a darker, gloomier sound most like influenced by Swiss band Samuel who played in Moscow shortly before the political collapse of the USSR. Having had these darker sounds gestate, this trio introduced a newly independent nation long deprived of the metal underground to a completely new unthinkable monstrous vision of what music could sound like. The band only ever released one demo called кругами вечности (Circles of Eternity) which contained five tracks and just ran past the 33 minute mark.

Interesting enough, вой could possible be the first example of funeral doom metal with its snail-paced viscous riffs that prognosticated the gloomy Chinese water torture stroll of sound that future bands like Esoteric would develop into a bona fide subgenre of the metal universe. In the timeline of 1991, three bands actually emerged independently to forge this new sound. One was the Moscow based вой, the other the Swiss band Mordor and the other was the Finnish band Thergothon. Due to the fact that all the releases from these bands were demos, it’s hard to tell which came first but it’s almost certain that in these days before the internet that one can conclude that each can to the same outcome independently in what is called convergent evolution.

While innovative for the time, вой crafted a rather primitive crude example of funeral doom metal that doesn’t hold up well by modern day standards. Granted this was a mere demo eventually released as an EP and an interesting example of a popular style of music in its birth pangs but the five tracks are fairly monotonous plodding glacial examples of doom metal slowed down to the speed of fingernails growing that implement long distorted guitar chords sustained to eternity along with bass, drums and growly demonic vocals in the Russian language. This surely must have been quite shocking at the time and in the place but sounds rather tame two centuries into the 21st century. Credit given where it’s due though. These guys were innovators and although it’s doubtful the bigwigs of funeral doom ever heard this EP at the time, it’s interesting how these things develop. While not essential, this is an interesting early slice of funeral doom metal that will interest music buffs who like historical contexts.

ESOTERIC A Pyrrhic Existence

Album · 2019 · Funeral Doom Metal
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siLLy puPPy
ESOTERIC is hardly the most prolific artist lurking about in the ever expanding world of metal music with albums roughly appearing every 4 or 5 years since 1994’s “Epistemological Despondency” and currently consists of band members Gordon Bicknell (Guitar, Synths), Mark Bodossian (Bass, Synths), Greg Chandler (Guitar, Vocals), Joe Fletcher (Drums) and Jim Nolan (Guitar). The band plods along through the decades crafting new releases as glacially as its unique brand of funeral doom metal oozes about with apocalyptic dirges slinking around like a sluggish serpent writhing in a frozen stupor.

The Birmingham, England based band returns with only its 7th massive album in the 27 years of its existence but with the exception of “Metamorphogenesis” and “Subconscious Dissolution Into The Continuum,” every other ESOTERIC album has yielded two complete discs of material which essentially adds an extra five albums tagged onto the official count. After a lengthy eight years since “Paragon Of Dissonance,” ESOTERIC returns with A PYRRHIC EXISTENCE which once again delivers another massive expanse of deathly funeral doom metal as yet another double album that believe it or not contains a mere six tracks.

Clocking in at over 98 minutes, yep, that’s over an hour and a half of A PYRRHIC EXISTENCE, every track is over 15 minutes long except “Antim Yatra” which is just shy of 5. Refusing to show any compromise in the psychedelic surreal metal that sounds like no other, ESOTERIC chose to open this new release with the lengthiest track “Descent” which at just shy of the 28 minute mark is longer than most EPs and an immediate warning for those who lack the patience of a meditative guru seeking enlightenment to pack up their bags and leave town. This is not a speed metal album after all. This is doom metal slowed down to a near cryogenic halt where tempos ooze by at a snail’s pace and ferocious atmospheric suffocation smothers every protruding guitar riff echoing in and out of existence.

Musically speaking, “Paragon Of Dissonance” tackled a slightly new detour for ESOTERIC which tweaked the playing style a bit, switched up the atmospheres in a somewhat familiar but slightly off congruency while delivering the expected soul-crushing funeral doom metal goods complete with the tortured growly vocals emerging from he depths of hell. On A PYRRHIC EXISTENCE the band seems to return back to the style delivered on albums such as “The Maniacal Vale” and while ESOTERIC has returned to a somewhat familiar overall sound, PYRRHIC is anything but a repeat of the past although a perfunctory spin of the uninitiated may not yield obvious differences.

ESOTERIC is a band that you have to adapt your entire being to in order to absorb its magnanimous delivery of incessant swirls of gnarled guitar chords, unstable atmospheric smokescreens and occasional rampages through an excitable bout of death doom outbursts. A careful listen will reveal that the album, while existing exclusively in the ESOTERIC zone, is actually quite diverse although it does take it’s sweet time in changing things up. This is what i call slow metabolism metal which makes those rare “hulk smash” faster tempos such as those in “Rotting In Dereliction” stand out even more. While it’s really easy just to sit back and meditate to any given ESOTERIC album, an active listen reveals a plethora of soundscapes interacting in a multitude of ways albeit like a taffy pulling context in the deep freeze.

Overall the compositions on A PYRRHIC EXISTENCE are outstanding with an excellent interplay of guitar parts in conjunct with the roaring synth driven atmospheres. The desperation of Greg Chandler’s vocals has never been more effective and the constantly evolving composiitons zigzag around like a drunken sloth finding its way out of a cornfield maze. While ESOTERIC had mastered the art of crafting massive sprawls of apocalyptic soundscapes from the very beginning, PYRRHIC only reinforces that the band is in no danger of losing its touch. Listening to an ESOTERIC album may be the musical equivalent of driving through the never-ending deserts of Nevada with one mountain range ceding into the next valley of sagebrush filled land but it’s this very spareness that allows the subtle elements to become ever more cherished. To sum it up, this is a triumphant return to funeral doom glory.

SLOW IV - Mythologiæ

Album · 2015 · Funeral Doom Metal
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Kev Rowland
This album was originally released in 2015, then it was followed up by an ambient version in 2016. A new album was released in 2017, also independently, and they have now signed to Code666 and re-released their fourth album yet again. However, due to various reasons they had to re-record various parts, and then it was remixed, so for the third time in four years we are faced yet again with a new version of the same album. I don’t think I have come across a situation quite like this before, but here we are. I find it interesting when reading either the press release or reviews of this album, as they are described as atmospheric funeral doom, yet I can quite easily imagine someone who hasn’t read those saying that this album is mostly black metal. I have read a review where they state that singer Deha’s vocals are as doom as anything they have ever heard. To my poor abused ears, they are black metal, or possibly blackened death metal, as opposed to doom, which just goes to show how music is subjective to the listener and many bands just refuse to fit into whatever neat boxes we want to put them in.

Putting the whole of the last paragraph to one side, here is a band who live up to their name and produce some of the slowest music one can imagine. This is ambient, atmospheric, bleak and compelling. In some ways they remind me of Rakoth, in others Negură Bunget, while Burzum is also something they have obviously been paying attention to, all of it slowed down so that if they played at a lower tempo they would actually be going backwards. This is not music which could ever be played in the background or when something else happens, as if the listener does that then this will just blend into the ambient sounds around them and they will just stop hearing it altogether. It needs to be listened to in the dark of night, with no lights visible (although a distant candle might be nice), glass of red wine (an Otago Pinot Noir would work well) to hand, and just fall into the dark and rather threatening world of the Belgians. Worthy of close attention indeed.

HAMFERÐ Tamsins Likam

Album · 2018 · Funeral Doom Metal
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Warthur
Hailing from the Faroe Islands and delivering all their lyrics in the local Faroese dialect, Hamferð deliver up a mournful style which really puts the "funeral" in "funeral doom metal". One can imagine a sparse smattering of mourners making their way out in a rainstorm to bury their dead, lashed by the winds of the far north, the bitterness of the Arctic cold sweeping down from the north, in a hilly country where no matter where you go, you're never quite that far from the chill, uncaring sea. Gloom hangs over all, and if that sounds like a good time, you may as well check the album out.

HAMFERÐ Tamsins Likam

Album · 2018 · Funeral Doom Metal
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Nightfly
I’ve only just discovered Faroese doom metal band Hamferð. Their first album Evst released in 2013 having totally passed me by. Still, better late than never and I’m certainly glad to have caught up with them now as Tamsins Likam is the best album I’ve heard in the doom realm for quite some time.

Tamsins Likam is part three of a trilogy that began with their 2010 EP Vilst Er Siðsta Fet. It’s the story of a man who’s racked with guilt over the fate of his family. The story however goes backwards, starting with his death on the EP. Evst was the run up to his death and Tamsins Likam goes back to an earlier time where he and his wife are dealing with the loss of a child. You’ll have to take my word for this however as all the lyrics are sung in Faroese.

Funeral doom is a genre that I generally can only take in small doses despite enjoying work from Evoken, Shape Of Despair and Ahab in particular. The deathly slow tempos wear a bit thin with me after a while and it can sometimes come across as a little one dimensional with little room for variation despite many bands injecting atmospheric and mellower moments between the crushingly heavy riffs. Whilst Hamferð take funeral doom as a starting point, there is more to them than this. Sure there’s the expected doom drenched guitar riffs but drummer Remi Johannesen has a musicality not often seen in the genre amongst drummers with some inventive patterns shaping the song structures. I know very little about the Faroe Islands other than it’s around 200 miles north of the top end of Scotland, but through their music they manage to convey a feeling of cold stark beauty echoing my impression of the place, or what I imagine it to be anyway. This gives their music a unique flavour making them stand out from the doom crowd.

The album kicks off with Fylgisflog in a very understated way. Sparse guitar work and Jón Aldará’s clean mournful vocals take centre stage until it explodes into more familiar doom territory with Aldará using growls for the heavier sections. The music has a cinematic feel for want of a better way of putting it, aided by atmospheric keyboard work, with big riffs displaying a melodic sensibility with much musical tension present. There’s a beauty in this music that in a way reminds me of the way Opeth used to do it in their metal days – the way they could inject beauty in and around the most heavy riffs. Don’t mistake this for thinking they sound like Opeth though but you could say Hamferð are to doom what Opeth were to death metal. This sets the scene for much of the album with quiet restraint juxtaposed against the heavier sections. An exception is the death doom of Hon Syndrast which sounds huge from start to finish with some imaginative chord progressions, riffs and time changes making for a totally captivating listen and is perhaps my favourite of the entire album.

Tamsins Likam is a complete masterpiece of metal and I was so impressed I immediately ordered their last album Evst and plan on doing likewise with their first EP shortly. So early in the year yet I can already declare with confidence that this will be one of the best albums I’ll hear in 2018.

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