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
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EVOKEN Atra Mors Album Cover Atra Mors
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ESOTERIC Metamorphogenesis Album Cover Metamorphogenesis
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SHAPE OF DESPAIR Monotony Fields Album Cover Monotony Fields
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funeral doom metal Music Reviews

URNA Mors Imperatrix Mundi

EP · 2005 · Funeral Doom Metal
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siLLy puPPy
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.

SLOW VI - Dantalion

Album · 2019 · Funeral Doom Metal
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Kev Rowland
I live in New Zealand, a country with incredible landscapes and wonderful people, which in terms of geothermic activity is also fairly active. All kiwis enjoy going to the multiple places where it is possible to swim in thermally heated water or have been to Hot Water Beach and dug spa pools in the sand, and when it comes to earthquakes, we all think we’re experts. Since moving to Aotearoa in 2006 there have been three major quakes, two of which caused loss of life, but generally when we feel a quake we have discussions as to how big it was and how far away, and then all check the GeoNet app on our phones to see how close we were. Why do I mention this? It’s just because I am sure the tectonic plates often move more quickly than these guys. Slow by name, slow by nature, this is funeral doom where Déhà can strike a chord, and while the strings are still resonating he can go to the bar, order a drink, and still have plenty of time to strike the next one. On top of that, this atmospheric music is unbelievably heavy yet although we can all feel the weight of the music all around is, it is somehow never unbearably oppressive.

For many years Slow were just Déhà (all instruments), and this is the first album where someone else has been involved, Lore (lyrics, concepts, bass, vocals (backing), arrangements). Between them they have created something which is majestic, all-encompassing, doom which has also contains huge elements of atmospheric black metal as if Burzum and Sabbath have gone somewhere and recorded at quarter speed. That somewhere had to be a cave in Scandinavia, in the winter, music like this has no business at all coming out of Belgium. Play this to the powers that be in Brussels and the EU would collapse like the house of cards it undoubtedly is.

Any slower and this band would be going backwards, any heavier and the music would never get up off the floor. Perfect music to listen to in the dark of the night, outside with headphones on, looking up at the stars with a drink in hand. Majestic.

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.

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