Beautiful dirges break the sorrowful earth.
Since the bleak world of doom metal first came to the world via the trailblazing efforts of Black Sabbath, many bands have risen to both emulate and expand upon the sound that took shape at the dawn of the 1970s. However, few have partaken of the tragic character of said music within their day to day lives as Norway’s Funeral, prominent innovator within the early to mid-90s Northern European death/doom scene and arguably originators of the extreme offshoot known as funeral doom. But the numerous business setbacks and the loss of two prominent members of the fold in the mid-2000s did not eradicate the determination of drummer and founding member Anders Eck, who would soldier on with an assortment of newer musicians to continue honing the band’s slow and extreme dirges into something a bit more nuanced and accessible as the 2000s gave way to the 2010s.
With just over 9 years having past since their previous opus “Oratorium” presented a fold that was venturing pretty heavily into the symphonic realm, their long awaited sixth LP “Praesentialis In Aeterum” has finally materialized, further expanding upon the strides of the past few albums while remembering the band’s harsher roots to an extent. In many respects, it functions as an album that combines the positive aspects of this band’s divergent eras, though it ultimately leans heavier onto the cleaner, more epic-tinged new sound that began to take shape later in Funeral’s career. Between the densely orchestrated periphery, slow yet steady march of the drums and guitars, and the mostly clean cut and dramatic character of vocalist Sindre Nedland’s performance, often recalling the bellowing baritone of departed legends Peter Steele and David Gold, it’s an album that is firmly rooted in the smoother Gothic and epic doom side of things and only occasionally wanders into overt death metal territory.
Though originally 10 extended dirges were composed for this towering effort, Eck and company ultimately opted to employ the six greatest creations of the flock to maximize its qualitative effect, and the result is an album that is still massive in scope, but surmountable. The resulting sonic largess that emerges from these six musicians has a decidedly through-composed character, wandering through various sections of increased or lessened density of sound in a free fashion, often exceeding the 8 minute mark. Each song has a decidedly extravagant quality, as if being music performed in a mighty cathedral with hundreds in attendance within an urban sprawl rather than a small chapel in the marshlands, to the point where even the darkest moments of distorted guitars and droning bass work avoids an overtly sludgy character. In essence, there is a sort of neo-romantic gallantry to these songs that is quite different from most traditional doom outfits, though by no means is it a light affair.
The improvement and refinement of sampled orchestration has definitely proven a stalwart ally to this album, from its opening moments until its final conclusion. The onset of opening anthem turned low-end crusher “And” could easily be mistaken for a mighty overture by the London symphony, while the song’s general tone and development showcases heavy parallels to Candlemass’ dynamic and dramatic handiwork. Likewise, the generally slow yet animated “Materie” treads a more epic trail and features one of the flashier guitar solo performances heard out of the style of late, though to be fair it also features a drastic shift into a mighty rendition of classic death/doom territory. Each chapter in this sonic book of woe is a finely crafted combination of just about every expression of doom metal with a degree of historic precedent, with both parts of the “Erindring” segment and the exhaustive 11 minute closer “Dvelen” being the most elaborate and enthralling entries of a highly complex and captivating opus.
Between all of the iconic members of the original death/doom movement converging for a collective revival over the past couple of years, it gets a bit difficult to tell who has the ultimate edge in terms of quality, but if uniqueness in approach is the chief consideration, Funeral has definitely staked out a chunk of territory seldom explored. While it carries most of the properties of being a stylistic switch into territory that is musically in line with Candlemass, Solitude Aeternus and Sorcerer, and vocally it presents a clear bridge into the Gothic realm that supplanted this band’s original sound in the mid-1990s, it maintains a deep death/doom foundation that keeps it from full becoming either of the aforementioned niches. One might say that Funeral have convened a vigil within their own little world, and while it’s difficult to assign the hierarchy of quality for the total catalog of a band of this degree of excellence, this is a strong showing for a band that has yet to disappoint in conveying the disappointments of life via the doom metal medium
Released By: Season Of Mist
Release Date: December 10th, 2021
Genre: Funeral Doom Metal
- Anders Eek / Drums
- Rune Gandrud / Bass guitar
- Sindre Nedland / Vocals
- Erlend Nybø / Guitars
- Ingvild Anette Strønen Johanessen / Orchestration
- Magnus Tveiten / Guitars
“Praesentialis In Aeternum” track-listing:
- Erindring I – Hovmod
- Erindring II – Fall
One of the prime movers of Scandinavia’s early death/doom movement and the namesake of the extreme sub-genre that it would birth returns after an extended studio hiatus to deliver a melancholy amalgam of their distant and more recent past, culminating in a well-rounded and high quality, Gothic-tinged extravaganza