Review Summary: Listening to funeral doom is actually not like watching old people fuck.
It hasn’t always been the case, but these days I am able to admit when I am wrong. I say that only because I need to admit that I was wrong again (it happens often). Despite reading great reviews on the funeral doom genre I have always ignored it. My assumption was that any music played that slow for that long had to be like watching old people ***; slow, boring, and ultimately disappointing for all involved. My assumption about old people still holds, but this album has made me rethink my position on funeral doom. This album is slow and totally lacks any dynamic shifts other then “slow” and “almost silent”, but the atmosphere it creates and the way the songs are constructed more then make up for it.
To me, the atmosphere created by this album is almost one of watching your own death in slow motion. A majority of that sinister atmosphere can be credited to the band’s very effective approach to the synths and sound effects. Rarely are the keyboards used to create any real melody or even soothing sounds, instead they are often used in a very ambient and droning style similar to the way Neurosis
uses theirs. These sounds are always slowly evolving, changing pitches and adjusting in style just enough to give the songs a sense of movement. Considering the fact that four of these five tracks break the ten minute mark, it allows plenty of time for the synths to develop and morph in a very gradual but effective fashion.
Another reason that the ambient drones are able to create such an oppressive atmosphere is because of the nature of the guitar riffs. The riffs on this album are very simple and are generally delivered in an enveloping blanket of distortion providing the bottom end of the mix (as the bass is virtually non-existent), as well as the base for the vocals and ambient sounds to develop. I’d like to make it clear that despite their slowness and simplicity the guitars still manage to create subtle melancholic moments of their own that serve to accentuate the monotone growls of the vocals and compliment whatever the synths and keyboards are doing at the time. All five songs deliver the above descriptions effectively, but there is something about the atmosphere in the song, “Total Absence of Light”, that just sets it slightly above the rest, and is definitely the track I recommend finding for those that might be interested.
“Total Absence of Light” starts with the prerequisite slow distorted guitar chords that barely move fast enough to be considered part of a riff, and are soon complimented by a synth sound that almost resembles wind blowing through a tunnel; it’s strange but effective. When the deep growls of the vocalist come in a few minutes later, that feeling of watching your own death in slow motion is thoroughly accomplished. Despite the lack of dynamics, the song still manages to go through a few different movements that are basically defined by varying drones, the occasional real piano melody, quick moments of near-silence, and extended guitar passages that all effectively keep it from becoming monotonous and allow it to almost feel like a journey. As I said earlier, it is hard to put a finger on what actually sets this song apart from the rest; as far as I can tell there is just something about the way the sounds and riffs were assembled for this song that makes it more effective despite having basically the same setup as the rest of the songs.
I have to say that my accidental introduction to the funeral doom genre turned out to be a very good experience, but I do want to remind people that this review and its rating is based entirely on zero-experience of the genre as a whole. While listening to this album I think it’s excellent and I think the atmosphere is expertly created, but it could possibly be considered average or even mediocre by more knowledgeable fans of the overall genre, but I doubt it. Despite my ignorance of the genre, I can’t see how a band that effectively crafts 10-plus minute songs that despite their very slow nature still allow you to have a feeling of movement through a very dark and sinister atmosphere could be considered anything other then excellent. If you take a listen to this album you may find, as I did, that listening to funeral doom actually isn’t the same as watching old people ***.