Review Summary: The lords of melodic oppression return to say farewell.Praesentialis in Aeternum
isn’t the end for Norwegian stalwarts, Funeral. Since pioneering the funeral doom soundscapes in Norway in the early nineties (eventually culminating in the band’s first EP and the following debut, Tragedies
) the band has long moved on from their roots, eventually providing the cornerstone to a more melodic aesthetic in recent times. I say “recent times” loosely; a given since the group’s last effort was almost nine years ago, lying dormant under the weight of Funeral’s more recent lineup changes. Given the time between drinks one could perhaps forgive Funeral for taking a different trajectory to Oratorium
and its lofty, orchestral focus and scintillating atmospheres. Instead, Praesentialis in Aeternum
largely picks up where its predecessor left off (with better artwork thankfully), dismissive of the nine year gap and ready to dismiss meandering rumbles of underwhelming doom metal.
But Funeral themselves have never really been subject to such criticism. At their worst, they’re simply considered “good’, going through the motions of what “could be”. Introspective wanderings that reach a potential higher ground; letting the band down under their weight of expectation (As The Light Does The Shadow
and To Mourn Is A Virtue
perhaps) while they rejig and conform to what their particular brand of funeral doom metal should be. It’s a thought without substance, and a lone reviewer sitting here absorbed in new music struggles to forget the Evoken’s and Shape Of Despair records that are featured so heavily in one’s musical circulation. Funeral may be present among a crowd of essential listening, but in regards to quality compared with the work of the band’s more storied peers, Oratorium
and From These Wounds
become less prevalent—but I digress. That’s not the reason we’re here.
Or is it?
I mean when we take things into perspective I can’t help but rank Funeral’s newest doom dirge amongst the visionary acts I’ve listed above. Maybe I have a weakness for strong melody and ringing chords but Praesentialis in Aeternum
goes much deeper than that. As such, I welcome Praesentialis in Aeternum
’s majestic tracks to a considerably long list of doom classics. That sounds hyperbolic doesn’t it? It might be slightly. For if I was to address the record’s shortcomings I wouldn’t (thankfully) take too long. There is a slight repetition of ideas here that take too long to eke out the album’s larger moods. While the record itself teeters on the edge of an hour’s run-time (an hour and a half if you include the bonus material), Praesentialis in Aeternum
becomes too massive for its own good, particularly in favor of “Erindring II – Fall’s” near eleven minute run-time. While “Erindring I - Hovmod” is a master class in building melodies that shape moods, the latter simply carries on too long, somewhat tedious in its delivery. Thankfully “Oppvåkning” restores Praesentialis in Aeternum
’s oppressive balance with both ebb and flow. All is well.
Circling back it’s not hard to like “Ånd’s” slow progression into cinematic atmospheres. Orchestral moods come mandatory within the track’s framework and yet there’s a wholesome back and forth between vocalist Sindre Nedlund and his brother, Lars (of Borknagar and Solefald fame) that offers a dichotomy between both gruff and higher, more melodious measures, deathly growls and all. Even the band’s longest standing (founder really) and drummer, Anders Eek continues to rain down supreme percussive sections with crisp and powerful strokes. Not only does this maintain the band’s larger doom feel, but it also reaffirms the album’s larger level of consistency—for better (and as read above, worse). As such, the album’s drum sound is massive and a real selling point for the record as a whole while riffs and leads dance ceremoniously from one spot to the next.
“Dvelen” is where Funeral’s newest album really comes together. While the track itself lacks the immediacy of the tracks before it, the eleven minute dirge pushes at the boundless atmospheres that can only be found in the funeral doom metal genre. “Dvelen” itself sounds ‘loose’ and explorative, making use of its eleven minute(plus) run-time while conforming to bringing together the atmospheres and moods that came before it. Praesentialis in Aeternum
pushes forwards, even at its end—reaffirming the band’s position among the top of the genre’s heavyweights.
As much as I want to heap praise on these Norwegian doom masters for doing what they do, I do have to question the December release date of Praesentialis in Aeternum
. Had this been released earlier in the year (the band/label citing the usual covid disclaimer) it may have seen some room for growth before those with like minds consume the next wave of releases. Is Praesentialis in Aeternum
a great record? Does it rank among the best the band has offered throughout their career? The answer is a resounding yes, but due to the album’s overall lateness I can’t help but feel like some may miss out on the action this year. Praesentialis in Aeternum
isn’t the end, it’s just another chapter, another page. Eternally.