From These Wounds
5/9/2008 - Review by: Etiam
In the underdeveloped field of Norwegian doom, Funeral frankly hasn't had much competition to worry about. Since their early 90's inception, the band has only have four LP's and a few demos to its name. Perhaps this is for the best, though, for while it may leave fans itching for material, the band has been able to take great care in conceptualizing and recording each album. From their 93 demo 'Tristesse' through 2006's LP, 'From These Wounds', each Funeral release presents a unique perspective on our favorite themes--crippling self-doubt, loneliness, and a morbid preoccupation with death. (It is hard to blame them, however, for either their delays or their dour spirits; in the last five years, two of the band's members have died, one of whom was practically a founding member.)
'From These Wounds' finds Funeral fully leaving behind the funeral doom of their past, as well as the lead female vocals heard on their past two albums. The band still employs exclusively clean vocals, however, and uses them to great effect through a combination of choral backing and the understated lead of Frode Forsmo. One of the group's newest members, Forsmo also handles bass for the band, and 'From These Wounds' is the first released material on which he appears. Once again, Funeral's leisurely schedule works in their favor, since by the time this album was released, Frode had years to be worked into the band's dynamic and sounds as comfortable hear as one could hope to be in a doom project.
Alongside him, now taking the lead in Funeral's sound are rich instrumental arrangements, supported by keyboards, acoustic guitar, and occasional soloing. Funeral's melodic phrasing tends towards elegant couplets, both with vocals and instruments, and their mastery of the form is such that even the longest song remains engaging. In fact, given its textures and tempo, 'From These Wounds' sometimes sounds as gothic as it does doom. Fortunately, however, it generally avoids sounding maudlin, in large part due to a scattering of more aggressive modern riffs that bring Solitude Aeturnus to mind. Frode tends to handle these with lower, harmonized vocals with hints of groove--Funeral's equivalent of a harsh vocal accent--as heard in the excellent conclusion of 'Pendulum' or the middle of 'Red Moon'.
Every track has qualities that recommend it, but 'From These Wounds' is not above stumbling at times. Funeral's knack for vocals doesn't extend to every verse, and Frode's phrasing will sometimes feel too separated from the song's pulse, and their lyrics occasionally trip them up as well. Refreshingly direct for the most part--avoiding the typical invocation of lovelorn shades and heavy mist--sometimes one still wishes Frode's vocals weren't so decipherable. For instance: "When I go out the children they laugh at me...now I feel and look like a clown."
Still, the line fits in the context and its melody is strong, as are nearly all the rest on 'From These Wounds'. In a genre often caught up in its dramatic trappings, it is also refreshing to hear a group that speaks directly to itself and its audience, no matter the results. This album may be removed from the most down-tempo roots that made Funeral famous, but it is majestic in its tragedy and as solemn as they have ever been.
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