Company: Norma Evangelium Diaboli Release: 2009 Genre: Black Reviewer: Etiam
Compelling and challenging
After six dormant years, Funeral Mist returns with an album as depraved, inaccessible, and simply gross as we could have ever expected. Sole member Arioch is these days more known as the vocalist of Marduk, but Funeral Mist is arguably his more legitimately 'black metal' project (with all the baggage that the term implies). Funeral Mist's 2003 debut LP 'Salvation' is respected by those who know it as an explosive diatribe against Christianity that excelled in turning its own language and symbolism against it. The music wasn't bad, either. But as more artists have taken up this approach--Deathspell Omega perhaps being one of the most erudite and successful--the pressure was on for Funeral Mist to maintain its status in the scene as a trendsetting agitator.
One listen should be enough to put that debate to rest, as 'Maranatha' is a veritable orgy of repulsion: tempestuous tremolos, dense and dissonant atmospheres, appropriately blasting percussion, and Arioch's relentless vocal histrionics. The production is bulkier this time around, reflecting some modern Marduk influence as well as the trend of black metal in general away from mid-less mixes. None would mistake this for anything other than black metal, but the recording has a body to it that supports the suffocating music and Arioch's vocal dynamism.
In Marduk we are mostly treated to his throaty rasp, but here he brings all his voices to bear, ranging from a piteous croak to a harmonizer-enhanced bellow and even a few legitimate shrieks. He is a polarizing vocalist--some love his passion, others despise his excess--but none can deny his distinctive vigor. Per usual, the lyrics are consumed by Christian imagery and themes and are delivered with the same clerical rigor found in many modern black metal bands, especially those on labels like N.E.D. Reading the lyrics of 'Maranatha' out of context is essentially reading scripture; only in full context of the album--musically and visually--does Arioch's intent become clear.
The album's proportion comprised of standard black metal isn't especially notable--similar to Marduk, but with fewer scathing riffs and less interesting bass--but 'Maranatha' is still an worthwhile ride due to Arioch's experimental flair. When the album does slow its pace, such as during the unexpected interlude in 'A New Light', nearly all of 'White Stone', and the bizarrely lengthy outro to 'Jesus Saves!', Arioch's demented creativity reaches its peak. Unique sampling methods, liberal use of vocal effects, effective use of orchestration, and a healthy dose of old fashioned noise make for a compelling and challenging episode.
Indeed, at more than 50 minutes, 'Maranatha' is a bit exhausting and not for the impatient listener. Some songs--'Blessed Curse' especially--are deliberately overlong, as if they are trying to seduce the audience into a hypnotized state. If the album must be condensed, the last minutes of the final two tracks will suffice to show its breadth: 'Anathema Maranatha', where Arioch's impassioned vocals swell to a manic conclusion (channeling a little Gaahl), and 'Anti-Flesh Nimbus' for its frustratingly truncated integration of orchestration (channeling a little Urfaust). Once this album sinks in, it is expressly clear that Arioch's time in Marduk hasn't obscured his first brainchild, for 'Maranatha' is meticulously written and executed. Even if one can't hum a single riff from the entire record after it's through, the impression it leaves is a lasting one.