It’s the weekend! What better way to get it started than with the latest installment of “Funeral Doom Fridays”. This weekly column looks to shed some light onto some of the darkest, most depressing, and discordant metal out there. Funeral Doom stems from the deepest depths of death-doom and dirge music. Each week, my goal is to highlight some of the newest music or rediscover classic works from some of the earliest bands and originators such as Australia’s Mournful Congregation, United States’s Evoken, UK’s Esoteric and the Finnish Thergothon. Feel free to share your opinions and suggestions in the comments!
With this being the final Funeral Doom Friday of 2015 (the next two Fridays just happen to be Christmas and New Years), I decided today would be the best time to pick the best funeral doom album of 2015. There is really only one choice for this honor if you're asking me. Seattle's Bell Witch put out one of the most crushing albums this year with their four-song epic, Four Phantoms. Released back on April 28th through Profound Lore Records, the duo of Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman ripped through the souls of listeners with their second studio album.
Their music is an extraordinary feat when you dig deeper and see how they create their sound. Using only their voices, bass (Desmond), and drums (Shreibman), they crafted roughly 67 minutes of some of the most distraught and disparaging music that these ears have ever heard. Each song on the album represents a ghost that continuously dies through a different and terrifying way that is associated with a different element (If that is not one of the most metal things you have ever heard, then you need metal lessons). Think of them as individual ghost stories, if you will.
Lyrically, the album assumes this terror as well. Each song recants the death of the ghost in horrific, poetic detail. In "Suffocation, A Burial I: Awoken (Breathing Teeth)" the ghost has been trapped in a coffin and is smashing his face against the door in perpetual effort to escape. "Judgment, In Fire II: Garden (of Blooming Ash)" sees another ghost burned alive in front of an audience, the prose describing every sensory aspect that is associated with the inferno's wrath. "Suffocation, A Drowning: II – Somniloquy (The Distance Of Forever)" is, as you might guess, about drowning. However the ghost is drowning in a river of skin and water. In the final song, "Judgement, In Air: II – Felled (In Howling Wind)", the featured ghost is falling for so long and for so fast that his skin is torn away and replaced by the racing air.
Artistically, the album is beautiful. Bell Witch recruited Paolo Girardi to do the artwork for Four Phantoms. In yet another masterful piece of art, Girardi encapsulates all four manners of death into the corners of the album cover and connects them though a central river that flows through the middle. The brown hues and deep cobalt tinges of the graveyard and falling coffins combined with the whites of the waves and flames invoke mental imagery that captures the senses and facilitates you as the listener to place yourself in the position of the ghosts of the album.
Four Phantoms takes home the funeral doom Album of the Year award for me because in its sprawling and minimalist dirge, it managed to keep me completely enthralled for every second of its run time. Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman reinvigorated my excitement for the funeral doom genre and created one of the heaviest pieces of music I have ever heard. Bell Witch is heading out on tour with Wrekmeister Harmonies in the new year starting towards the end of February. You can check out Four Phantoms below!