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Funeral Doom Friday

Funeral Doom Friday: Answering A Clarion Call From ASUNDER

This week's installment delves into the first album from one of California's former funereal powerhouses

This week's installment delves into the first album from one of California's former funereal powerhouses

It’s the weekend! What better way to get it started than with the latest installment of “Funeral Doom Friday”. 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!

Asunder - A Clarion Call

Oakland, California's Asunder originally formed back in 1998 as a four-member band. The releases from Asunder are few and sparse, but what they have released have been hugely influential and memorable for Funeral Doom in the United States. The group featured drummer/vocalist Dino Sommese, who is now a member of Noothgrush and a former member of Ghoul, alongside Britt Hallett (bass/vocals), Seth Baker (guitars/vocals), and Geoff Evans (guitars). This lineup released a split in 2000 in conjunction with Like Flies on Flesh. Another four years would pass before Asunder would release anymore music, in that time they would go through a couple lineup changes. Baker would leave the band while Alex Bale-Glickman (cello) and John Gossard (guitars/vocals, formerly of Weakling) were added to the roster. This new-looking Asunder would go on to release their first full-length album in 2004.

A Clarion Call surfaced in the summer of that year. It is an interesting album in terms of genre classification. Like last week's spotlight on Esoteric, many of Asunder's moments on their first LP lean towards Death-Doom. If we take a deeper look into the album's first song, "Twilight Amaranthine", much of its moments have a prototypical doom construct. It is played at a tempo akin to much of standard Doom Metal. On the other hand, Gossard and Sommese's vocals shift between deathly growls and near-spoken words, an arrangement often heard in Funeral Doom. In addition to that, the overall tone of "Twilight Amaranthine" is much more morose than the Doom Metal many people think of and a lot of this comes from Bale-Glickman's cello layered into the mix. These atypical string instruments have a way of creating a somber mood when brought into the metallic fold. For Asunder, the cello would become a standard instrument for their other releases.

The remaining songs on A Clarion Call veer more into familiar territory. "Crown of Eyes" and the title track are much more like Funeral Doom and Death-Doom, respectively. Hymnal chants and sorrowful moments of near silence give way to roaring riffs and drums that keep listeners enthralled throughout the remaining songs. The original recording of the A Clarion Call featured a fourth, instrumental track that was untitled and hidden after the title track. Future releases of the record excluded this song from the track listing and to find it on the internet has been a bit of a struggle. The version of the album included this week lacks this fourth song unfortunately.

While A Clarion Call may not be the greatest example of Funeral Doom Metal in its purest form, its inclusion in the column is necessary on the grounds of the influence that this album as well as the rest of Asunder's work has had on bands that are making some of the best Funeral Doom today. Previously featured bands like Lycus, Funerary, and Bell Witch either cite or channel the sound of Oakland's funereal finest in their music. The band would go on to release one more split with Graves At Sea (who is finally releasing a full-length album) and one more LP, entitled Works Will Come Undone. It is unfortunate that the band is no longer present, but the gravity of the music they created for the genre is still felt. If you like what you have heard from Asunder, I would advise you check out their other releases as well as Dino's current band, Noothgrush.

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