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Funeral Doom Friday

Funeral Doom Friday: Reflecting Upon Migration Fest's Astounding Inaugural Installment

The first year of Migration Fest was an outstanding success filled with great music and even greater people.

The first year of Migration Fest was an outstanding success filled with great music and even greater people.

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, the 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!

Migration Fest

I apologize for the absence last week, but I promise it was for a great reason. The inaugural Migration Fest occurred in Olympia, Washington this past weekend to much anticipation. The festival was headlined by KrallicePanopticon in his first-ever public performance, and Mournful Congregation. The headliners were supported by a slew of incredible acts in Black Metal, Doom, and Death Metal. It was a spectacular event that featured captivating sets from every band in the curated lineup of preeminent underground talents. Among the list of acts were a handful of bands that specialize in Funeral Doom or utilized elements of this punishing genre in their music.

Last week's feature, Ēōs, kicked off Migration Fest on Thursday night in the 200-person capacity music hall/restaurant, Obsidian, alongside festival co-founder, Adam Bartlett, and his band Cavernlight, and Minnesota Black Metal troupe, False, who played a handful of Emperor covers. Ēōs released a third demo recently and had been promoting it during their set at Migration Fest. The group, headed by drummer/vocalist Alex Moody, opened the pre-show with a plodding destruction of time and relativity. The hometown band ultimately bookended Migration Fest with Mournful Congregation and their amazing setlist (more on this later).

The official first day began in the late afternoon at the historic Capitol Theatre with Pale Chalice playing in total darkness, The Body collaborating with Krieg's Neill Jameson, a soaring Doom Metal set from Denver's KhemmisKowloon Walled City, and mind-melting performances from Obsequiae and Krallice. The following after show featured Black Metal band, Anicon, and Seattle's Bell Witch. One of the current day's preeminent Funeral Doom talents played a couple of songs ("Suffocation, a Burial: I – Awoken (Breathing Teeth)" and "Judgement, in Fire: I – Garden (Of Blooming Ash)") from their exemplary 2015 album, Four Phantoms. The duo played an additional song as well, but unfortunately due to the hordes of people and my delay in getting into the venue, I was resigned to sitting in the restaurant section of the bar listening to the after show and was unable to identify the song (it was alright though, Obsidian makes killer blueberry waffles.)

Migration Fest's second day began in the early afternoon with dark punk group Alaric, an absolutely jaw-dropping set from one of the United States' best, newer Black Metal bands, Yellow Eyes, as well as Nightfell and Vastum (who were responsible for the festival's first mosh pit). Following the old school Death Metal stylings of Vastum came the trudging Doom of Boston's Fórn, A former feature of this column, the group played through half of their Weltschmerz EP as well as a mix of their The Departure of Consciousness and self-titled EPs. If Vastum sent heart rates through the proverbial roof, then Fórn made them plummet into bradycardia with eruptions of sustained, distorted notes that seemed to shake listeners to the core. At this point it is worth mentioning that Fórn recently recorded and released a new song in support of Boston's Black Lives Matter chapter. The proceeds from that track are donated to the advocacy group. Following Fórn came killer sets from Christian Mistress and Magic Circle followed by Thou and finally the spectacular, first-ever public performance of the legendary Panopticon.

Austin Lunn is not Funeral Doom, but it must be told how incredible and captivating it was to experience this master of music bring his atmospheric Black Metal to life. Lunn brought friends who play in bands such as ObsequiaeCircadian Ritual, and Falls of Rauros to perform parts of his latest album, Autumn Eternal, as well as On the Subject of Mortality in its entirety and segments from Kentucky and his split with Waldgeflüster. The 90-minute set flew by as Panopticon's discography came to life right before everyone's eyes. Lunn and the Migrants were both incredibly gracious of the experience as shown by moments of extended rounds of applause reciprocated by Austin's smiles and gratitudes from behind his microphone and guitar.

That night's after show of Yautja and Acephalix did well to hold over attendees until Migration's third and final day arrived. It featured a stacked lineup of bands with many intriguing acts that started with an emotional set from Dead to A Dying World followed by a pummeling 90 minutes from Vancouver Death Metal trio, Auroch, and Maryland's Grind/Noise force of Full of Hell. The crippling waves of Death and Grind gave way to one of the most anticipated acts of the festival in Mizmor. In the Blackened Doom project's first-ever live performance, sole member, A.L.N., recruited M.S.W. of Hell to play drums and a couple other musicians to recreate music from his newly released masterwork, Yodh, as well as some of his earlier work. The performance was a rousing success and a personal highlight of the festival. Mizmor effortlessly blended elements of Funeral Doom and Black Metal together into the year's best album thus far and to hear some of it played live was flooring.

Mizmor was followed by VHÖL and Mutilation Rites who then gave way to Mizmor's Salem, Oregon compatriot, Hell. M.S.W. and A.L.N. traded off instrumental duties as Hell delivered an overpowering half hour set of Drone and Funeral Doom that dripped in Sludge. The general consensus of Migration Fest attendees (myself included) had Hell's set very high on the list of best sets the weekend featured. Hell has also been featured on this column in the past and to hear some of the music that performed live with such energy made an incredible festival that much better to that point. It, of course, only got better. False returned to perform another emotional set with music from their sensational Untitled album from last year. The booming Black Metal troupe set the stage for the festival's final act, Funeral Doom legends, Mournful Congregation.

The Aussies have been a staple in the Funeral Doom genre for over two decades and proved on Sunday night they have no plans of stopping. The Congregants performed a packed setlist that also featured a new, unreleased song that should appear on their impending 2017 album. Mournful Congregation opened with "Mother – Water, the Great Sea Wept" and then played songs such as "Concrescence of the Sophia", "Suicide Choir", the new track "Scripture of Exaltation and Punishment", and closed on "The Monad of Creation". The near two-hour set was the only way a festival this satisfying could have been concluded. The emotional and sonic weight Mournful Congregation's music carries far surpasses most metal bands today and their music had a visible impact on listeners hunkered within the Capitol Theatre. Many fans and musicians were seen seated with their eyes closed and heads fully extended  over the backs of the theater chairs. Fans standing at the stage swayed and bobbed as one of Funeral Doom's biggest influences and pioneers weaved their way through historic moments in their discography. The set was not without its humor as well. Prior to the closing track, Damon Good mentioned that the next song would be their last to which the crowd reacted with groans and discontent. Good responded with, "…but it's 18 minutes long." The brief words were received well and Mournful Congregation played out its last song with great enthusiasm and brilliance.

In remembering Migration Fest, what stands out the most was how intimate the festival felt. Bands' sets were powerful and unrestrained. Particular performances evoked a large emotional response and when there was not music to listen to, there were many opportunities to mingle with other festival attendees and bands. Personally, the memories I will take away from the festival are split between the incredible live acts that Adam and Dave picked for the festival and the amazing and beautiful people I had the pleasure and fortune to spend large amounts of time with. To have a community that is as passionate about the music they listen to is wonderfully warming. It is what sets Migration Fest apart from other festivals, not only did it showcase a diverse array of brilliant music, but it showcased the graciousness, passion, and camaraderie that the Metal community inherently possesses.

I want to personally thank Adam Bartlett and Dave Adelson for organizing such an incredible festival and overall experience. I hope that there will be many more iterations of the festival in years to come. I want to also thank my good friend Matt Jamison and his wonderful family for hosting me in the Pacific Northwest for six days and adjusting your schedules to make everything possible. Thank you to Matt, Cheryl Carter, Ben Handelman, and Kim Kelly for being awesome festival/writing friends all weekend. Thank you to the ladies and gentlemen in the Panopticon camp, Obsequiae, and Khemmis for the great times over pizza and beer and thank you to everyone else I met over the weekend. Also, a huge thank you to Burial Grounds Coffee for keeping us all caffeinated. Every single person made this a weekend to remember forever. 

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