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!
English Romantic poet, John Keats, had a poem published in May of 1816. It was a sonnet entitled "O Solitude". The literary work, his first one to appear in print, was part of a collection of poems that he wrote over the span of six years before his life was tragically cut short at the age of 25 due to tuberculosis. Even in his short time on Earth and time as a poet, his works were celebrated for the growth and sophistication he achieved within the small window. Much like many poets, his reputation grew in death. His handful of poems became loved by many, including his very first one, "O Solitude", which read:
O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,—
Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
’Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.
Even still, more than 180 years following his death, Keats's first published work has influenced many from Borges and other poets to a Funeral Doom band originally based in Antwerp, Belgium that goes by Pantheist. The now London-based outfit released their debut full-length album in 2003 and it shares the same name as the classic poem. Pantheist has been around since the turn of the century and released a demo in 2001 before releasing O Solitude. At the time of the album, the band consisted of Kostas Panagiotou on vocals and keyboard, Nicolas Tambuyser on guitars, Frédéric Caure on bass, and Oscar Strik on drums*. Together, this four-piece created what is considered as one of the best Funeral Doom albums ever crafted.
O Solitude opens on a melodically morose title track that sets the tone right out of the gate. It blends some of the best elements Funeral Doom offers thanks in part to Panagiotou's top-notch keyboard abilities and his diverse vocal range. The calm interludes of keys and clean words flow seamlessly between the thunderous segments of Strik's drums and the string combo of Tambuyser and Caure, the storm buttressed by Panagiotou's harsher howls and bellows. These vibrant melodies which are juxtaposed to the crippling Death Doom are felt throughout the duration of this album. These moments are most significantly felt during the final third of "Don't Mourn" and all through personal favorite, "Envy Us", which features a quote from Chopin's No. 20 in C Minor. Pantheist captures the essence of Keats' somber and sentimental sonnet by crafting a sound that is analogous to both of these complex feelings. It is an astounding success that something so incredibly can evoke a range of emotions, it is a big reason why Funeral Doom is truly one of the finest genres Heavy Metal has to offer.
Pantheist's first full work was a landmark for the genre. As stated earlier, this album is widely considered as one of the genre's greatest as it appears near the top of a number of lists for "Best Funeral Doom Albums". However, as the band has aged and created more music, they began to play more of a Progressive Doom in their more recent albums. This certainly is not a bad thing. Pantheist has always made great music. It is exciting to note that it was recently stated on the band's Facebook page that they are in pre-production for a new album that will see the group return to their Funeral Doom sound they mastered so quickly. It seems that 2016 could potentially see a new and stellar album from one of Funeral Doom's biggest stars.
*The featured image of the band used in this article does not depict the lineup at the time of O Solitude. It was surprisingly difficult to find a picture at the time of the album's initial release.