Finally, the weekend is upon us. What better way to kick it off than with the latest installment of "Funeral Doom Friday". For those who are new to this column; each week features a new or classic album from the realm of extreme doom. Much of funeral/death doom's might comes from an oppressive emotional weight and the use of death or black metal motifs (played at a trudging pace, of course.) Pioneers like Mournful Congregation, Evoken, and Esoteric have mastered this blend of dirge and destruction. For 25 years, they have methodically built compositions that stretch for dozens of minutes all while keeping fans enthralled. Time has elapsed since the days of Thergothon and much like the world around us, the genre has evolved. Today's modern bands contort the very construct of the genre, breeding darkly refreshing new work. Their work thankfully gives this column plenty of material to share.
Well, that time of year approaches again. The ever-discussed year-end season is upon us all. 2017 was an exciting year for Funeral Doom Friday because there was a lot to be shared this year. The main reason for the uptick in new content was due to the decision to expand the column and cover more than simply funeral doom (though it still makes for a great alliterative title). While Funeral Doom Friday maintained its original mission statement by covering funeral doom—it evolved to encapsulate death doom and even more adventurous or experimental displays of doom. Some of the features this year challenged the very notion of doom metal itself. I believe this expansion has resulted in the following list of five albums that stood out the most this year. It is certainly unique and, of course, this is the column's subjective list of the five best records.
As always, I would love to hear from you all about what your picks are for the best funeral doom or featured album are. So, without further ado, the list:
5. Idre – Unforgiving Landscapes
From the original feature of Unforgiving Landscapes:
"Funeral doom has a strong root in dirge. There is a sense of mourning or grief that stems from a guitar's strings or the pain in one's voice. It has set this kind of metal apart from the rest of the field as a result. This sort of sorrow, or gloom for a more appropriate descriptor, runs through Oklahoma City's Idre… Idre's atmospheric doom certainly capitalizes on these extra-metallic elements. Droning, single-note riffs carry a touch of a twang. The rhythm section burrows beneath the dirt with a booming drill of drums and bass. Airy vocals drift and sway throughout the mix. It all coalesces in a gloomy yet ethereal blend of doom."
4. Owlcrusher – Owlcrusher
From the original feature of Owlcrusher:
"Owlcrusher tracks three songs and runs roughly 43 minutes long, thus giving sizable masses of blackened and sludge-laden doom. The opener, 'Feeble Preacher' builds off of droning riffs that menacingly loom over the listener. Caustic black metal shrieks pierce through the murky tone of the guitar and the rumbling low-end that seeps out of the bass and drums. The following title track and closer, 'Spoiler', follow a similar suit; it creates a thunderous, hate-fueled ride through Hell. It is nearly three-quarters of an hour of torment and spite."
3. Usnea – Portals Into Futility
From the original feature of Portals Into Futility:
"All things considered for a wildly tense and imposing record; Portals Into Futility is a refreshing breath of air for extreme doom. An album that breaks away from traditional norms and successfully tinkers with the very construct of a genre certainly deserves its praise. The opening track, 'Eidolons and the Increate', and 'Pyrrhic Victory' exemplify this alternate course taken by the band. Choral vocals and unsettling atmosphere hallmark these two tracks. The former, a collection of male voices opens not simply the track but the entire album. The latter is met with haunting ambiance bookended by furious instrumentation. Each song on Portals Into Futility is as heavy and imposing as the last, culminating in the 19-minute epic 'A Crown of Desolation'"
2. Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper
I suppose it wouldn't be a funeral doom countdown without the Seattle duo of Bell Witch. Simply put, Mirror Reaper is staggering—both in sonic and emotional weight. The backstory and the making of the 84-minute epic are well documented already. Hearing it brought to life and played out as one continuous piece makes it that much more sensational. Adrian Guerra's passing may have brought the future of Bell Witch into question, but the newly minted pairing of Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman pay a truly honorable tribute to their fallen brother with this record.
From the original feature of Mirror Reaper:
"Of course, the highlight of this staggering endeavor is how well Desmond and Shreibman work together. The mere fact that the duo could make an 84-minute long song that keeps a listener engaged from start to finish is a testament to their talent and vision. The pair continues to utilize only a low-end. Desmond plays bass and Shriebman plays drums as well as a foot organ to Bell Witch's music. These morose passages are seemingly less heavy than Four Phantoms. However, the greater introspective tone and the abstract qualities of life and death the album presents build a much more personal connection to the music."
1. Vin de Mia Trix – Palimpsets
The Ukrainian Vin de Mia Trix produced arguably the most dynamic and enthralling doom record in 2017. I don't believe I did this album justice in my original feature back in the summer, but as the year has progressed, Palimpsets has just clicked. The Kyiv quartet effortlessly blends gothic metal, bluesy rock, and a litany of other styles into a formula with outright death and funeral doom. Each piece on this marathon of a record feels like it could be its own album. It is not an easy listen for the casual fan—yet, it is certainly the most rewarding. Each listen of this record has yielded new discoveries and created another reason to be excited about this music.