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!
Finland is where it all began. Thergothon and Skepticism emerged from the somber depths of Southern Finland, roughly an hour or two from the capital, Helsinki. Their earliest works cemented the foundation of a genre that would begin to blossom into a melancholic and anguished arrangement of innovative and monumental releases for the next two and a half decades. Bands have emerged from all over the world, creating their own iterations of Funeral Doom. The genre has branched and morphed many times, but always can be traced back to its Finnish roots. Finland still sees a fair amount of great funeral work arising from its Northern European expanse. 2015 saw the release of a new Skepticism album as well as a release from Helsinki natives, Shape of Despair.
Shape of Despair has been around for quite some time. Formed in 1995, originally as Raven, the group released a couple demos and a split before changing their name in 1998. The group has since released four full-length albums and a few smaller releases, including today's focus, 2015's Monotony Fields. Released by Season of Mist this past summer, Shape of Despair's fourth LP runs roughly 75 minutes and covers eight songs of grandiose and melodic Funeral Doom. The band employed a force of six members for Monotony Fields. It featured long-standing members Natalie Koskinen (vocals), Jarno Salomaa (guitar/keyboards), Tomi Ullgrén (rhythm guitar), Samu Ruotsalainen (drums, has since left the band), and Sami Uusitalo (bass) as well as Henri Koivula (vocals), who made his studio debut with the band on their latest album.
Monotony Fields gives a grand and radiant take on the Funeral Doom genre. The combination of clean and harsh vocals from Koskinen and Koivula is dazzling as it is featured prominently throughout the duration of the album. Their lyrics focus heavily on personal and internal anguish as the instrumentation wavers between atmospheric keyboard segments and destructive Doom rhythm. Their music will draw obvious similarities to bands like Skepticism, there are also similarities to Germany's Ahab. What sets Shape of Despair apart from many of the other acts featured in this column and across the genre itself is the flawless use of dual vocals. The dichotomy between Koskinen and Koivula is equal parts melodic and morose. Every song is an adventure through tormented minds and pained psyches. Personal favorites from the album include album opener, "Reaching the Innermost", "Descending Inner Night", and "In Longing".
Shape of Despair's newest album was one of the best Funeral Doom albums of 2015 and possibly the best album from the Helsinki group's discography. The group continues to bolster a strong arsenal of Funeral Doom entities from Finland. Following the departure of drummer, Samu Ruotsalainen, after 2015's Hellfest; the band recruited Daniel Neagoe, who is involved with other bands like Ennui, Panthiest, and Eye of Solitude. Neagoe adds to an already loaded lineup of musicians and brings additional excitement to the possibility of Shape of Despair's music in the future. Check out Monotony Fields below and have a great weekend!