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.
It begins with a dark drone and a mayday call from a doomed fishing vessel named the Northern Belle that sank in the Gulf of Alaska. The newest album from Salem, Oregon's HELL wastes no time in returning to the tortured depths it has long inhabited and a sample of a dying voice and a piercing wail is one hell of a way to signal a return. M.S.W. created HELL over ten years ago as a conduit for dealing with death surrounding his life. This has consequently brought a macabre sense of despair to his project's music. M.S.W. wavers between rhythmic sludge and trudging drone and often melds the two together to spawn frightening, extreme doom.
Take "Machitikos" for example, which premiered on Metal Injection back in July. The lurching doom of the early parts slowly builds into a measured frenzy that is impossible not to move along to. Meanwhile, songs like "Wandering Soul" play to horror elements that HELL's music inherently possesses. An audio recording of a Vietnam War-era psychological weapon used on the Viet Cong lays buried within the walls of sound–ultimately casting a terrifying specter over the music. The horror and the methodical execution of HELL's music all build towards "Victus", arguably the album's focal point.
The 12 and a half minute slow-burner stands as one of the band's most radiant moments to date. It incorporates somber guitar chords and violins (courtesy of Gina Hendrika Eygenhuysen). As the song evolves, these strings are woven into the glacially-paced madness, resulting in Hell's most funerary moments. "Victus" draws to a close and the newest, self-titled effort wraps up with a poignant finale called "Seelenos". The conclusion includes prose from Emily Dickinson that is coupled with a beautiful and almost operatic vocal performance in its final moments. Its entirety results in what can only be described as one of the most enthralling albums to come out in 2017 and a strong album of the year candidate.
Hell is available now on tape while supplies last at Sentient Ruin. The tape was done in conjunction with M.S.W.'s Lower Your Head label. Be sure to grab one soon as the album has been available for a couple weeks now. Follow HELL on Bandcamp as well where you can find all of its prior work.