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While the debate of what metal subgenre is the most extreme would be endless and revolve around subjective opinion, I'd make the claim that funeral doom should be one of the main contenders. The defining slow tempo of the style along with distorted vocals and lyrical themes embody the epitome of an anti-mainstream sentiment and therefore make for what one should consider "extreme."

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Album Review: FROWNING Extinct

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While the debate of what metal subgenre is the most extreme would be endless and revolve around subjective opinion, I'd make the claim that funeral doom should be one of the main contenders. The defining slow tempo of the style along with distorted vocals and lyrical themes embody the epitome of an anti-mainstream sentiment and therefore make for what one should consider "extreme."

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As I pin the term "extreme" on the funeral doom subgenre and thus Frowning as well, I find it important to also note that just because this music is nonconventional in nature, such a statement does not infer it lacks intelligence or nuance. In fact, I would say this very album, Extinct, is a perfect specimen of how funeral doom can be presented intellectually.

Taking a step back for the sake of context, Funeral Impressions, the debut Frowning record came out in 2014 as this follow-up continues the theme of lengthy and heavy dirges to delightful excess. It is also further captivating after understanding that this musical project is driven solo by the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist mastermind Val Atra Niteris. There are very few cases where metal acts are simply handled and executed by a single person and the majority of such fall into the black metal category. While I have my doubts that Frowning is the first doom one-man band, it is an impressive feat regardless.

The first piece, "Nocturnal Void," is excelled by the addition of guest vocals from Suffer Yourself's Stanislav Govorukha. Additionally, there is another vocal appearance by Hekjal from Ad Cinerem on "Encumbered by Vermin." Although the two previously mentioned songs contain quite compelling vocal deliveries, Val proves his throaty abilities on "Veiled in Fog," which are powerful enough to awaken the dead.

By this time in the record, I would assume the listener's mood and attention span has acclimated to ready themselves for a twenty minute long track. After an organ and choral intro, "Buried Deep" digs into the worm-infested soil of this subgenre and uncovers dissonant chord progressions followed by ambient interludes interspersed. Finally, their genius cover of Frédéric Chopin's "The Funeral March" concludes the LP. After some searches, I found the death metal group Sephiroth also covered the piece back in the 90's. While funeral doom is cold in nature, this rendition of the march felt triumphant. The extra layering of what I believe to be string and horn instrumentation reminded me of the evocative relationship between down-tuned guitars and wind instruments in Sunn O)))'s "Alice." Although, I must really advocate for one to consume this record from start to finish, this closing track is the personal highlight that I would suggest for anyone curious.

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Perhaps, it's blatant, but just to be clear, this isn't the record to press play on right after a cup of coffee. Extinct requires patience and open-mindedness. If one is in the right state of mind, this style of metal can come across as meditative and cathartic. This calming notion brings me to my conclusion in regards to this record, where I truly believe that Extinct is proof that funeral doom has the capacity to be extreme, yet also emotionally moving and intelligent.

Score: 8.5/10

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