Sunday, August 3, 2014

Funereal Presence - The Archer Takes Aim [2014]

Though the underground force of black metal has stayed truer to its humble origins than some of its more mainstream forebears such as Enslaved, Borknagar or Blut Aus Nord, (not to demean those bands, mind you) the genre at large has still witnessed and fell under the spell of some dark, delicate and subcutaneous transformation, wherein bands like the excellent, opaque Negative Plane have emerged as forerunners. Despite the myriad bands popping out of the woodwork, it can be very difficult to come across an album like ''Stained Glass Revelations'', a record whose finesse in antiquity and shamanistic black metal witchery was so vivid and entrancing that it possibly set a new course for the genre to run on. That aside, though great black metal has had no shortage, it is perhaps natural for us to expect similar craftsmanship to emerge from side projects involving Negative Plane's members, rather than a new formation entirely. Hence, enter Funereal Presence.

The big picture in ''The Archer Takes Aim'' is a deliciously darkly, lugubrious mix of traditional black metal and spidery psychedelia redolent of Negative Plane. The small picture: you're basically fucked. Really, there is little to dislike about this record. We're talking merely 4 tunes here, so naturally some comparison to funeral doom bands is inevitable, but Funereal Presence crams so much sophistication and opalescent, opulent beauty into the tracks that it's difficult to turn down any one of them. All told, the band borrows its main traits from Negative Plane, but the avid black metal listener will here bits of Venom, Rotting Christ, Celtic Frost, early primal Teutonic black/thrash a la Sodom and Kreator, and even tidbits of the Swedish obscures Head of the Demon who probably put out the greatest single doom record of 2012. That aside, there's no formulaic simplicity in describing what these guys really sound like. The opener, and my personal favorite, ''The Tower Falls'' is this terrific, apocalyptic track which not only heightens the album to its apotheosis of dynamics but also manages to insert more varied material into the first 6 minutes alone than entire albums can manage in 40-plus minutes. The texture is pallid and dark, yet you'd be surprised to hear that there's more breathing space than any average black metal record, giving the guitars a diaphanous yet accessible tone, and the guitars divide within themselves into grittier chord progressions not unheard of by any listener of extreme metal, and cavernous, echoing melodies that reek of 60's psychedelia - material enough to make you sit upright and hark with attention.

Of course, the vocals, complement of Bestial, do not fail to acclimatize to the instruments. His rasps are controlled, but haunting nonetheless as shrill accompaniments to the witchery of the guitars, but what I really loved about the vocal propensity of the record was the inclusion of almost heavenly clean vocals that jump on arbitrarily, my favorite being, once more, the chorus of the excellent ''The Tower Falls''. ''The Archer Takes Aim'' is not multitudinous in its sophistication, nor is it a classic, a milestone in 21st century grimness, but it's such a great, original piece that I found myself spinning more than expected, and it certainly creates a mesmerizing contrast to the banality of the majority of outfits in the same field. You could take it as a third offering by the cult Negative Plane, but, again, the material here sticks out on its own making it an enduring piece that would comfort you during many a moody winter night. The one big gripe I could hold against the record is that during 12-16 minute monoliths, the amount of riffing, no matter how entangling the atmosphere, lacked some continuity: some truncation would have been preferred. Nonetheless, ''The Archer Takes Aim'' still proves to be a highly apt contestant. Many a shaft shall be loosed.

The Tower Falls
Gestalt Des Endes

Rating: 85%

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