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Formed in Norway, circa 1991, Funeral have been creating and pioneering the Funeral Doom genre for over fifteen years. Being held upon such praises like “the most depressing band in the world", Funeral cretainly have accomplished that and more during their career, and this album, 2002s’ In Fields of Pestilent Grief, is no exception, because depressing is the word for this band. How else can you put it? The ominously slow, gritty guitars, the occasional creeping keyboard appearances, the dilatory, dense sound of drums, and last piece of the puzzle, Hanne Hukkelberg, on vocals.
And I must say, one of the most awe-inspiring singers in Metal has to come from this her, from Hanne. Operatic, pure, haunting female vocalization is the key element here, because it conterparts with most of the music heard, and it adds a very eclectic twist on Funerals’ third release. However, In Fields of Pestilent Grief is strange because of the almost exclusive use of female clean vocals, with almost no death growls (except for the ninth track, Vile are the Pains), which is common in Funeral Doom. But while she is amazing, there is also one other who makes an appearance, Øystein Rustad, on the aforementioned track Vile are the Pains. Accommodating only to him, he primarily incorporates the death grunt along with harmonic singing on the track.
In contrast to the beautiful execution of vocals, we have two guitarists. Gritty, sludgy, and abrasive, besides acoustic nods in numbers such as The Repentant, along with clean tones as those such as The Stings I Carry, among others, make this one half of the ‘Metal’ side to Funerals’ music. Solos are also present, and while not being as fast or long-and-drawn-out as others, certainly have enough technicality and an overall flow with their respective songs to bowl me over. Melodies are persistent on the album too, Truly a Suffering, Vile are the Pains, and When Light Will Dawn are all perfect examples of In Fields of Pestilent Grief’s melancholic yet catchy an memorable melodies that Funeral uses.
Drums and percussion have a very dense sound, as mentioned before. Reverberation is not completely left out, yet there is no explosions heard for minutes after the stick hits the drum, rather, the drums have a certain meeting point between the two effects. But this works to Funerals’ advantage, and complements the music played by other instruments. The drummer himself, Andres Eek, is very balanced when playing. Not one drum overrides another in terms of plays; in other words, he doesn’t overplay anything, or one standard beat. He usually follows the guitarists’ lead, adding many various fills and patterns, and while not being blastbeating or having 8/16th notes, or being very technical; but his style is absolutely necessary; any other way would’ve been dangerous and confusing, and I applaud him for recognizing it.
Being very slow and very gloomy can be a disaster for many, but Funeral certainly has enough songwriting abilities to keep their fifty-four minute album interesting. Because of Funerals’ capabilities of incorporating instruments not widely used in Metal, here we have pianos (In Fields of Pestilent Grief), symphonic pieces weaved in (The Strings I Carry), samples (Epilogue), among others, all having unconvential, yet astounding effects that could only improve Funerals’ third outing. But having these elements does not bring down In Fields of Pestilent Grief’s heaviness. Infact, on some songs the band have a very heavy approach, as in What Could Have Been or Facing Failure, focusing more on palm muting grittiness to get their point across. All these excellent combinations of musical ideology create a massive atmosphere to In Fields of Pestilent Grief.
The only cons I can think of for this album are the little amount of repetitiveness and drawling of the songs; however, these negative views neither amount to much and are very picky. That is to say, I do not think just anyone will enjoy this, as you will have to be rather fond of Doom Metal, and expect nothing of any mainstream music of any sort. Yet this is a truly beautiful experience that any passing fan of Metal should look into, as it will most likely appeal to even the most depressed and sad person on the face of the Earth.
Originally written for Sputnikmusic.com