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I have to say that Funeral is one of those bands that always finds ways to impress me. Although my favorite album by them will always be Tragedies, they have still been able to really catch my attention in one way or another on each album. One factor that keeps me so drawn to their music is how no two of their albums sound the same, and yet there is a similar trademark atmosphere that the band incorporates into that sound. The band started playing Cathedral-inspired funeral doom on Tristesse and Tragedies, and eventually evolved into gloomy melodic doom from In Fields of Pestilent Grief onward. The band continued to incorporate more atmospheric elements into their music, from operatic female vocals and weeping guitar melodies, to Gregorian chants and symphonies. On their most recent release, Funeral transcends both their extreme and melodic styles of doom metal, creating a sound that is beautiful, yet downright heartbreaking.
Ultimately, some could see that Funeral has returned to their roots with this album. A majority of the riffs in Oratorium are played in the same crushingly slow pace that made Funeral one of the innovators of funeral doom in the early 90s. When the music picks up the pace a little, the riffs may bring to mind the aggressive, yet emotional, death/doom style that Anathema mastered on their Crestfallen EP and Serenades album. The band also incorporates the aforementioned symphonies to compliment the melancholic guitar melodies, which causes the music to sound particularly majestic, perhaps even Medieval. Another element that adds to the majestic and epic atmosphere of this album is the vocal performance of Sindre Nedland. I have always loved Funeral's choices in vocalists, and to me, Sindre should be held in the same high regards as Toril Snyen and Frode Forsmo for their performances on Tragedies and From These Wounds. However, what differentiates Sindre from these two past singers is that while they sang in a more subtle style that was meant to sound monotonous and Stoic, Sindre's voice is grandiose with emotion. He sounds truly dejected as he sings of heartache and yearning for the unattainable. He is also very versatile, ranging from an operatic tenor style and some angelic choral singing, to some harsh vocals on a few tracks, and even some dark chants that will remind many of Anders Eek's sinister vocal performance on Tristesse. Tying the slow and emotional ensemble together are the drums, which are about as technical as any typical doom metal band. Although the music is slow, they never plod or stick to a certain beat for too long.
In all honesty, I was a little disappointed by As the Light Does the Shadow. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the album, there were even some pretty killer tracks. However, to me, it simply didn't match the brilliance that made me fall in love with Funeral's music. So, I see Oratorium as being the ultimate comeback for the band. Every thing that once made the band great (the monolithic riffs, the tragic melodies, the magnificent vocals, etc.) and even more is present on this album. Since the album itself combines various different styles of doom metal, I could see Oratorium being held in particularly high regards by those who enjoy the funeral doom stylings of Shape of Despair, the emotional gothic/doom of The Foreshadowing, and even the majestic epic doom of Isole. The album is also sure to be enjoyed by those who have tastes for dramatic doom in general, especially Virgin Black, Omit, Ras Algethi, Fallen, Remembrance, Pantheist, and Colosseum. The standout tracks are Burning with Regret, Break Me, and Will You Have Me?