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Let me start this off with a little bit of background information in terms of my perception and listening relationship with this group. I can safely admit that I am not a very big follower of Funeral or their underground legacy. I know of the band, as well as being familiar with sporadic bits of their material, but I don't know every album, every demo, every lineup change... I have just never cared enough about them to seek out that information. However, I was familiar with the demo release of 'To Mourn Is A Virtue' which came out back during the dark ages of 1997. I had liked what I heard then and, upon revisiting some of the material, I still like it today. I do know that since that release there have been significant lineup changes, there have been deaths within the band and I am somewhat aware that they've 'evolved' their sound.
With that having been said, I really want to know why the band felt the need to reach into their musical past, pull out this demo and say amongst themselves: "Hey, let's completely re-record this with the new members and newer sound, even though we've released 3 full length albums since it was originally recorded." It makes someone on the other side of the coin think that they had nothing better to do with their time than re-construct a demo that many had hailed as brilliant for it's time 14 years ago. It also doesn't make much sense for a band who is attempting to take their sound to the next level and somewhat distance themselves from their earlier roots would think this was a good conscious decision.
I suppose that the above statements will be enough of an opening stance, so that I may now tell you what to expect from this revisitation experience. The female vocals are almost completely gone (Except for a partial placement on the album's closing track) and replaced by two different vocalists for each half of the album. The first vocalist displays very average Gothic Doom style clean vocals, with fairly monotonous harmonized sections that sound a bit like a less talented Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth). The second vocalist is somewhat similar in style, as he too fits the gothic doom bill but has a much higher range that causes a bit of an earache as the album unfolds. The best thing about this album, to me, is the drumwork. Over time i've grown pretty used to straightforward and repetitive drum patterns in doom metal material, but that is not the case here. Not only does he show off a heavy array of different fills throughout the album, his rhythm patterns are pretty intricate as well and not a style you normally see within this genre.
One of the few things I really like is the piano work. The grand piano sounds used are magnificent, although they don't see a whole lot of time on the album, which I find unfortunate. Elsewhere, the guitar work on most of the album just screams mid-era My Dying Bride. The tones and chord progressions are the biggest culprits in terms of that accusation. Admittedly, though, these aren't terrible traits to have, as I do enjoy My Dying Bride's guitar sound. I merely expected more out of a band with the underground clout and reputation that Funeral has. One prominent issue I have is that while some bands can pull off having songs of a prolonged length, nearly all the tracks on this album just seem to drag along much more than necessary. Another thing to note is that the production, albeit crisp and clear, is lacking in terms of a noticeable bottom end and therefore comes off as sounding fairly thin during most of the songs. I also find a problem with parts of the mixing, as the drums can have a tendency to somewhat bury the guitars. From front to back, I have to say that i'm not a fan of the album. A main point could be argued that if the band had a better assortment of vocalists for this recording, it definately could've worked in their favor. Maybe my feelings would be different if it wasn't a band re-recording a release that I was already familiar with, but what's done is done.