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Black metal fans, are you feeling unsettled and ashamed to enjoy Burzum? Do Varg Vikernes’ far-right wing political beliefs complicate your enjoyment of his music? Are you sick and tired of burnt churches? Well, friends, your day has finally come! Funereal Presence, although they may not seem like it on the surface, is actually a one-man band project from New York State who only goes by the name Bestial Devotion. The music of Funereal Presence is extremely similar to Burzum, both in the overall composition of their songs and also the aspect that one musician performed every instrument on every song.
I won’t say that “The Archer Takes Aim” is anywhere close to as good as records like “Filosofem” or “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”, this album was much more enjoyable and entertaining than all of Burzum's music put together since Varg has been released from prison. The vocals are the most interesting touches provided by Bestial Devotion. He provides the expected screams and hisses you can expect with crypt-dwelling black metal like this. But for good parts of songs like the album’s title track and “Gestalt des Endes”, the vocals go off into a strange part-Egyptian, part-gypsy wails and vibrato chants. Despite being from New York, Funereal Presence borrows a lot of their sounds for this album from Norse, Balkan and Mediterranean music.
The church organs and the echoes of the shredding guitar add a very Transylvanian atmosphere to the music. The guitars definitely have that hypnotic layering effect going on in the instrumental track “Dämmerlicht” like the kind you can hear on a Burzum album. They almost have a surf rock inspired sound setup for these guitars. This album oddly enough sounds better coming out of low-grade speakers. I can’t help but think of early Mayhem, Dissection and Darkthrone albums when I hear some of these songs.
This album should be a no-brainer to Burzum fans except I would be surprised is Bestial Devotion was a murderer himself. Funereal Presence is a great derivative off of a sound that has been made taboo by the musicians that established its roots.
(originally published on Metal-Temple.com, 5-9-2014)
Funereal Presence is the solo project of New York native and Negative Plane drummer Bestial Devotion. He formed the project in 2007, but it wasn't until 2011 that the eponymously titled EP, Funereal Presence, was released by The Ajna Offensive. Returning in 2014 with his first full length album under this moniker, The Archer Takes Aim features four tracks of black metal, with more than a few hidden surprises.
Featuring several segments of solid black metal, The Archer Takes Aim unfortunately suffers from what I like to call “solo project-itis”. Solo project-itis is a debilitating disease that attacks many musicians who start a solo project. It directly affects the musician's cognitive ability, especially when pertaining to filtering out ideas that don't fit or just plain suck. Most of The Archer Takes Aim is solid, long winded black metal; featuring four tracks covering forty-eight minutes. I should note that the musicianship is top notch, especially the guitar riffing and drumming, but excellent instrumentation a good album doesn't make.
Let's get through the good stuff before we tackle the bothersome, the trite and the “what the fuck was that”. The music mixes fast paced drumming and trem picking with more epic structuring with ease. “Gestalt des Endes” shows this as the riffs shift from cyclical trem picking into lofty, progressive leads and a slowed down, more melodic style of picking. The time changes are natural, and not at all forced. Each track showcases the twisting and tumultuous aptitude of Funereal Presence's pacing black metal, but there are some offshoots that probably should have been left out. I mentioned the impressive guitar work, and certain sections of “The Tower Falls” and “The Archer Takes Aim” show off a nice blend of throwback power chord riffing with some trailing licks and scaled extrapolations that are actually quite entertaining.
When Funereal Presence builds into solid trudging black metal, Bestial Devotion goes and adds whatever artistic whimsy tickled his fancy at the time. Most of these come in the form of some type of jazzy guitar break or strangely placed organs. While the album starts off with a slightly modern sounding, jazzy guitar intro, I thought it was just an attention grabbing gimmick, but you'll find that softer style throughout this release, with almost post-rock leanings at times, even though the image is definitely not of the Deafhaven variety. It's strange, though, because the instrumental "Dämmerlicht" switches between these slower paces and rollicking black metal with ease, even showing of a noodly, ethereal lead towards the end. Funreal Presence was completely unable to make these slower sections and weird moments work in their favor. Perhaps the worst offender on the album is the addition of clean vocals. These aren't the haunting, melancholic Opeth kind or even the smooth baritone of Ulver, rather it's some type of strange crooning that sounds like a combination of alternative rock and some type of demented ringmaster announcing the next act at the sideshow.
The Archer Takes Aim is honestly a really good black metal album, but it suffers from Bestial Devotion's desire to put a lot of stuff into the mix that shouldn't be there. If all of those goofy ass jazzy segments and church organs and crooning vocals were left out, I could fully and one hundred percent get behind this. As it stands, with all that crap in there, this is a mediocre, at best release. There's a nice mix of rollicking black metal and slower, trudging paces, but Funeral Presence's whimsical, artsy fartsy shit just bothers the hell out of me.
Written for The Metal Observer.
I count myself lucky to have a year where a select few bands are translating the whole 'occult horror rock' fad in a more feverishly, darkly delightful black metal context. First there was that Hail Spirit Noir sophomore, and now the drummer of Negative Plane has put his own spin on the medium to craft one of the most riff attentive, atmospheric experiences I've had in months. I can't say I'm incredibly surprised, since a little of the 2006 record Et in Saecula Saeculorum bleeds into the sound here, with a lot of classic doom/heavy metal riffs circa anything from Mercyful Fate to Paul Chain being sewn into the compositions to contrast the more trad black metal elements, but I CAN say that I still fucking love it!
The Archer Takes Aim is but four tracks, three of which are over 12 minutes in duration, but so much happens within this space that it almost takes on the narrative aesthetic I felt when listening to the mighty Sabbat's opus The Dwelling. Rather than rambling on with a number of numbingly generic tremolo picked guitar patterns, Bestial Devotion entwines evil harmonies and resilient melodies against the support back beats and fuzzed out chords. Granted, there are some pretty unimaginative rhythm guitars here implemented over the 'charge' drums, but they're only bland until those brighter, eerie guitars splay themselves into the rafters of the album's dim shelter. Bass lines are groovy and mildly psychedelic, though the patterns don't often distinguish themselves far from the guitars. That said, the balance of Bestial's standard rasp and soaring, dreary cleaner vocals is brilliant, and the other keys and instruments used to emphasize the theatrical, black & white creepiness cast by the album are all tastefully executed and never detract from the metal instrumentation.
All riffs deliver on about a 9-to-1 ratio, with just a few monotonous or underwhelming chord sections marring the album's surface, but I was particularly enamored of the opener "The Tower Falls" with its cautiously woven melodies, and the instrumental "Dämmerlicht" which opens with atmospheric bells, clean and ringing guitars and then explodes into this amazing riff which sounds like Dark Thrones and Black Flags era Darkthrone jamming with fucking Voivod! How cool is that?! It's the shortest tune here at six-and-a-half-minutes, and yet it's possibly my favorite metal song this year despite the lack of vocals. "Gestalt des Endes." is likewise extremely strong, with a lot of thought and expression put into the note selection that easily separates it from the vast majority of bland black metal which crosses my digital doorstep every week in the slush pile. That's not to say Funereal Presence is strikingly original, all of the components have been present in black metal past, but The Archer Takes Aim is tangibly malevolent, lovingly crafted. A singular, shadowy vision of the obscure, easily recommended to fans of Negative Plane, Cultes des Ghouls, Head of the Demon, or Bethlehem's S.U.I.Z.I.D.