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The very idea of a black metal/sludge mix gets me excited. The awesome guitar tone of sludge, mixed with the nightmarish atmosphere and fast tempos of black metal? Sign me up! It's for these reasons that I was excited to listen to Funeral Dirge for The Rotting Sun. Sadly, what I heard when I finally did listen to it was a mediocre mix of black metal, death metal, with just a smidgen of sludge.
First, the positives. The production, while unsuited for a pure black metal release, works perfectly for the menagerie of genres on display here. The guitars are thick and meaty, the drums clear and crisp, the bass virtually nonexistent (as is the norm for these genres), and the vocals loud but not overpowering. It's definitely more sludge than black/death metal sounding, but it works great here.
As for other positives, well, they are pretty few and far between. The actual opener (after a typically useless instrumental opener), "Vengeance of Demonic Fury" is everything I hoped this album would be: Vicious, sludgy, with good riffs and some nice tempo changes, and some good vocals. A definite highlight. Sadly, it's the lone song I enjoy listening to all the way through.
The rest of the songs here are pretty much substandard blackened death metal, with some half-assed slow, sludgy bits thrown in, usually completely disrupting the flow of the song in progress. This is most obvious on "Chanting Bells of Funeral Anguish", which is almost a truly awesome fast, thrashing song, but is basically ruined thanks to a pointless slow middle, featuring some abysmal clean vocals. These clean vocal pop up quite a bit, and are awful, attempting to sound...I dunno, heartbroken? Lost? I dunno, but what I do know is that they sound terrible and out of place. The harsh vocals alternate between a decent rasp and a super generic death growl. The guitars are more death than black, with a few half-hearted tremolo picked riffs thrown in here and there. The lyrics are typical black metal, not really standing out in anyway. That's a real problem with the album - as a whole, it just feels faceless and generic.
I really, really, wanted to like this album. Sadly, terrible clean vocals, uninspired guitar work, bad song construction, and a heavy focus on generic death metal basically ruin what could've been a great black metal album. There is definitely some bright spots among the wreckage here, but it's not worth buying the album just to find them.