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We're living in an ever-changing world where at least one thing seems to stay same year after year; Swedish Runemagick delivers a new death/doom metal album once in a while. After the excellent album Darkness Death Doom this album feels a bit of a disappointment; it sounds nearly identical to DDD after the first listen. Couple listens more and I was hooked by the atmosphere and guitarist/vocalist Nicklas Rudolfsson's recognizable riffs that really made me feel I was riding on funeral wings.
I find it amazing how Runemagick's sound evolves on every album and becomes all the time better. The music is most of the time really slow, atmospheric and quite catchy but sometimes the tempo is increased even though you don't hear blastbeats on this album. One of the best tracks on this album is 'In a Darkened Tomb' that really blew me away.
Rudolfsson, the female bassist Emma Karlsson (nowadays Rudolfsson, Nicklases wife) and drummer Daniel Moilanen can really make surprisingly organic sound at least compared today’s metal bands. Rudolfsson also uses classic metal sounds from the early 70s that also make really unique atmosphere on this album. The production fits quite well on the album even though drums could sound more powerful. Also Rudolfsson's vocals are quite weak and they sometimes drown under the other instruments. Those are just minor flaws and don't really hurt the album.
The album luckily doesn't repeat itself too much and the second last track 'Black Star Abyss' is really atmospheric instrumental that is spiced with piano and flutes. The song has Middle-Eastern feel and it reminds me of Nile's similar sounding massive instrumentals where the brutality is replaced with beasts that lurk in the darkness.
As a conclusion I must say that Runemagick really surpassed all the expectations. If you are into death/doom metal fan and don't like this album, then there's something wrong in YOU not on this album.
Darkness Death Doom ended with the sound of a microphone falling to the floor. Although this is a tiny detail, it was a moment of self-assertion from Runemagick, reminding you that the boiling wave of death and doom that had enveloped you was entirely manmade.
A year later, the dangerous hum of Nicklas Rudolfsson's lone guitar fills the silence, with the first track 'Monolithic Death' being the first of the album's trilogy of instrumentals. 'Monolithic Death' blithely displays the minimal composition needed for this opening track, and throughout, the album has a spontaneous, immediate feel, as if very little thought was needed for each track. This may explain the prolific nature of Runemagick at this time, as well as why their music is so compelling - it is completely unprocessed, unshackled, a naked beast in all its striking visceral reality. Amongst this Lavey-like self-worship, the cathedral choir is definitely ironic featured on the opening track is definitely ironic.
On Funeral Wings came shortly after the forceful Darkness Death Doom, and was the second album officially created by the incarnation of Runemagick as a vile death/ doom band rather than a gloomy death metal band. The music of Runemagick still takes the form of hulking, disease-ridden doom that lumbers along with enough pace to make the howling guitar riffs entirely vicious, and occasionally accelerating further into explosions of devastating death metal. 'Emperor of the Underworld' and 'The Doomsday Scythe' are particular examples of where Runemagick turn entirely to riff-based metal, ditching all semblance of atmosphere for pure desolate rage. The mood of Runemagick never had been, and never would be one of sorrow or mourning. As slow as they go, they are still all about the arcane, the intimidating and the fearsome.
The album took a step back from DDD in terms of eclecticism, and the band took a narrower focus. Where the previous album had a looser range of influence (while still being a tight and, frankly, slightly better record), OFW only incorporates a few sparse Middle Eastern melodies in the guitars, the mighty 'Dragon of Doom' being one of the more subtle examples, while the eight and a half minute instrumental 'Black Star Abyss' revolves around conspicuously Oriental arrangements.
Nicklas' voice is as horrific as ever, the same grotesque bark he had adopted over the previous few years; slightly more moist and higher-register than the deeper growl of the band's earliest three albums. On 'Ocean Demon' he experiments with transitioning between standard grunts and black metal retches. His guitarplay dominates the record more than in the past, and he would continue to take the helm in redefining the band's sound in the future. Here, morose and bleak doom leads and repetitive, crushing riffs are the focal point. Emma Rudolfsson is as reliable a presence on bass as ever, but along with drummer Mojjo Moilanen she is part of a less driving rhythm section, as compared to Moon of the Chaos Eclipse or even Requiem of the Apocalypse.
Very few bands I have encountered are so firmly rooted in death/ doom, yet stubbornly refuse to even approach wistful melody or some sort of romantic theme. Even Mourning Beloveth get a little mournful now and again, but On Funeral Wings shows no such vulnerability. One apt comparison is the more recent Hooded Menace, although it is maintaining this atmosphere of dread over sorrow over a 19-year, ten-album career that marks Runemagick as a persistent and powerful force in the genre, as underground as they undoubtedly are. Darkness Death Doom is probably their best album, however this is the unquestioned follow-up purchase, as On Funeral Wings begins to illustrate the band's journey toward even more swampy and immersive waters with epics such as Envenom.