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Ceremony of Shadows - 97%

Tomb_of_Cunt, August 22nd, 2012

The first impression that I get when I listen to this album is that this band is very cold and distant. The title of this album (“Feeding the Abyss”) is very well complemented by the sound. It really feels like there is an abyss between you and the band – they stand at the one side of the abyss and the listener on the other side. You try to get through to them, but then you discover that they are distant shadows in the mist who are conjuring a kind of existential angst within your mind. In a certain sense the distance is broken off, because the listener can relate to this kind of existential aura. The first track also starts off with slow, grinding, low-tuned guitars that roll forth like a wave of darkness. Just before the vocals start, the screams of a woman can be heard in the background. This is quite unnerving and at the same time it arouses a kind of nosiness, because you wonder what is coming next. The vocals are filled with feelings of torture and misery. It is not the usual kind of low growling vocals that you usually hear from doom metal vocalists, but rather a raw, broken kind that almost sounds like something between a malfunctioning chainsaw and the filthy nails of a demon that are scraped against a wall.

In general this album has an aura that is filled with something that can be described as nocturnal neurosis. On every single track the guitars keep on with this slow-paced wave of darkness. This creates a constant climax of tension, because it feels like you should expect something very strange and inhuman to happen at anytime. You wait and wait, but all you hear is the far-away raw vocals and the wave that keeps on rolling in your direction. This is a great philosophical concept, as it reminds me of the avant-garde concept that is addressed in the genre of Theatre of the Absurd. In this genre the concept of a constant climax is also created within performance pieces – you are thrown into this kind of bottomless spiral that keeps on turning in a nihilistic circle. Something is happening or something is about to happen, but you cannot lay your finger on it. This kind of torture carries on until the third track where it sounds like some kind of ceremonial whipping taking place. The sad cries of a woman can be heard along with a church-organ playing in the background. This makes the album as a whole just a lot more unnerving and also creates so much more tension. You might find yourself asking “shit, is this really necessary?!” Yes, it is. Where would we be without honest art like this that digs into the darkest abyss of the human psyche?

The dark wave suddenly appears again out of nowhere – slow guitars grinding forth with neat drumming to serve as a supplement to this ceremonial kind of existential orgy. Occasionally the low guitar riffs are also altered with high-pitch tremolo riffs. The sound that is created here is kind of difficult to describe – the tremolo riffs are high-pitched, but still also kind of low. It is as if the high-pitched effect is devoured by this vehicle of slowness. What I also like about the vocals is the fact that some nice echoes are sometimes added. It really feels like the band is crying forth into an abyss in your head. The track titled “Black Orbit” adds to this feeling of an empty abyss or void in your head. This track is two minutes and sixteen seconds of weird sounds and chimes. It is almost as if your eyes are turned back so that you can literally look into your own head to witness the dark, empty space that is filled with trauma.

The last few tracks on the album serve as a kind of break from the first few tracks. It is as if you are suddenly swept away by an evil wind…just to be thrown down into the abyss itself where the vocals of “Gerdi Malli” is suddenly calling to a long-lost part of you that you didn’t know existed. The guitars now sound different. There are still some slow, low-tuned parts, but in general the band suddenly decided to switch to a different approach. This is quite refreshing, because the dark distant wave that kept on suffocating you in the distance was exciting, but the band now shows you that they can play quite a variety of stuff within their genre. On some parts the drumming also becomes faster and occasionally there are also some ringing effects with some of the guitar riffs. Some parts of “Gerdi Malli” sound as if there is some kind of influence of Eastern music; the pagan influences are very obvious.

The album ends with a live-version of the second track (“Church of TFO – Nocturnal Lust”). At first this live track sounded a bit dull to me, but when I listened to it again it suddenly sounded much better. It complements the godforsaken, dark atmosphere of the whole album. The band sounds good live and the vocals maintain that raw effect.

In my opinion The Funral Orchestra is one of the lesser-known and also one of the very best funeral doom bands out there.