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A Refreshing Take on Funeral Doom - 86%

Musical Warfare, August 23rd, 2012

It’s becoming more and more difficult to find good funeral doom bands these days. Obviously it’s a hard genre to do well, and the endless torrents of monotonous, uninspired efforts from band after band are a testament to that fact. But why is that? For one thing, when you’re writing music at such a dirge-like pace, you really have to make every note count. Composition, creativity and songwriting skills become pretty important if you’re going to hold the listeners interest for an album full of 10+ minute songs. Fortunately for us, there are bands like Faal out there that navigate the doom genre with ease. Hailing from The Netherlands, Faal blends some subtle black metal and post rock influences into a Disembowelment-like funeral doom / doom death framework, making sophomore effort The Clouds Are Burning well worth a listen.

The band’s numerous influences show up in places, such as the occasional burst of bright, post rockish tremolo picking, but Faal’s music remains firmly rooted in the doom genre. Like heavyweights Evoken and Esoteric, Faal alternates slow, massive riffing with softer, eerie clean guitar passages such as the one lurking midway through ‘The Incistance Wish’, and floating keyboards help to provide a melancholic touch. Most impressive for me was the band’s superb sense of melody - the rhythm guitars, searing lead work, vocal growls and keyboards all weave together seamlessly to create powerful riffs and harmonies, keeping each song fresh and exciting. The opener ‘My Body Glows Red’ is full of great melodic constructions, starting softly before blossoming into the song’s mournful, hymn-like opening riff. The latter half of the song then shifts back into slower and mellower territory, much of it driven by the lead guitar’s irresistible siren song.

Not only is Faal’s songwriting top-notch, but the riffs on ‘My Body Glows Red’ and the rest of The Clouds Are Burning shift surprisingly quickly for a funeral doom album, perhaps borrowing some of post rock’s more nebulous song structures. Whatever the reason, Faal manages for the most part to avoid the long, repetitive sections of ultra-slow riffing that can cause even the best doom albums to get boring. At times Faal resembles US doom band Morgion, as both bands take a strongly atmospheric approach to doom, employ a varied vocal assault and like to switch between heavy riffing and well-placed clean passages. Morgion’s last couple albums are doom standards for me and are hard to top, but actually Faal’s heavy use of keyboards tends to make their music sound even more majestic than Morgion’s at times.

The band’s label Ván Records has quickly become a favorite of mine after their rapid-fire assault of quality releases and reissues from bands like Nagelfar, The Ruins Of Beverast, Urfaust, and Verdunkeln, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that Faal is something special. Their sound doesn’t reach the bleak emotionlesness of Esoteric, the brutality of Disembowelment or the pure darkness of bands like Evoken and Ahab, but instead carves its own niche of rich, colorful and varied funeral doom. As much as I love all those bands, I’m excited by Faal’s melodic, atmospheric approach to the genre and I hope that more bands follow suit.

(Originally written for Musical Warfare)