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Fungoid Stream > Celaenus Fragments > Reviews > Noktorn
Fungoid Stream - Celaenus Fragments

Completely perplexing and otherworldly - 89%

Noktorn, March 23rd, 2010

Fungoid Stream uses all the basic elements of modern funeral doom: slow, droning guitar riffs supported by winding lead guitar passages, some clean guitar sections breaking up the more metallic parts, omnipresent synths used as an accent during the metal and taking on a more dominant role in the ambient stretches, breathy, ultra-low growls for vocals- you know how it goes. However, I don't think I've heard any of those elements used in this particular manner. There's a sort of abstract weirdness in the compositions that this Argentinian twosome that puts them in the left field of the already rather far from center area that is funeral doom, and it's easy to see why 'Celaenus Fragments' strikes so many first time listeners. Now, I can't say it's quite the unstoppable tour de force some have made it out to be, but it's certainly in at least funeral doom's second string and is a worthwhile listen for anyone with even marginal interest in the genre. If nothing else, it's a fascinating little oddity in the funeral doom scene.

Not a lot of this makes sense, but it doesn't make sense in an undeniably compelling way. Just about any of the elements on this record can be randomly selected and displayed to be very odd. The vocals are sparse; sparser than most funeral doom. They're also delivered in a breathy death growl, but it has a more roaring and anguished quality than you typically hear from a scene dedicated to replicating the exact timbre of Skepticism at very turn from the throat. Then there's the guitars; there's riffs... kind of, but they're not emphasized very heavily and the electric rhythm guitars are by far the furthest item back in the production to the point where you barely pay attention to them. The winding lead guitar is more important, which isn't too odd by funeral doom standards, but the really strange thing is that clean guitars seem to be by far the most crucial and emphasized melodic voice on this disc, even above and beyond the minimalist (but admittedly excellent and varied) synthwork. Yes, there's certainly something strange afoot here.

Then there's the completely perplexing MIDI drums, clearly programmed by someone with no idea of how drums are actually composed. This isn't too odd in bands that employ drum machines, but there's an almost staunch dedication to the completely bizarre rhythms used for the majority of this release. Yes, occasionally one of funeral doom's typical slow rock beats is employed, but there's nothing in the way of double bass, and instead of crafting stuff that sounds like a real drummer could conceivably make it, sole instrumentalist Joseph C. prefers to employ very strange, winding, linear drum patterns, heavy on the toms and cymbals with snare and bass drum a total afterthought, like a more amateurish and impulsive Skepticism. In this manner, the drums are employed almost like the lead guitars, and even more surprisingly, it seems like along with the clean guitars, the drums are a leading voice on the record. I mean, the first few desolate minutes of 'The Book' really say it all; I've never heard a band throw together such great stuff using fairly basic acoustic melodies and such an undeniably bizarre sense of rhythm in programming.

I suppose the melodic sense of this release is the really captivating thing. It's not really sorrowful in a typical funeral doom way; it portrays a sort of inexorable, unquantifiable cosmic mysticism, and the grief you hear in the music seems to come from the inability of humans to understand the workings of the cosmos more than the 'oh I'm going to die how can I deal with that' 6th grade realizations of most funeral doom. The lead guitars, clean guitars, and synths all seem to form a certain tandem with each other, trading off voices and melodic ideas left and right, with single melodic ideas running in a straight line through the songs to keep the listener's attention. The music has an incredibly watery, ethereal feel, as though all the tracks are just minute fragments of 'real' songs which are aeons long. It's powerful stuff, if somewhat hard to take.

Like most funeral doom, this is primarily concerned with atmosphere, and the album does have that in spades, though the precise atmosphere at hand would be somewhat difficult to describe. Fungoid Stream is heavily influenced by H.P. Lovecraft (apparently), but they take it in a rather different direction from most metal or even most funeral doom bands out there. Instead of the churning, Cthulhu-driven horror that most aspire to replicate, it seems that Fungoid Stream is trying to replicate the basic sense of the cosmos in Lovecraft's work and create music that the Great Old Ones would chant out over the course of a thousand eternities. In this regard, the bizarre, seemingly otherworldly nature of the music and the construction of that music is a boon to the overall sense of the album; I'm not sure this would be nearly as good if it adhered to more 'normal' songwriting conventions, but as it is, the completely strange and alien way these songs are written contributes hugely to the effect of the album on the listener.

This is not as immediately listenable as Skepticism or as massively powerful as Thergothon, but I don't think Fungoid Stream is trying to be either of those things. It seems the band tried from the beginning to establish and distribute a very peculiar and very particular atmosphere, and, it seems, they succeeded massively. While 'Celaenus Fragments' is not the best album in funeral doom, it's most certainly in the upper echelons of the genre, and if nothing else, there's absolutely nothing like it elsewhere in funeral doom or even music that I've heard. It's absolutely worth a listen, and though I can't guarantee you'll be as struck by it as I am, it makes great date conversation when a cute girl asks you what sort of music you like. Have an Ipod with this ready. You'll get some looks.