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Through the Norwegian death looking glass - 90%

blackthrash84, February 19th, 2009

This may not be the place one might expect to find some incredibly well-constructed, innovative and quite memorable death metal - from some early 90s Norwegian band's demo material - but truth be told, it's all here.

Obviously this band has attracted much more attention since than it could have in its short and cathartic lifespan due to many of the members' later projects. But really the only way in which these recordings relate to the later work of the players' is as an early - primordial even - document of the scene they helped create.

I, for one, am not a Norse-core nut. The ridiculous image corpse-painted of that whole scene by the media has long since been demystified for me and a lot of the music just doesn't present too much integrity to me. That said I will always appreciate much of the wonderful contributions many of those bands made to the black metal genre (ie. Burzum, Mayhem, Emperor (kinda) etc.). However, I'm not about to worship just anything that comes from there, in fact I can't really even call myself an Immortal fan.

But as I already mentioned none of this really has anything to do with the fact that this particular act was once a mighty, if unrecognized force in early 90s death metal. It's actually mind-blowing how unique and un-contrived most of the stuff here is. But anyways, seeing as this is just a bunch of demos it makes the most sense just to break it down song by song.

Alright, first off we have the sinister opening of 'Abduction of Limbs'. Will the commanding evil power of that opening riff ever go away? Not likely. Man, that REVERB! That is probably the only riff that makes me want to club someone with a tombstone. Quite bizarre, though, the riff has this totally undefinable quality to it. It just doesn't fully lend itself to black metal but it is not standard death fare either. Almost signifies the dawning of a new era of death metal, the 90s, where riffs are no longer solely thrash-based. Also reminds me a lot of Incantation, the Americans who got their start around the same time. They pop up later on too... This tune immediately accelerates into some truly grim blasting with blackened barking. Still something doesn't sound right and I'm forced to call this death, very advanced death for its time really.

Next up these guys proceed to raise the bar with the humorously titled 'Annoying Individual'. This is probably a song inspired by all the assholes one sees in a day out and about. This one really makes me feel righteous on an uncomfortably packed subway. It's hard to restrain myself at about the 50 second mark when, coming straight out of some more grim blasting, these guys launch into the catchiest trio of riffs in a death metal song. DAMN! Then comes 'Skin and Bones' which keeps up the blasting tempo and has some rocking mid sections too. That's right, these guys ROCK as well as blast, and a lot more too! 'Skin and Bones' finishes off their 1990 demo on a good note.

And then, a total curveball. Is that death growling? Down-tuned guitar? Is this the same fucking band? Hell yeah. Here's where you really get a dose of just how talented and heavy these fuckers are. I'm not sure how many bands were actually playing this type of sludgy, heavy as fuck death metal in '91 but I find it hard to believe anyone was doing it quite like these guys. 'Haunted' has some great doomy overtones but the show-stopper in this set for me has always been 'Incantation'. I told you they'd be back! I really can't compare these guys to anybody else who was around at the time. They're similarly technical, blasty and still pure fuckin' death. But this tune just takes the cake... and inhales it. I'm not sure whether or not Old Funeral had heard Incantation at the time they wrote this number but it would make more than a fine tribute and, had it been written a couple years earlier, would have been fitting inspiration for the American death gods.

I think the band fully comes into their own with the following track, 'Devoured Carcass'. This is truly original and crushing. Cool swinging rhythms. Death growls and blasts. Great riffing all around.

Track seven shows a slight depletion in sound quality, which is strange as it was recorded after the previous tracks. But just as some of the clarity and most of the reverb of the first demo disappear on tracks 4 though 6, this number is a little muddier than the last. But it is no real detriment. This one was recorded the same year and with the same line-up as the last three and does its part to uphold the songwriting quality of the preceding tracks, its just a little less crushing and a bit meandering.

One thing I should mention that I find curious is how seemingly counter-intuitively this band developed over the years. As I stated there is the unexplained descent in production which occurs quite linearly with through chronology. This could just be a testament to how costly it is to be involved in a musical act that never makes it. But then there is the unprecedented progression in their sound.

The first three songs represent a very unique and well-defined niche that borders black and death metal, while clearly inspired by what was going on in the American scene at that time. The following four tracks present a refined and original but completely different and more focused death metal sound. The remainder of the tracks (save the live rendition of 'Devoured Carcass') show another complete change of direction.

I don't really know what to label these songs as other than lethargic black metal or even blackened gothic-metal. They are all kind of repetitive and basically take the polar opposite approach from the "never play the same time signature two bars in a row", frantic, blast beat laden down-tuned death metal of the previous demos. I am personally not really blown away by these tracks, but I happily listen to them to hear the live track at the end and they're palatable enough for me not to immediately turn off the CD. 'Into Hades' is the heaviest of these tracks and a bit more black metal than the rest of the set while 'My Tyrant Grace' is based around quite a solid and memorable riff. Truth be told the latter is quite catchy and powerful.

I get the feeling that by this point in their career the scene in Norway was growing a bit more rapidly and its influence was being felt greatly as it came more and more into the limelight. Perhaps Old Funeral felt they should be making music associated more closely with their culture at the time.

Whatever way you look at it there is some really inventive early death here and much more concentrated effort and memorable content than one might expect to find on a collection of demos. I’m quite positive that anyone into American death metal from this period - such as Morbid Angel, Incantation, Death, Massacre, etc. - will be pleasantly surprised to pick this up.


90´s Norway in another aspect - 86%

Algiz88, February 26th, 2007

Old Funeral. Such a kvlt band. Many likes this band just because of the different line-up´s. The thing is that there is some very competent death metal to be found on this album. The riffs are technical without going to extremes and without loosing the listener. Allthrough the album there is a strong sense of catchiness and this is without becoming soft or over-melodic. Also the tempo is changed often enough to keep things fresh. To me the album sounds it best in the mid-paced parts where the "groove", in search for a better word, catches me. The faster parts sounds ok as well but it gets old very fast as the ideas for the fast songs seems to be weaker than the slow ones. The vocals are average and sounds more black metal than death metal. This is the only real weakness with the album. The vocals aren´t nearly as good as the music would need them to be but to me it works good enough for this recording.
The overall feeling is that this album was recorded by people who did not know what they wanted to do with their talents. As well all know they went on to form successful bands within black metal. This might have been a good steppingstone to take their own bands to the next level.

To finish up i would like to say: don´t buy this album because of the well-known members it held. Buy this album if you are interested in some solid early norse death metal that is both brutal and catchy. "Devoured Carcass" and "Abduction of Limbs" are both very competent death metal. Some of the other songs feels...not so neccesary to the album,

Not black metal! - 84%

Minion, December 31st, 2003

It may say black metal under genre, but the majority of this is, in fact, death metal. It kind of alternates from song to song, mainly in vocal performance but also quite a bit in the riffs department as well. It's decent, whatever it is, and even though these are demos, they still have remarkable sound quality. The production values on here sound the same as on Human by Death. The musicianship is superb, particularly Abbath's bass. Remember the bass on Psychotic Dreams? Well, infuse that with death metal carnage and you pretty much get this. Granted, it's not the most difficult stuff to play, but that kind of minimalism is all too common in death and black metal and it is of no concern. Furthermore, there are some really good riffs on here. They remind heavily of Obituary and early Death, with a bit of Venom thrown in for good luck.

The songs are pretty standard death metal, but it's played very well. There's some nice creativity going on, so that you never can really predict what the next riff will lead to. There are a lot of influences in the song and they connect really nicely. I was surprised to find death and black metal enwebbed in such a way. If you can imagine Venom meets Obituary, you know what this sounds like.

Highlights? Oh fuck yeah, tons. Actually, everything is a highlight, except for tracks 7, 8, and 9, which don't really do anything for me. Forced To Be Lost has some really nice drums, though I can't say much for the vocals. And dig that gurgling scream in Abduction of Limbs. That's good stuff right there.

Okay, so this is pretty much the most underground thing in existence, and I had a job even finding it on Soulseek. But I was glad I did. Old Funeral mix death and black metal like no other.

This proves it... - 89%

DeathsColdEmbrace, December 22nd, 2003

This album proves that all of those over-the-top extremely tr00 and br00tal death metal bands can be bested by a band with horrible production and constant lineup changes. And this is just an amalgam of demos!
I don't know what it is about Old Funeral, but these songs just work. The riffs are killer, the drums are entertaining, and the vocals are chilling. Since these are demos, the production is that of black metal, and there are some obvious instrumental flubs and glitches in recording, but that just adds to the raw aggression this album offers.
The drums are extremely simplistic (the song Forced to be Lost gets my award for best drum fills ever...) but they just fit with everything so well, I wouldn't change anything about them. The riffs are brilliantly written, and I think it's this reason that I like Old Funeral so much. The tone is relatively thick for an old release, but it's as raw as Norwegian black metal. You can't exacly hear a bass, but it doesn't matter because if it was changed it probably would screw everything up. The vocals (some of which done by Abbath, one of the gods of metal) are, to be derivative, "raw and uncompromising." And they fit perfectly.
Some of the drawbacks are that the first half of tracks are alot better than the second half (with the notable exception of My Tyrant Grace) . That's not saying that the second half is crap, it just pales in comparison. Also, even though the lineup changed three times on one "album," the song structure and style doesn't change one bit. It's not bad, but it makes the album seem to drag a bit towards the end. Regardless, this album is essential to anyone who wants to brush up on the roots of black or death metal.