Thursday, 24 October 2013

Funeral Circle - Funeral Circle (2013) | 89%

Tony's notes: The awesome cover art was made by Martin Hanford (no, no, not the one who did “Where's Wally?”), he's known for his covers for Bal-Sagoth, Slough Feg, Orange Goblin...

I'm willingly stepping into their circle ---> O

Finally, doom metal has made its place in Canada. 2013 marked the release of three important albums for the scene, Cauchemar's excellent debut “Tenebrario, Cromlech's “Ave Mortis” and Funeral Circle's self titled. This triptych of excellent releases marked a new uprising for the genre in my native land. Blood Ceremony also released their third full length but it's their usual “vintage occult flute” stuff, hence nothing quite extraordinary but they're still an important part of the scene.

Their “Sinister Sacrilege” EP released in 2010 was very impressive and was well received by the doom community. Followed in 2011 by split (one original song and a Witchfinder General cover) with the mighty Lord Vicar but this full length is their first release since then. I believe the band had a lot of lineup issues and it's the still the case. The singer on this album has left the band and has been replaced, it's basically the project of Pilgrim (Matthew Barzegar) now, I'm excited that he's moving to Montréal as I'm sure there's some gigs planned up, well I do hope so!

Compared to the fast heavy/doom approach of the frenchies of Cauchemar, Funeral Circle is pretty damn slow and takes its time to build up songs. They play a style that borrows from both the epic doom scene and the traditional doom one. It might be said that these two camps are quite incestuous these days and it would be right. Indeed, bands like Atlantean Kodex or While Heaven Wept successfully mixed a shitload of influences together and while these Canadians do it more subtly, the mix of genres is still done perfectly.

Even if the provenance of these doom agents is diverse, from Germany to the United Kingdom and now Canada, they're all evolving under the same banner, the banner of excellent glorious and soulful metal. As brothers in arms, they're exploring the writings of Howard, Lovecraft, Moorcock, Tolkien but also the dark and romantic ancient history of our own twisted world. While Funeral Circle's lyrical and thematic side is pretty well developed and interesting, they're not yet as great as the full fledged clerical side of Atlantean Kodex who wrote the most interesting lyrics of the decade on “The White Goddess”. Always a pleasure to lyrics that are connected to your interests nonetheless!

In the style of Reverend Bizarre's debut or WHW's “Sorrow of the Angels”, they play on atmospheres and while it's not as emotionally draining as the early works of Tom Phillips (who got happy after “Of Empires Forlorn” apparently), it's still pretty heavy on the grandiose. It doesn't feel epic accidentally as they have this knack for slow, heavy dirges like “The Charnel God” which is superbly decorated with keys and profound leads. There's more guitar leads here than in your usual doom bands and you can almost feel the early Opeth influence here and there as I know for a fact the composer of the band is a fan. It's especially obvious in that nine minutes tracks. There's this mournful and classical sonority reminding me of an album like “Morningrise”, certainly a good thing in my book.

It doesn't try to be emotional like 40 Watt Sun or epic like DoomSword, they just play an instinctive style that accurately fits some of these descriptions. Admittedly, it's not as heavy or crushing like The Gates of Slumber (R.I.P. Brothers), it's exploring a softer, ethereal sound and it's a well done trek. There is this sweet interlude track “Tempus Edax Rerum” that explores acoustic and mythological realms. The production also compliments the songwriting, it's airy and minimalistic and gives the rightful place to the riffs to grow, like the grass grows in these desolate Roman ruins all over Europe.

Their EP had somewhat the same style their full length has but with a lacklustre production, It wasn't as lush and precise. There's a true progression both in the songwriting and the musicianship. There's no songs like “Sinister Sacrilege”, this was a fast, four minutes song with a Pentagramish attitude. It would had been cool to get one or two hard hitting tracks but it wouldn't had been helpful to the cohesion of the album. There's no need for forced diversity when the sound of the album doesn't ask for it. The doom I like the most isn't a collection of songs but rather a complete experience

A facet of their sound that is putting up there with the best bands of the genre is definitely their vocals, I hope Adrian Miles sounds as good as Jeremy Hannigan. He has a clear sense of melody and his delivery is very enjoyable such as in “Amaranthine (Wandering Dreamer)” with its catchy chorus. The vocals are often calm and soothing, reminding me of Solstice but deeper and obviously not with that sexy British accent even if we're still in the Commonwealth. It's mixing the deep, poetic vocals of Albert Witchfinder with a softer side and this is completely winner.

Alongside the Bostonians of Magic Circle, we were able to step into two mystical and occult worlds this year, both albums are the first offerings of these promising North American doom priests, keep your eyes and your hearts wide open.

By the shadow of the Ross Bay cemetery, it's not blasphemous to assert the greatness of the funeral circle. Let's pray to the gods of old that this album is not an once in a lifetime deal. I'm not afraid, the band is in good hands with Pilgrim who's the main composer and their new label Shadow Kingdom. Mandatory.

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