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Album Review: Funeral Fornication – The Lamentation

A lot can change in five years; some artists like to stay consistent in their sound, while others prefer experimentation and growth. Regardless of the musician’s preference, it’s difficult for anyone to be exposed to different music and not feel the temptation to deviate from their original sound, even if the change is a subtle one. Five years after it’s last full-length, Canadian black metal solo project Funeral Fornication has released The Lamentation, a shining example of how artists go through stylistic evolutions. It’s apparent that, for better or for worse, the sole member Vultyrous has decided to take a more mellow approach to his usual flavor of black metal.

Funeral Fornication has always been heavy on the synthetic sounds, as most solo projects tend to be out of necessity. However, this time around, they take a more direct role in the soundscape created on the album. This is largely due to the relaxation of the guitar and especially the vocals; the raw DSBM feel has been traded in for a calm, post-metal vibe that, to my surprise, never actually goes away. I was anticipating at least one aggressively agonizing track, but it appears that Vultyrous has shifted in favor of the poignantly depressing style, rather than the scattered and desperate sound previously utilized. The drumming as well is much more noticeable on The Lamentation, and helps to keep the songs soothing and much more centered. The drum programming can be a bit too obvious and robotic, such as on the opening track “In Exile” as well as “Lunacy Aurora”, but it sounds nice elsewhere.

I could be wrong, but I don’t recall hearing clean vocals on a Funeral Fornication release before. If this type of singing were to appear on, say, the 2011 album Pandemic Transgression, it would be frustratingly out of place. But because every aspect has made a significantly calmer progression, the cleans are able to blend right into the overall sound. While the actual singing is a nice touch that definitely contributes to the dreamy post-black atmosphere, it’s not the only vocal style used. Although, much to my disappointment, the bitter and tortured black metal vocals heard on previous releases are much weaker when they do appear on The Lamentation. Black metal elements can be heard nearly everywhere on this album, but that’s really what they’ve been reduced to: elements. I’m not going to dwell on the exact classification of this release, but it’s certainly a far cry from what Funeral Fornication used to sound like. It feels as if the music is more a poetic reflection on negative emotion, rather than an exercise in self-loathing. This is fine, of course, but many of the songs tend to swing into a lull that slows down the album and makes the songs fairly boring at times. “Lunacy Aurora” is the closest thing to a return to form, but it still holds that soft touch to it.

Style aside, Funeral Fornication has always had a knack for melancholic melodies that sound like they belong in old video games. Maybe that’s not the most understandable comparison, but I liken the project to Japanese avant-garde black metal band Sigh in that sense. There are very satisfying and well orchestrated melodies that subtly tug at your heartstrings, which is something that I’ve experienced in a lot of early RPGs and even platformer games. It might be interesting to note that, intentionally or not, the song “The Weeping Tree” (at 3:25) from Solitude and Suicide actually borrows from the Super Mario World castle theme (at 2:23). Once again, these elements are less present than on The Lamentation they have been before, but there are some very pleasing tunes to be heard. In addition to feeling strangely nostalgic, the songs also feel cold, in the same way that black metal traditionally does. The atmosphere is kept distant and apathetic, and somehow, humbling.

The artwork had me all buckled up for another descent into misanthropy and self-hatred, but The Lamentation turned out to be quite a step forward for this project. I’d like to avoid calling it more mature, but it really feels like Vultyrous decided to take a step back and try something more refined. The execution was flawed and this release holds a lot less revisiting value than it’s predecessors, but the focus on ambiance and progressive elements makes for an interesting listen nevertheless.

The Lamentation is now available through the Funeral Fornication Bandcamp page.

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