With very little advanced warning, Swedish black metal outfit Funeral Mist released their long-awaited third album Hekatomb this past Friday (June 15). For those who may not know, Funeral Mist is the long-running (they released their first demo back in ’95) project of Arioch, who has also been handling vocal duties for Marduk under the name Mortuus since 2004. It’s been nine years since Maranatha, Funeral Mist’s last full-length, and understandably there’s already been a lot of buzz and other assorted chatter about this album in the metal blogosphere. So much so, in fact, that it didn’t quite seem right for us to only have one writer review it – so instead, we’ve gathered an international dream team to take Hekatomb on triple-threat style.
But first, here are your participants. In alphabetical order:
- Aaron Dexter Bray (Australia) – the main man at Black Metal Daily and soon-to-be regular guest columnist here at the Vault
- Nigel Holloway (UK) – the dude behind Wonderbox Metal and author/co-author of IMV’s ‘Short Sharp Shock’ and ‘Behind the Vault’ columns
- Clayton T. Michaels (‘Merca) – Senior Editor here at IMV
Clayton: Okay, let me start things off here with a question: can we agree that Mortuus–or Arioch, as he calls himself in Funeral Mist–is being wasted in Marduk? It’s not like there’s anything particularly wrong with the Marduk albums he’s appeared on. In fact, his tenure with the band has resulted in arguably the most consistent string of albums in the band’s nearly 30-year history (though I haven’t had a chance to hear Viktoria yet, so that streak may well end when the new album drops). But I don’t think I was even halfway through Hekatomb’s opening track “In Nomine Domini” before I was like ‘damn…why the hell is he spending so much time doing the Marduk thing? I want more of this instead.’
Nigel: Although I see where you’re coming from, I do very much like me some Marduk. Is he wasted? I like to think that we’re getting more out of him, as I get the impression that even if he were to do nothing else but Funeral Mist, we would still have these huge gaps of time between releases.
Aaron: Totally feel you on this C. I’m also quite partial to some ‘Duk, but without delving too far into comparisons I like everything I’m hearing here more than the preview tracks for Viktoria. Just listen to his vocal performance – holy shit. Sounds like he might be having a better time here, more creatively invested and it’s showing, perhaps? Or maybe I’m imagining it. Either way I’d definitely be up for more of this, but hey, I’d say you’re right N and you’ll hear no complaints from me that we get both.
C: That’s it exactly – he sounds like he’s more invested.. And why wouldn’t he be? If I’m not mistaken, he doesn’t do much of the songwriting in Marduk. I think he has two solo credits on Rom 5:12 and that’s it.
Just out of curiosity, when did you two jump on with Funeral Mist? Was it before or after he joined Marduk?
N: My first experience with Funeral Mist came when Salvation was released waaaay back in 2003. When Arioch joined Marduk for 2004’s Plague Angel I was surprised, but not at all displeased. I know that Funeral Mist has released another album since Salvation (2009’s Maranatha), but I haven’t heard it. So this is the first new Funeral Mist I’ve heard in 15 years. It’s different, but in a very good way. I think Hekatomb effortlessly combines the directness of Marduk’s second wave black metal with a more atypical and creative avant-garde sensibility. In many ways I’d argue that there are more inventive and imaginative flourishes spread out across these 43 minutes than many ostensibly similar bands manage in a career. Agree? Disagree?
C: And I’m the exact opposite – I loved Maranatha, but haven’t heard Salvation. Aside from that, though, I agree with what you’re saying. Even though I said previously that Marduk has been really consistent in the Mortuus era, it’s difficult to argue that they aren’t also playing it a bit safe. You pretty much know what you’re getting with a new Marduk album before you ever hit play. Hekatomb has some serious WTF moments on it, and they all seem to work. I’ve seen quite a few people bitch about the so-called breakdown in “In Nomine Domini,” but it works with the song. Just like the ambient dropout section in “Cockatrice” works as well. And how about “Metamorphosis” being written in ¾ time? When’s the last time you heard a black metal waltz?
A: Dude, black metal waltzes are the shiiiit. Lovely to hear someone else call it that. It always tickles me when I hear ¾ in black metal. As for my history with Funeral Mist: I still have my banged up and well played copy of Salvation, while Marantha was also incredible. Love how the project has progressed, unfolding and becoming a little more fearless with every release. So I totally agree. For me he’s hit on the perfect blend of captivating avant-garde delights and unbridled second wave fury.
N: That last sentence of yours wonderfully encapsulates this release for me.
A: Cheers, I probably stole that line from one of Clayton’s reviews.
C: Hahahaha – ‘unbridled second-wave fury’ certainly sounds like something I’d say. And I totally agree with Nigel. if anyone wants a one sentence pull quote from this, it should be that sentence.
N: The only real downside of the album for me? The annoying child’s voice in “Pallor Mortis.” Ugh. A blight on an otherwise fantastic release.
C: I’ve seen a few other people mention this, but it didn’t bother me. Funeral Mist’s music is so dramatic anyway that it didn’t stand out to me one way or the other.
A: I actually dug it. After seeing people complain I was expecting something like “Børnehjem,” the closing track of Myrkur’s effort from last year, but thankfully it was nothing of the sort (yikes). I like it. The kid is losing it. Works well in context for me.
N: Yeah, “Børnehjem” was definitely an odd choice to end an album with. Why do bands do this? Also, to digress slightly, there seem to be a surprising amount of bands that think a crying child is a good sample to include somewhere on their album, too. Thankfully Arioch doesn’t go that far, but why on earth would you think that’s a good artistic choice for your band to make? Who wants to listen to that? Ha! I’m a grumpy old bastard sometimes. Basically I think it’s more down to my personal tastes – I cringe whenever I hear a child’s voice in a metal song and can’t possibly understand why anyone would want to hear it.
A: I get you. I’m like that with crying in general unless it’s absolutely top shelf DSBM, and even that’s a stretch. If that kid had cried, I’d be out.
C: It is kind of a cheap move: ‘Okay, we need to add some feels here…how about a crying kid? Everyone’s moved somehow by a crying kid, right?’
So we may as well tackle the challenging part of this review now – the ‘recommended if you like’ section. How would you begin to describe Hekatomb to someone unfamiliar with Funeral Mist?
N: Funeral Mist very much sounds like Funeral Mist, but if pushed on how to describe Hekatomb’s sound in simplistic soundbyte-friendly terms, I’d go for a mix of Marduk, Mayhem, and Deathspell Omega. Not completely accurate, of course, but a good starting point I feel. What about you guys?
C: You aren’t the first person I’ve seen make the DsO comparison, but I don’t know that I hear it. There does seem to be a similar sort of aggressive melodicism to Hekatomb as what Marduk has been up to lately. His chord voicings do also remind me quite a bit of the way Euronymous played. That being said, there’s something about the way Arioch/Mortuus wrote the riffs on this album that makes me feel like they only adhere to whatever sense of rhythm exists in his own head. Like…pay attention to some of the turnarounds in his chord progressions. I don’t know how half of them don’t totally fall apart. Dude’s on his own musical wavelength for sure.
A: Hmm. Definitely Marduk, yes; maybe not the DsO bit exactly but I get where everyone’s coming from with it. For some reason while listening to Hekatomb I was weirdly hearing Marduk mixing with something like Urarv, that brand of reckless experimentalism. So much in fact I was imagining Aldrahn popping in for some guest vox, which I reckon would be off the chain. Just imagine their styles bouncing off each other! Also yeah, his guitar work is utterly mental.
N: Definitely only a loose comparison, and I think the link to Deathspell Omega is more spiritual and mood-based I suppose. Well, that and the fact that Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice was released not too long after Salvation came out and I spent a lot of time listening to both of them, so they naturally appear in my mind when thinking of Funeral Mist.
A: Anyone have a favourite track yet? Early days, but I’m getting good replay value out of “Cockatrice” at the moment. Love what that little interlude does for the dynamics and I’m a huge sucker for that type of eerie, otherworldly synth.
N: I like the one with the blast beats…
A: That’s my second favourite! I will say though, the more I listen the more I’m struck by how consistent an album it is. Really engages the entire way through with no noticeable dips in quality, although I shouldn’t really be too surprised at that I guess.
N: Entirely agree. It’s a ridiculously strong album. As for favourite tracks, it’s hard to say. It’s the kind of release that I’d be more than happy to have any song pop up on a playlist and really enjoy it, (yes, even “Pallor Mortis”).
C: I’m with you on “Cockatrice.” The guitars at the beginning are just insane, and the synth accents are perfect. “Shedding Skin” is up there for me, too – that winding main riff is incredible, and the parts where the drums drop out and he basically tremolo-picks his way around a Phrygian scale for fifteen seconds? Fuuuuuck…
N: Yep, “Shedding Skin” is a definite highlight.
A: Ooh yeah. That reaches down and twists at something deep inside. Spectacular track.
C: Anything else we want to add here, or are we ready to give this one some final grades? I have to give it an A. It’s basically as flawless as album can get.
A: Backed. An A from me. The hype is real, well worth the wait.
N: Absolutely and A. Top work from Arioch.
Hekatomb is now available from Norma Evangelium Diaboli Records.