• John Van de Mergel

Albums | Funeral, Praesentialis in Aeternum


Het najaar: donker, grijs, kil, nat! Het ideale weer om doommetalplaten te beluisteren én beleven. Waarom niet eens funeral doom? Van ... het Noorse Funeral natuurlijk. Gewoon even de albumcover bekijken en je weet meteen waar het naartoe gaat. Een sfeertje waar ik enorm van hou en helemaal niet neerslachtig van wordt, integendeel.


Praesentialis in Aeternum is een hele brok, laat me dit meteen duidelijk stellen. De basisuitgave klokt al op méér dan vijfenvijftig minuten verdeeld over zes nummers. De 'deluxe edition' lapt daar nog eens een dik halfuur bij. Niet zomaar tien nummers in totaal, nope, het zijn stuk voor stuk kleine 'musicals' die elk bulken van tempowissels (nu ja, tempo ...), rijk zijn aan orkestratie en een veelheid aan sferen weergeven.


Over het algemeen heeft Funeral hiermee een prachtig album afgeleverd dat mij grotendeels kan boeien. Ik verzin er meteen allerlei (filmische) taferelen bij die zich voornamelijk afspelen in de wereld van Vikingen: van hun dagelijkse beslommeringen over hun rituelen tot hun meest heroïsche veroveringen en veldslagen. Sindre Nedland (zang) 'vertelt' alles op zo'n gepassioneerde manier dat ik meestal bij de les blijf en mijn fantasie de vrije loop kan laten. Of hij nu als een folkzanger klinkt of als een demon, de man weet een verhaal te brengen.


Er zijn weliswaar van die momenten die me de wenkbrauwen doen fronsen. Wanneer de statige en plechtige bombast net iets te veel neigt naar potsierlijke gewichtigdoenerij, alsof Rammstein (jawel, die bedoel ik écht) op zondagmorgen in één of andere kerk de eucharistie aan het vieren is. Vooral bij Oppvåkning en Dvelen rol ik toch wel regelmatig met de ogen, al hebben die nummers dan ook wel weer ronduit schitterende passages.


De bonustracks zijn in deze geen vullertjes, maar een erg straffe aanvulling. Het uiterst donkere Vekst en het instrumentale pianostuk Shades from these wounds zijn straffe uitblinkers. De Candlemass cover Samarithan is misschien wel de vreemde eend in de bijt: het enige Engelstalig gezongen nummer klinkt net omwille van de taal niet op haar plaats.

Nog even dit: ik ben helemaal geen kenner van funeral doom en hoor Funeral ook voor het eerst. Het is alvast een interessante kennismaking, wat nu zeker niet wil zeggen dat ik het me in het genre ga vastbijten.

Releasedatum: 10 december 2021


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Melancholy. Pain. Loss. Solitude. Those had been just some of doom metal main themes ever since bleak pouring rain and the sound of church bell in the distance gave birth to the genre on BLACK SABBATH self-eponymous debut over five decades ago. But how many musicians have actually been bearing in their very flesh those gut-wrenching feelings?


Anders Eek – FUNERAL’s founding member, drummer and undisputable leader since 1991 – doesn’t particularly see it as a badge of honour, but he’d be the first to admit that somehow, the “death and loss we had to go through over the years were extremely painful yet inspiring, as a musician and as a human being.” And indeed, ever since their very first rehearsal in a basement in their hometown of Drammen, just outside of Oslo, Funeral had been ridden with problems and tragedy. Originally inspired by CATHEDRAL and CANDLEMASS, they very quickly set out to create the most depressing and slowest form of doom/death possible at a time when their home country was being hailed as the birthplace of black metal. They went through several labels over the years, only to see them bust soon afterwards. Plagued by recurrent line-up problems, they even lost two of their key members Einar André Fredriksen (bass) and Christian Loos (guitar) in 2003 and 2006, respectively, to suicide and overdose.


But somehow, Eek never surrendered, but instead overcame all those obstacles by releasing over the years a slab of classics, each with its own, distinct personality, from the utter misery of the delicate yet none-so-extreme 1995 debut album ‘Tragedies’ to the more melodic and accessible 2001 gothic/doom masterpiece ‘In Fields Of Pestilent Grief’ or 2012 symphonic masterpiece ‘Oratorium’. Still, after the band most recent performance in Antwerpen on February 3, 2018, “life got in the way” as Anders puts it. “Some of us had kids, others moved out. Even I had quite a lot of things going on in my personal life and, at least for a while, maybe less drive to keep on carrying on the weight of the band on my shoulders. I never stopped writing music though because it’s something I’ve always done anyway. But there were less things happening you know. During that nine-year gap, I could have written ten albums but I only wrote two ah!”


The beast did sleep less than two years though as the following year singer Sindre Nedland, who had joined FUNERAL for ‘Oratorium’, “woke up from his slumber and told me he was ready to focus music again. I had the whole music demoed and ready, so it quickly snowballed from there.” For the first time ever, not only are the lyrics fully in Norwegian but they were also written by an outside collaborator, a “personal friend” of Anders who happens to be a psychologist. “He’s both a close friend and a fan of the band. So, he knows exactly how I roll and what the band is all about. I knew he was writing on the side so one day about five years ago, I asked him as a joke almost ‘hey, why don’t you write lyrics for my band instead?’ and within five months, he did! His lyrics are more or less his take on philosopher Emmanuel Kant’s work. Initially, I thought about maybe translating them to English, but it would have meant redoing them so in the end, we choose to keep them as they were. The booklet will include a little text explaining what they’re all about for those who don’t speak Norwegian.”


Musically, Anders describes ‘Praesentialis in Aeternum’ (something along the line of “here eternally”) as a “natural progression. I know we have some fans who are only into the first albums and those who discovered us in the early 00’s but this new opus has a little bit of everything for everybody. The symphonic elements are far more bombastic yet much well more done, thanks to the evolution of technology since ‘Oratorium’. It’s in a way a mixture of our three last albums yet our most diverse work yet, with both quite concise and very epic pieces. As a matter of fact, we recorded something like ten songs but vowed to choose only the six best to get the best album possible.” Among them you’ll find one originally written during their third album |From These Sounds’ session, one co-written with former founding member Thomas Angell (who left in 2000) and, in the deluxe version, a CANDLEMASS (‘Samarithan’) cover version originally recorded back in 2005 with their then singer Frode Forsmo, thus linking ‘Praesentialis in Aeternum’ with the band’s past history. Also guesting on ‘Ånd,’ the first single off the record, is Lars Nedland, Sindre’s own brother of BORKNAGAR and SOLEFALD fame. It’s also the first album for their new partner, Season of Mist.


Since the album was completed, the now septet has welcomed for the first time ever a full-time violin player “to perform live most of the strings you can hear on our albums as soon as we’ll be able to go back on stage.” In the meantime, Anders confesses the next album is more or less “finished. ‘Praesentialis’ could have been released earlier if we hadn’t to face all those COVIDrelated problems. We couldn’t meet in person, let alone rehearse or even just take promo pictures… But now we have a new label, a new line-up and a totally renewed sense of energy so why stop there? FUNERAL started thirty years ago be truth be told, it’s never been stronger. So, doom on!”