So, I remember a couple years ago when Black Funeral's Az-i-Dahak
album was the subject of a lot of discussion on these boards. Here
's what that album sounds like if you don't remember. It's sort of like Beherit-meets-Godflesh-meets-Profanatica: very drone-based and industrial-sounding (not like "industrial" the genre, but actual factory equipment), with an overwhelmingly ritualistic atmosphere. If you weren't around for that discussion, I would suggest looking into this CD. It's one of the more important post '96 black metal albums, and it only costs like four or five bucks online (mostly because not many people seem to understand it). The general consensus back then seemed to be that Az-i-Dahak
and Empire of Blood
were Black Funeral's two major albums of note, and the discussion eventually dissolved.
Since then, I've dug more deeply into the Black Funeral discography, and I enjoy a lot of what I've been hearing. Ordog
, the immediate successor to Az-i-Dahak
, goes "farther down the rabbit hole," to borrow a colloquialism. The electronic drums on this album are even more disconnected from the ideas of traditional rock/metal percussion, churning out repetitive beats that implode in on themselves in an orgy of clattering noises during each drone riff interchange. There's a lot of attention to detail in how
these drums sound, not just in what
they play. Lots of pitch-shifting and back-masking to make new noises that pull the rest of the music in unexpected and interesting directions. With that said, there's not really an emphasis on "novelty" or "gotcha" moments: it's more like Black Funeral is inventing it's own musical pattern language, and writing songs that are meticulously constructed to fall in line with the new musical rules he's written for himself. Tellingly, this album is generally held in contempt by the black metal scene at large, and a lot of people seem to consider it one of the worst black metal albums ever written. Probably why I like it so much.
The album following Ordog
in the Black Funeral chronology, Waters of Weeping
, is a bit more outwardly accessible, but still very far removed from nearly all other black metal. There's a lot of emphasis placed on low-end Demoncy-style drone here, but it's even more low-end and doomy than Joined in Darkness
. I don't even know if you can call it black metal most of the time; it's more like dark ambient being played with black metal instrumentation. Maybe if Beherit had picked up where Electric Doom Synthesis
left off with songs like "Ambush" and "Dead Inside" instead of where they ended up going with Engram
, it might have sounded like this album. The thing that this has over most dark ambient is that it actually goes somewhere
: Michael Ford's metalhead past keeps him honest, and so he writes pieces of music that take the listener on a journey rather than just evil-sounding background noise. The CD is a concept album dealing with an inverted version of the Kabbalah that reminds of the thinking behind Averse Sefira's band name.
I'm not all the way sold on the latest (2010) Black Funeral album, Vukolak
, but it certainly makes for interesting listening at the very least. It's a bit of a retrogression to more traditional black metal, but it retains a lot of the textural and compositional innovations that emerged on the three previous albums. I guess you could compare it to Engram
in that way. If you've heard Empire of Blood
, a lot of this album will seem familiar, and for the first time in a while, Ford uses real drums (or at least a very human-sounding drum machine), but there's enough of Ordog
in it to keep it fresh. Rather than being an immersion in a singular sonic concept like every Black Funeral album before it, this one feels more like a black metal equivalent of Brian Eno's Another Green World
or Aphex Twin's second Selected Ambient Works
album; it's a collection of short pieces, each being produced and written quite differently, like a series of photos or paintings viewed in sequence, with the primary focus being on inter-track variation while still keeping some semblance of unity as an album.
So, what do you all think about Black Funeral? Are you still enjoying Az-i-Dahak
? Have you gone farther into their back catalog, and if so, what did you think about it?