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Black Funeral

Black Funeral
September 26, 2011, 03:44:45 AM
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?

Re: Black Funeral
September 26, 2011, 04:44:33 AM
I am a HUGE fan of Az-I-Dahak and Vukolak.  I finally bought Az-I-Dahak on vinyl and I listen to it all the time, its one of my most played albums.  Vukolak is IMO the best Black Funeral album, but all of their works are interesting and enjoyable.  I have actually not listened to Ordog, but you have sparked my interest with bringing it up.

Re: Black Funeral
September 26, 2011, 11:32:47 PM
Nice post. Really interesting band, I've only heard about half of their albums but I've enjoyed them all. Taps into a bestial magic similar to Beherit and, weirdly, old Morbid Angel. Certainly not in aesthetics, but in the weird, disorienting composition and in the earnest, and in my opinion rather successful, attempt to capture the ancient and otherworldly with a technologically advanced soundset. Though I think this last point can be made about a lot of excellent metal releases.

This is probably well known by now but the vocalist and I'm guessing primary composer has written a pretty substantial number of books on magick, mostly of the infernal kind. I've read a few of them, and while they are complete nonsense, they are rather compelling nonsense, with their litanies of arcane names and esoteric rituals. Kind of has the same appeal of pulp fantasy lit where the narrator/crazed magician in the jungle intones for several paragraphs a list ancient gods and warriors and, although we realize that this list is strictly meaningless, it really draws the reader deeper into fictional world. The utter meaningless of such passages and the subsequent urge to fill this gap with fantasy is probably what makes this technique so effective. Back on track, Black Funeral's music, and a lot of metal really, tap into this tendency of the mind. I think it in part is made more powerful by the artist's belief in the reality of the world he portrays. The power of delusion in the creative process is, I think, underestimated.

Re: Black Funeral
October 07, 2011, 05:02:14 AM
Their first album, Vampyr - Throne of the Beast is great too, Empire of Blood is mostly just re-recordings of it with somewhat higher tempo and more over-the-top vocals. I prefer the originals, being the closest thing to Les Legions Noires that I've ever heard.

Thanks for pointing out Vukolak, this one sounds very much like Belkètre(whereas VTotB sounds primarily like Vlad Tepes and early Mütiilation).
A peculiar observation upon seeking for Black Funeral on Youtube: the first drop-down suggestion is 'black funeral services', for black people by black people - entering 'white funeral services' provides no counterpart.

Re: Black Funeral
October 07, 2011, 02:35:13 PM
I'm in the apparent minority for preferring Empire Of Blood then. Vampyr's recording is cool but EOB's production, atmosphere, and performance are much more vitriolic and scathing. It's as if the members of Black Funeral were so dissatisfied with Vampyr that they decided to play everything fiercer just to emphasize that album's power.

Moon of Characith is interesting for a bit; but is far too monotonous. Ambient as a genre is supposed to be monotonous, and as with all BF recordings the atmosphere is incredible (the one place where this band truly shines every time is their skill in creating atmosphere), but ultimately the repetition and use of similar sounds becomes tiresome.

I would like Az-I-Dahak more if not for the horrid guitar tone. Everything else is excellent; composition, theme, mood, execution - but that tone still irks the shit out of me.

Vukolak I've listened to about 4-5 times so far since I got it. I need to revisit it again as I haven't listened to it in a few months. From what I remember, it was quite good; sounded like Belketre (as Leperchaun pointed out) mixed with Beherit and with touches of Burzum.

Re: Black Funeral
October 23, 2011, 09:25:05 PM
I'm in the apparent minority for preferring Empire Of Blood then. Vampyr's recording is cool but EOB's production, atmosphere, and performance are much more vitriolic and scathing. It's as if the members of Black Funeral were so dissatisfied with Vampyr that they decided to play everything fiercer just to emphasize that album's power.

Moon of Characith is interesting for a bit; but is far too monotonous. Ambient as a genre is supposed to be monotonous, and as with all BF recordings the atmosphere is incredible (the one place where this band truly shines every time is their skill in creating atmosphere), but ultimately the repetition and use of similar sounds becomes tiresome.

I would like Az-I-Dahak more if not for the horrid guitar tone. Everything else is excellent; composition, theme, mood, execution - but that tone still irks the shit out of me.

Vukolak I've listened to about 4-5 times so far since I got it. I need to revisit it again as I haven't listened to it in a few months. From what I remember, it was quite good; sounded like Belketre (as Leperchaun pointed out) mixed with Beherit and with touches of Burzum.

Empire of Blood is very much a winning album in that both this album and its predecessor are EXTREMELY AMBITIOUS recordings as far as song writing ans structure is concerned, or at least that's how I feel. I rarely hear that type of honesty when it comes to Black Metal, in that there is almost no "fat" in those albums, musically speaking. I'm of the opinion that it's a tried and tested forumla that's withstood the test of time. I still return to that albums looking for elemental examples of well written Black Metal after hearing a playlist of newer garbage.

The later Black Funeral material I have heard of apparently takes an artistic chance in trying to do something different but still valid. This thread has sparked my interest in it. So thank you to the OP.  I will listen immediately to Az-I-Dahak, as I am excited now and hoping for the best.