Metal since 1998 has produced a whole lot of favorites that seem to be forgotten six months later. Funeral Mist Maranatha is going to be the latest, although for the next 96 hours people will tell me I’m wrong, stupid, primitive and dumb for thinking that.
While the hype on this album is hot, let me say that it’s the latest to be overhyped and then forgotten, because unlike foundational black metal — what the Scandinavians did with the genre in the early 1990s — this has no organizing principle. It’s a number of imitations of successful things from the past thrown in together, which means it has no spine, no soul and no purpose.
In other words, it’s the musical equivalent of buying a cheap Mazda and putting ground effects, a spoiler, and a phat stereo into it — you can’t polish a turd enough to make it stop stinking. It’s no different than what Dimmu Borgir did when they started making carnival music for those with no attention span. Stuff happens, and then something completely different happens, and nothing ties it together, so after five minutes they add a final-sounding riff and it’s a “song.” During that “song,” it throws in every “different” cliche it can, and tries to be as “diverse” as possible, because there’s no plan — no organization to hold the song together and make it, like all good art, convey something of poetic importance — so the goal is to distract you for five minutes that, if you put your brain hold, you might consider “enjoying music,” later. That abuse of categorical thinking occurs here but in kvlty vndergrovnd extremity, which means that instead of trying to make music to please you, it makes music to remind you how ugly life is.
This anti-hero aesthetic worked when Jim Morrison did it because he used it as a springboard for something else: “Hey, I thought I’d mention… your society’s falling apart… and I’m here to celebrate the apocalypse, until you figure it out.” But people never did. Funeral Mist and their ilk, who are basically Britney Spears styled pop dressed up in distortion and ugliness, use being an anti-hero as a justification. We hate life… life is ugly… we accept you even though you’re ugly… come be ugly with us, because all we care about is that you buy the album… — a ten buck meth whore attitude.
The music, which some have compared to Marduk ROM 5:12, is like the fecal playtime of stupid children. There’s an introduction to every song, usually a riff that gets heard again played at twice the speed. Then there’s a melodic hooky riff. Then there’s an updated Pantera riff, in that the drums fall into cadence but the guitar plays that muted strum off-beat speed metal riff style but starts it on the beat, so it doesn’t sound quite as bouncy — I think they hope it’s grim. Then more carnival music, where phrases wander all over the place with urgency that people hope makes them seem important, then get grim again for some two-chord blasting so you know This is Serious Ugly Art.
Predictably, the album borrows from every black metal band that ever made it big, from most speed metal bands that made it big, and even capitalizes on dumb death metal cliches. Could this thing fucking suck any more? Well — you can always go lower, like meth whores who don’t mind your big dumb friend with AIDS joining in — but for a band of this stature and potential, it’s hard to imagine how people this intelligent can screw up so badly.
We — as metal fans — should just admit that we want to separate the men from the boys. Metal is mostly failure, with a few peaks when smart people got together and made good music, like the NWOBHM or early black metal or the death metal burst of the late 1980s. The rest of the time, it’s kiddie music for simple people who refuse to or cannot mature and face the grim realities of life and yet make something great of them, which is the purpose of art. Do we need songs telling us life is ugly? No, because that’s a half-truth. We need songs telling us life is both ugly and beautiful, but that we can make a new kind of beauty by using the ugly to make the greater beauty out of the fact that in life, we get choices, and if we fucking face reality, we can reign supreme in beauty — even if it is beauty, like metal, made from ugly things like distorted chords and clowns being sodomized noises.
Funeral Mist Maranatha is kiddie music. It hasn’t grown the balls to have something to say, so it apes the past and throws it all into one big distracting ball of fail so hopefully its audience won’t notice for the two weeks they listen to anything before, like bratty kids with cheesy toys, they “get tired of it.” This is not metal for grown men and women. There is a way to hold on to your youth, but it’s in the spirit that continues to view the world as a playground in which you can make beauty. Funeral Mist instead merge the worst of kiddie brats and disillusioned, embittered old men who make excuses for failed lives and want to drag everyone down into their misery. “Life is ugly,” growls the ancient failure. “So you had no choice but to fail, to not grow up, and to be a brat your whole life.”
Nu-black metal like this latest from Funeral Mist gets a lot of hype because everyone has hopes for it. Stupid kids who will be listening to hip hop in six months hope to socialize by buying things. People who failed at life and so work in the record industry so they can justify having a shitty apartment, a sub-par salary, and a spiritual weather forecast of CONTINUED FAILURE have hopes this album will make them seem hip and get them some cash. Bands like Funeral Mist, who aped better bands and seem to have no ideas of their own, are hoping this will keep them afloat for another year or so, after which point it’s back to being hipsters selling novelty releases in record stores.
But these hopes are based on lies, and so this latest favorite will be a hype vortex for another week, and then be forgotten, because it has no eternal childlike soul mated to a warlike adult vision which creates the poetic beauty which made black metal worth noticing in a sea of distracting, pointless, disposable kiddie music.