Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Liquescent Horror - A Funeral for Things Undying (2009) 60/100.

Funeral doom, both past and present, suffers from a sheer lack of quality in its ranks. Unrest between fans has reached monumental levels as bands seem content at providing the same sound that was created many moons ago by the likes of Thergothon. Whilst it’s fair to say other sub-genres of metal also boast good and bad sides to their scenes, funeral doom comprises almost entirely of shoddy musicians who believe artistry comes in the form of overly indulgent, tediously long songs with two chords repeated again and again over the top of some extremely deep growls. Although the American twosome of The Liquescent Horror can be accused of providing typically low growls, this is one funeral doom band who do at least attempt something out of the ordinary by excluding standard elements of the sub-genre from the funerary procession and relying almost entirely keyboard based anthems. Marching towards the grave with our dying body and spirit in tow, The Liquescent Horror conjure up one of the most bleak sounds through simplicity that I have heard in a while. Though this is the case, the album does still feel very average. The fact that it manages to make ordinary aspects feel extraordinary is either unrivalled genius, or a sham. At this moment in time, I’m stuck on the fence and unable to distinguish which road this album deservers to take -- the bleak road towards negativity, or the glorious path towards positive enlightenment.

Whilst any listener should expect this of a sub-genre such as funeral doom, the more extreme the levels of bleakness are, the better. This debut full-length, unimaginatively entitled ‘A Funeral for Things Undying’ has come four years after the twosome first introduced themselves to the scene with their debut demo, ‘So Unravels This Mortal Coil’. Although I haven’t heard that particular demo as of yet, I do imagine that the length of time between the demo and the full-length are due to the fact that this piece is so out of the ordinary. For the most part, it excludes the use of drums and heavy percussion, something which funeral doom often relies heavily on. The band don’t appear to use a bass instrument either. So, there we have it, two components of metal music are missing from this debut full-length and, with that in mind, it would be easy to imagine that this piece would contain even more simplicity and a sheer lack of variation, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. Perhaps this is due to the scarcity of things like the guitars, rather than the bands innovation? It’s certainly plausible. The atmospherics don’t tend to evolve too much from the standards set in the opening song. They’re content to remain slow moving, like a lazy Sunday afternoon and given the nature of the record -- the fact that its meant to portray a slow death -- the languid textures of both the guitars and keyboards seem apt. Even the vocals are portrayed painfully slowly.

In actual fact, from the moment go, the Arizona based band are fairly experimental and far reaching. Although the use of keyboards on a funeral doom metal album is hardly inventive, the way in which the band use keyboards in such a way makes them inventive and a primary focus of the listener. As songs like ‘The Soul In Extremis’ indicate, the band don’t use keyboards to provide lowly ambiance in between the mammoth guitars, the keyboards actually place the ambiance as a higher priority than the guitars. Not only do the keyboards provide haunting ambiance, but they also provide piano passages which remind me of old gothic novels, or haunted Victorian houses on the cobbled streets of places like London. In between the darkest passages provided by the keyboards the guitars do exist, once again show confidently on ‘The Soul In Extremis’. The guitars are rather unimpressive and repetitious on occasions, but due to their infrequency on the album, they appear to add variation when in fact distorted, down tuned guitars are actually incredibly normal on a funeral doom album. The keyboards are probably the saving grace, but when you consider how little material there actually is to analyse, it isn’t a surprise that the keyboards become the quintessential element of this mellow affair.

It’s in the bands ability to be able to turn normalcy into the extraordinary that makes them a less painful listen than most other funeral doom bands around. I’ve never been a huge fan of funeral doom vocals. They don’t exhibit the same levels of emotion as your average rasp, though both are rather uneventful in comparison to those bands in both black metal and doom metal who push the envelop in regards to their delivery of the vocals. A little more experimentation with the vocals could have made this a more memorable effort. Perhaps the addition of clean vocals would have worked well with the keyboard driven material? Not only the floating, eerie ambiance, but the aged sounding piano passages that creep in and around the low-key atmospherics. Songs like ‘The Slow Rot of a Dead Heart’ showcase the accessibility of a band like this in comparison to your average funeral doom band who’re intent on pushing the extremities of the sub-genre even further than before. The lack of heavy percussion doesn’t leave a strain on the listeners shoulders like it normally does and with the scarce distortion from the guitars, this album truly does become one of the most accessible funeral doom albums I’ve come across.

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