The black metal scene in 2019 seems to be doing well, at least if you look into the number of album releases alone. Unfortunately, the quantity very rarely equals quality. Bandwagons are easy to jump on, and labels only enhance the saturating effect by signing bands that are easy to access for the audience. Hip and trendy. Following the popular consensus of what is right and what is wrong in each period of time and within each genre, sounding ‘right’, but sounding like everybody else in the business as well.
Then there are the bands that refuse to bow down to anything before mentioned. The wolves among the sheep, and leaders among the followers. Not giving a rat’s arse about what is going on and when, they just follow their own ambition and lead, steadfastly and forevermore. Funereal Presence belongs to this pack of rejects and is raising its goat horns to us with a new album.
Funereal Presence rose to global awareness with their debut album “The Archer Takes Aim” in 2014. Forty eight minutes of cold, raw, sinister and maybe a bit complex Black Metal only lasting the duration of four songs, “The Archer Takes Aim” definitely raised some eyebrows back in the day. Now, after a quite a silence and number of years Funereal Presence is finally back.
On the first overall look, things would seem to be quiet in the similar fashion for this one man band from New York. “Achatius”, their new opus sports also four lengthy songs on it, and to my great astonishment even the same amount of minutes in overall running time. But there are also changes in the game plan, as “Achatius” comes across as a more warm sounding and maybe a bit more varied in stylistics. “If The Archer Takes Aim” was Black Metal through and through, then “Achatius” has some refreshing new directions to it. Guitars take off to higher notes of the fretboard to play melodies and harmonies, leaving the bass guitar occasionally alone to handle the riffing. This is a welcomed change in dynamics. Some of the melodic arrangements go as far as reminding us of the early days of British Gothic Doom like Paradise Lost. Melodies are of the peculiar kind, like something you could hear in a cathedral of bones, or drifting out from a forgotten catacomb. Weird, otherworldly, but making still sense. Even if the changes are not very drastic, “Achatius” comes across as catchier and maybe a little bit less hostile as well.
To compensate for the quite melodic overall feel, there are plenty of those early days Black Metal riffs to balance the album. Darkthrone comes to mind, but somehow the complex nature of the music goes as far to the heydays of Mercyful Fate, to the very beginnings of Black Metal as a genre. There is past, present and future all included here and for this the album sounds timeless. All in all, “Achatius” is a great reminder of why certain bands did rise to be legendary in the first place. They did not follow anybody’s lead, or neither looked to the past alone. They wanted to make a difference and this is the case with Funereal Presence as well. It certainly takes more time to find your own artistic direction than follow somebody else’s good idea, but after few decades have passed it is most likely the original ones that will be remembered.
What is the most astonishing thing with this record is still the feeling you get from it. “Achatius” is like re-entering that mystical cave in the woods that is Black Metal. One can never be too sure of what is to come up next, but it is sure exciting to explore. When the vast majority of the genre has become a chunk of overly digested goodies, it is great to have bands like Funereal Presence around, to remind us how it all used to be. Exciting, dynamic and ever searching for new passages. Personally, I have not found Black Metal to be this refreshing in years.