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Funeral - Demo `97 (Demo) (1997)
Known for their pessimistic outlook and their dark, brooding, morbid lyrics, Funeral have been closely identified with the European school of doom metal and are also quite relevant to gothic metal.
The Norwegian band's approach to doom metal is not as Black Sabbath-obsessed as Candlemass (one of doom metal's pioneers) or the underground agitators Grief; their musical perspective is much more gothic, and the European outfits that Funeral (not to be confused with an early-'80s band that had the same name) have been compared to the most include Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Anathema. Comparisons to Theatre of Tragedy and Lacuna Coil have also been made.
From These WoundsFuneral's original lineup was formed in 1991 and included drummer/guitarist Anders Eek and guitarist Thomas Angell. Bassist Einar Frederiksen, formerly of a thrash metal outfit called Anti-Chord, joined Funeral in 1993, when they recorded their first demo, Tristesse; that demo employed Eek on drums, vocals and guitar, Angell on guitar and Frederiksen (b. 1973, d. 2003) on bass and vocals. Later that year, guitarist Christian Loos was added to the lineup -- and in 1994, Funeral hired female vocalist Toril Snyen to sing lead. Snyen was heard on Funeral's next demo, Beyond All Sunsets, as well as their first full-length album, Tragedies, which was released by Arctic Serenades (a small Norwegian label). Snyen ended up being fired, and from the mid-'90s to the early 2000s, Funeral went through more than their share of lineup changes.
Another female lead singer, Sara Eick, was hired in 1997, but she quit the band after several months and was replaced by yet another female lead singer, Hanne Hukkelberg (b. 1979, Oslo, Norway) in 1998 (Hukkelberg went on to record as a solo artist after leaving Funeral). In the early 2000s, founding member Angell left and was replaced by Idar Burheim (who later left Funeral for the Norwegian black metal band 1349 and started calling himself Archaon). For Funeral, some tragic events in the early 2000s mirrored the sorrowful, depressing nature of their lyrics. The first major tragedy that Funeral suffered came when longtime bassist Frederiksen committed suicide in 2003, ten years after he had joined the band. After Frederiksen's death, Funeral were inactive for about a year and a half; some fans feared that the band would dissolve.
But in 2004, Funeral decided to carry on, and their first post-Frederiksen lineup included Eek on drums, Loos on guitar, Frode Forsmo (who has also performed with the band Minas Tirith) on lead vocals, Jon Borgerud on keyboards and Kjetil Ottersen (who had been playing keyboards for Funeral) on guitar. Then, in 2006, another tragedy occurred when Loos was found dead in his home. But Funeral kept going and recorded their album, From These Wounds, which included Eek, Forsmo, Ottersen and guitarist Mats Lerberg. Candlelight released From These Wounds in the United States in March 2007.
Funeral At MySpace
1997 Demo '97 (Demo)
1. Wrapped All In Woe (5:48)
2. The Swansong Of My Heart (7:40)
3. Snowcrowned (5:29)
4. To Mourn Is A Virtue (7:10)
5. Your Pain Is Mine (7:13)
The history behind this demo is kind of complicated. In 1997, Funeral recorded ten instrumental tracks. A woman named Sara Eick took care of the lead vocals on five of the tracks, which appear on this demo. Around 2003, when the band decided to stop using female vocals, a guest singer named Øystein Rustad sang on the five other instrumentals while Frode Forsmo sang on new versions of the tracks that originally appeared on this demo. In 2011, To Mourn is a Virtue was released. It included four tracks with Øystein Rustad on vocals, four of the rerecorded tracks with Frode Forsmo on vocals, and one of the songs with Sara Eick that was originally released on this demo ('All Wrapped in Woe' ). The songs with Øystein Rustad and Frode Forsmo on vocals also had orchestral instruments and keyboards integrated into the music, which showed how the band was changing musical direction at the time. Although the band enhanced their unique and refined style of melodic doom on From These Wounds and Oratorium, I feel as if the male vocals and symphonic elements didn't fit in with these tracks. To me, the music on Demo 97 is meant to represent an era that was entirely different from the more romantic and Gothic-inspired doom that the band plays today. Unfortunately, few people seem to realize that To Mourn is a Virtue is just 'Demo 97' mixed with My Dying Bride.
The music on Demo 97 is purely a natural progression between the grim funeral doom of Tragedies, and the more accessible, yet aggressive style of In Fields of Pestilent Grief. The rhythm is faster than the glacial pace of Tragedies and Tristesse, yet the guitars retain their crushing heaviness and introduces darker melodies, taking akin to doom/death metal. The deep, monstrous growls of Einar Andre Fredriksen (RIP) are gone, allowing female vocals to take lead. One of the reasons why Funeral is one of my favorite bands is their use of skilled vocalists, and Sara Eick is no exception. Her style of singing is very melodic, yet also very powerful and bold. Unlike the male vocalists that appear on To Mourn is a Virtue, she neither sounds weepy nor monotone, which is why I believe she is better suited for the music on this release. Ranging from soaring operatics to sinister alto chanting, she clearly enunciates the mournful and angry lyrics as if she were a tragic heroine who has lost her lover and has grown bitter towards life itself. The riffs on this demo are probably some of the best I've heard, not only from Funeral, but in doom metal altogether. Two tracks in which these ominous and deep melodies stand out the most would include 'The Swansong of my Heart' and 'Your Pain is Mine', in which they alternate between epic sections of thick bass and fast-paced drumming, to the pure funereal droning that once made the band comparable to the likes of Skepticism and Thergothon. Since the rhythm ranges from extreme slowness to more epic and upbeat tempos, the drumming is particularly busy and clashes down pretty hard to make the riffs sound all the more monumental.
Although the music on this demo is deserving of a perfect score, there is one small issue that keeps it from being entirely flawless. Although the quality is surprisingly good for a demo, there is a point during 'Your Pain is Mine' in which some glitching disrupts the music for a few minutes during the song. Although the rerecorded version of the song doesn't have this issue, there seems to be no version of the original song that is in perfect quality. It's a tad annoying, but the song itself still sounds fantastic.
Perhaps I seem a bit overly enthusiastic about such an obscure little demo, but I truly think it's some of Funeral's greatest work, as well as one of the most underrated demos ever. There are not enough bands out there that play non-traditional doom metal without either relying on harsh vocals for intensity, or softening up the sound too much with excessive use of violins and keyboards. All in all, Demo '97 is a marriage between the serene female vocals of Ava Inferi and the bleak doom/death metal of Mourning Beloveth. Those who enjoy the early works of Ashes You Leave, Theatre of Tragedy and Anathema are sure to enjoy this.
As requested by a fellow member piggie from Norway!