Funerary Bell - Undead Revelations - (9.5/10)
Published on April 24, 2018
It’s a revelation all right.
Black metal is an extremely varied genre. One can listen to Bathory worship bands, second-wave worship bands, war metal iconoclasts, depressed, self-annihilating punks, and anything in between. Somehow black metal has arguably extended its bounds farther outward than any other subgenre of metal thus far, to the point where keyboards that sound like horns can be the primary instrument and still come off as recognizably black metal (see: Summoning). With all this variety, one is bound to develop certain listening proclivities and preferences. For me, bands that take their primary influence from First Wave black metal bands are the ones I love the most. With its freewheeling nature and musical freedom, the First Wave stylings lend themselves perfectly to black metal musicians who want to operate outside of some of the well-trod ground of the subgenre. Think of all the bands considered First Wave black metal (e.g., Varathron, Bathory, Venom, Mystifier, Rotting Christ, Samael, et al.), and it makes sense that disciples of this musical movement would be a creative bunch.
Funerary Bell clearly are very interested in the First Wave of black metal, and they have remade the First Wave in their grisly, occult image, to create an absolutely breathtaking masterpiece of black metal.
The album starts off with the red herring-esque “Birth – Come Undone.” This is the odd one out among the tracks, and I imagine would turn some folks off if they did not continue to listen past it. It is a mournful, occult chant complete with operatic vocals. Though the instruments would likely be pleasing to the black metal attuned ear, the vocals might perk those same ears up in alarm.
However, the album’s absolutely ripping second track, “Goat of Mendes,” allays any fears that this album will be anything but a vicious and varied black metal assault on the senses. It is one of the highlights of the album and introduces the foundational aspects to be found throughout the other songs—varied riffing, haunting vocals, a meaty rhythm section, and an occult atmosphere.
What’s great about this album is that the guys take influence from all the best in black metal. They are heavily influenced by first-wave acts, particularly the undersung Mortuary Drape. They take the same bass-heavy approach and create a similar atmosphere of occult Terror much like their Italian forebears. There are riffs for everyone to love. Sometimes you get traditional tremolo picked riffs. Other times guitars are deeply Punk influenced; here they are nicely complimented by the drums, which kick out furious d beats to keep pace. There are also plenty of riffs inspired by traditional metal acts, and you might find yourself wondering if Mercyful Fate has been reincarnated. (Seriously, listen to the blackened trad of “Hermetica” or “Tree on the Planet Grave” for perfect examples.) Along the same lines, there are plenty of trilled riffs reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s legendary debut. The guitarists also commonly layer melodic lines behind the riffs, adding depth to the sound. Guitar solos are excellent, and surprisingly emotional. Yes, there is shredding, but, again, there is a heavy metal influence on the solos that gives a wistful and longing feel. Many songs also feature galloping rhythms that bring to mind Iron Maiden due to the tight interplay among the instrumentals. The bass plays a prominent role on the album. You will find that the bass can be heard very clearly on every track of the album bumbling away with a loud and relatively distortion-less tone. Treble enthusiasts look elsewhere.
In addition to the excellent instrumental performances, I must say a word (or hundred) about the vocal performance of Invoker of Shadows. (As an aside, excellent black metal pseudonym. Since all the members have rocking names, here they are: Not of this World; Caller of Sepulchral Doom; Henchman of the Untamed Forces; and Neverending Storm of Mars.) Invoker puts on an absolute clinic in black metal vocal excellence. His go-to vocals are a lower-range black metal growl with croaky undertones (again, similar to what one would hear in Mortuary Drape). However, he is quite the talented gentlemen and is adept at using many different vocal stylings. He uses a venomous, high range black metal snarl on “The Word Became Flesh” after using an aggressive grunt to open the song; he lets loose with a manic, pained shriek in “Revelation pt. II”; he channels Tom G. Warrior’s “oogh!” in “Anima Eternal.” Overall, it’s one of the most compelling vocal performances I have heard on a black metal album in years. I find myself continuously amazed by his vocal prowess with each listen to the album. He seems to have a keen sense of what type of vocals will lend the most power to any given section of a song and he has the technical ability to make it happen. Astounding.
Overall, I can’t imagine anyone with interest in black metal not enjoying this album. The songwriting is top-notch, the atmosphere is there, and most importantly, there are so many riffs. Though Undead Revelations has a running time of 47 minutes, it goes by in a flash every time I listen to it. It is so energetic, packed with ideas, and just plain out exciting that I am always shocked when I find it is over just as it began. Put on your hood, grab your goat to sacrifice and a torch, and let Funerary Bell induct you into the cult.