Let’s hark back to the year 1991. The world of extreme metal is in a state of transformation, where Schuldiner started showing his human side, and MORBID ANGEL were blessed for being sick. Death Metal became something of its own, and many bands discarded their Thrash leanings in favour of a slower, more clearly defined sound. More brutal, I believe, is the word used to describe this development; a glorious time, no doubt.
Prior to this era, a handful of bands such as CANDLEMASS and SAINT VITUS had been slowing down their Metal in the vein of classic Black Sabbath. It was dark, it was brooding, and it was known as Doom Metal. People thought it couldn’t get any slower. Then, in the final decade prior to the millennium, it got slower. Funeral Doom, they called it, not being dissimilar to the kind of slogging, despair-inducing tunes you’d hear during the acknowledgement of someone’s passing.
And here we have it. THERGOTHON, the Finnish Funeral Doom extraordinaire, widely acknowledged to have pioneered this specific sub-sub-genre with their 1990 EP “Fhtagn nagh Yog-Sothoth.” A year after the demo’s release, the band recorded what is considered to be their opus, “Stream from the Heavens.” Shortly after the album's completion, the band broke up, leaving it to be resurrected two years later by Italian record label Avant-garde Music.
“Stream from the Heavens” is not a funny album; it doesn’t want you to be happy. Friedrich Nietzsche’s remains convulse with joy every time you play it, and it’s not going to feature in any ‘albums you must hear before you die’ lists, because it’ll most likely be playing during your wake. But that’s what Doom is, and if you’ve been keeping tabs on the genre recently, you’ll find that “Stream from the Heavens” has quite possibly had the most resounding effect on the genre, more than any before or after its release.
It’s all there. The painfully slow three/four chord riffs, the post-production echo, the accompanying synthesizer. This is the template folks; every Funeral Doom band after this simply stuck a few bells and whistles on it and rode on into town. So sure, it’s influential, but is it good? Well, that depends on you, dear reader. Funeral Doom has hardly changed since; just replace the synths with an orchestra (orchestral synth being the budget choice), give it a bit of polish and you’ve got a modern Funeral Doom album.
The only point during the album where convention is broken, is during the track "The Unknown Kaldath-in-the-Cold-Waste," which features a two minute long ambient section with an acoustic guitar passage, then it’s back to the grind I’m afraid.
A worthy note is that “Stream from the Heavens” has piss-poor production value; there’s a constant buzzing present throughout each track, the bass is ridiculously high in the mix and loud clicks can be heard in intervals, which sound like the guitarist changing his pickup setting.
If you’re a Funeral aficionado, you’ve probably heard this album already. If not, you might want to pick up something a tad more accessible. It’s definitely not a stream from the heavens, but it carries far more weight than some give it credit for.