When it comes to disgustingly vile music, the first things that come to mind are the egregiously heavy bands in which their whole schtick is to be as obscene as possible, purely for the shock factor. You know, the type of bands that are fall under the brutal death or slam metal umbrella with monotonously punishing instrumentation that denies the listener a change to gasp for air. This kind of stuff is fairly tasteless overall, but in the unlikely case of artists like Ulcerate, this style can create some of the most unsettling sonic soundscapes you’ve ever heard whilst maintaining a high level of musicality. With Ulcerate‘s instrumentation being as unrelenting and nauseating as can be (musically, in a good way), it makes you wonder if that degree of horrific imagery that is evoked can be replicated in something that is the complete polar opposite in terms of style and overall tempo.
I’m not talking Bell Witch or Sunn O))) either, as their specific brands of slow-tempo music in general don’t necessarily evoke the same type of nightmarishly bleak atmospheres that Ulcerate creates; both are great bands but for different reasons. Anyway, this search for menacingly slow music that’ll shake you to your core brings us to a group called FVNERALS. They are a duo based out of Leipzig, Germany that formed in 2013 when bassist/vocalist Tiffany Ström and guitarist/songwriter Syd Scarlet joined forces to create some of those disgustingly vile tunes that I was talking about earlier. What sets this group aside from those other types of dissonant bands is that they are centered more around doom, dark ambience, and post rock as opposed to the blisteringly fast disso-death à la Ulcerate. The end result is this sound that capitalizes on the usage of negative space to create these walls of sound that swallow you whole, as would a looming tidal wave that is inescapable. Their newest album, Let the Earth Be Silent, is indeed as grim and ominous as the title would imply.
FVNERALS‘ particular take on doom/post metal is something that is entirely theirs and theirs alone, often reminding me of Dead Can Dance or even Enya at times with the occasional folk-tinges and Ström’s hauntingly gorgeous vocals, especially. Opening track, “Ashen Era”, is a behemoth of a song that could aptly summarize the album in itself. From the immense guitar chords and percussive drive that lays absolute waste to my eardrums, to the careening orchestral elements that add so much more musical depth, you can’t help but crumble to the sheer weight of these catastrophic tunes.
Although there may not necessarily be ‘much’ going on musically given that FVNERALS‘ musical approach is one that is highly minimalistic, less is most certainly more and “Ashen Era” (and the whole album, let’s be honest) is testament to that. It is the little details that leave the greatest impact and FVNERALS were clearly diligent in making sure every tiny detail had a purpose. Throughout the entirety of this record, I can’t help but imagine myself feeling what the main protagonist is going through during the closing scene in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist (which has Dead Can Dance‘s “Host of the Seraphim” playing in the background during said scene, go figure). Much like the immense amount of sorrow and regret cleverly captured in that scene, Let the Earth Be Still is a 40-minute push-and-pull of emotional anguish and pleas for salvation or mercy.
Throughout Let the Earth Be Silent, you can taste the tension in the air with how well these songs were crafted as they are slow burners indeed. Most of the tracks start off with nothing but a constant subtle hum or even chains dragging in the background akin to what you’d hear from the legendary Heilung for example, and slowly build to an explosive release of said tension as the various other musical components trickle in one after the other. Although FVNERALS is only a duo, the sheer weight behind these songs makes the music feel tenfold, which could be attributed to the crystal clear production, giving plenty of room for the ambience and echoing guitar tremolos to linger in the background and fill that negative space between each beat of the percussive elements. From the songwriting to the production, everything is just so masterfully done. I always have to listen to something uplifting and cheerful afterwards to shake myself out of whatever depressive episode I was about to slip into having just listened through the album.
This record as a whole is a hypnotic trip, and to its slight detriment, it can only be properly enjoyed when treated as such. It is a single stream of consciousness and if interrupted in any way, all the momentum and impact becomes hugely diminished. When listened to in any scenario outside of a devoted listening session, you’ll feel the songs to be somewhat monotonous, static, and uneventful especially right after the massive first track sets the expectations so high. The whole middle segment of the record is filled with tracks that don’t necessarily grab my full attention on their own, but when sandwiched between “Ashen Era” and “Barren”, then it is an entirely different ballgame. Let the Earth Be Silent is definitely the type of record in which user mileage may vary, but if you give it the love and attention it deserves, it’ll return the favor and send you to another world full of pure melancholy.
Just like all the cheesy horror movies that rely on cheap tactics such as jump scares to make you feel terrified, the same kind of thing can be seen in that ‘horror genre’ of music as well, and FVNERALS‘ Let the Earth Be Silent is a masterclass example of truly horrific music that is equally as gorgeous as it is moving. FVNERALS follow in the footsteps of the timeless Dead Can Dance, making you feel a whirlwind of emotions with lusciously dismal soundscapes and punishing releases of pent-up musical strain. If you never thought there could be beauty to be gleamed from horror, you will after listening to this record.