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A Young Man's Funeral : To Never Return

A Young Man's Funeral seems like a missed opportunity: the main thrust of the songwriting plays more to the weaknesses than the strengths of the project.

Founded as a one-man project by Russian multi-instrumentalist Alexey Slavin A Young Man's Funeral has the self-professed aim of creating an intense form of Doom/Death metal. André de Heus (ex-Phantasmagoria/Nymphea Aurora) from the Netherlands was recruited via the internet as vocalist, and his wife Joyce de Heus provided the lyrics for this debut full-length album 'To Never Return', released through Russia's Satanarsa Records.

Having listened to it a number of times now, I find it a confused and confusing listening experience, which seemingly fails to marry up the underlying ambition with either the songwriting or the musical execution. That doesn't necessarily make it a bad album, per se, but an awkward one to figure out.

The mix itself is a somewhat muffled and subdued one, which not only does the intended intensity no favours but also fails to disguise an underlying thinness to the overall sound. The lack of bass is immediately noticeable, as is the basic nature of the drumming; and while the growling vocals and aggressive, harsh-edged guitar both sound good, they cannot competely compensate for or hide this fundamental lack. The keyboards add value to the material where used, primarily as introduction or occasional melodic effect, but are often abandoned in favour of guitar-work where all other instruments and voice simply trail along behind the riff pattern.

Equally fundamental to the sound are the limitations often found with solo, or largely solo, projects. On the plus side, there is a certain undiluted purity of vision in having a single musical creator, and the necessity of multiply-overdubbing all the instruments can create a very precisely integrated, layered sound. The corollary is that it inevitably reduces the scope for spontaneity and synergy that interactions between different band members playing together can produce.

The end result of both these factors, in this case, is a cold and quite laconic take on the genre that would be fairly well-suited to the bleak sort of territory occupied by Saturnus. Indeed, the most promising moments of 'To Never Return' hint towards that, but they are largely swamped by a songwriting direction that seems to be pitched more at the dark sonic barrage of early Dolorian or My Shameful. However, there simply isn't enough overall depth or drive to the music to successfully hit either of those targets.
There are some good points: the opening track, 'Liquid Sorrow', is a skeletal, almost minimalist, song that captures a chilly atmosphere of despair and despite. This returns sporadically throughout the remaining tracks, along with some additional dimensions such as the female background vocal used in 'Embrace The Legacy', or the gentle guitar bridge section in 'Trace Of Consciousness'. These are, however, offset by the riff-heavy sections that the lack of raw power in the mix all too often render unambitious and generic-sounding. The final, instrumental, track 'Funeral' is a mysterious inclusion: a complete change of direction to the rest of the album, built around lengthy, shrill solo piano sections that are so jarringly annoying as to leave a quite unfavourable closing impression.

Ultimately, this seems like a missed opportunity, in that the main thrust of the songwriting plays more to the weaknesses than the strengths of the project. Much as I do like the forceful vocals and the guitar sound, they do not on their own bring enough consistency or strength to the release to compete on those grounds – both Sculptor and Lycus, for example, produced better efforts in that vein in 2011. Not really recommended, but a better focus on the material that does work well could so easily have made it a different verdict.

Reviewer's rating: 5/10


Tracklist :
1. Liquid Sorrow
2. Embrace The Legacy
3. Treacherous Scorn
4. Trace Of Consciousness
5. Eyes Of Affection
6. Funeral

Duration : Approx. 42 minutes

Visit the A Young Man's Funeral bandpage.

Reviewed on 2012-01-25 by Mike Liassides
Aesthetic Death
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