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Funeral : Oratorium

Funeral have found the vocalist they needed to get back on track.

Funeral's course over time is hard to follow: like a feather carried by a changeable wind, the career of the band has had to make do with life's stormy weather - a drunken boat on rough seas. It doesn't come as a surprise that the direction set by their first two albums, the twin towers that are 'Tragedy' and 'Tristesse', founding pieces of architecture for a whole genre, dissolved into more down-to-earth concerns, namely: how to survive the death of two musicians and friends. One can imagine the hesitations, the despondency and the determination it took for the surviving members to keep the boat afloat.

Beyond these two disappearances and the entailed troubles, Funeral is still a special case: that of a band which has united a very loyal and demanding core of fans, and which, as if challenging you to dare to continue loving them, came up each time with a different-sounding album, amending formulas like alchemists in search of the Philosopher's Stone: more of this, less of that, an orchestra, and then no more orchestra, Robert Lowe for a change and then something else again.

'Oratorium' displays yet again a new line-up: Anders Eek (drums), Sindre Nedland (vocals), Matt Lerberg (guitar), Rune Gandrud (bass) and Erlend Nybo (guitar). The sloughing goes on and evolution primarily shows in the vocal work: Sindre is the brother of Lars Nedland of Solefald and you can definitely hear that: same diaphanous voice, crystal-clear, lyrical and full of light. The gain for the band's music is ... huge!

The second change is not as important a revolution. To realize this, you must compare. In a career that is as long and angular as a band like Funeral's, comparing is a good way to make things clearer. When you compare 'Oratorium' to 'From These Wounds', you quickly find your marks: same density, same simplicity. Now, if you compare it to 'As the Light Does the Shadow', the album coming between, which proved to be a real let-down for most fans, it's a bit like day and night - literally: the band comes out of a dark well to hit the light, carried by an inspiration you could have believed had dried up. A quick look at the cover art makes you sense that difference: it lies in the graphic design, the typography, the cross; it is pure, spiritual. The music is composed by two men: Eek and Nybo, when pretty much the whole band had been roped in on 'ATLDTS'. The result is, inevitably, more condensed, hunched up in a thick, solid atmospheric Doom, when it was so diluted on the previous effort that all its substance was lost. 'ATLDTS' sank on all sides, like a tapestry falling to pieces, full of holes connected by random musical joints. In these conditions, the colourless voice of Forsmo was just one more incriminating factor.

Everything has changed. If, musically, the album has the density of 'From These Wounds', the whole is much better thought out. Sindre Nedland is the singer the band needed to stick the pieces of their broken aureole back together: his vocal lines completely transform the relief of the band's soundscape. He brings emotion and grace and lifts the music to rich-textured lights. The two composers have been clever enough to understand that music has to serve the voice and highlight its subtlety. The songwriting is indeed tighter, more solid than on 'As the Light Does the Shadow'; the flow is smooth, more massive, conceived as a steady stage on which the singer could make the best play of his changing and unstable inflections. Not only does the band escape the trap of mushiness, but it gains depth and intensity.

An oratorio is a lyrical drama performed without stageplay or costumes and scenery, while the music is often led by a narrator. Funeral apply this definition to the letter. What arises is a tragic work: touching, simple and beautiful. The joining of Sindre Nedland greatly helps to give a new shine to the band's austere music, a more vivid, more natural character. 'Oratorium' is an excellent atmospheric Doom album that should not be missed - nor underestimated: its subtle power reveals itself on the long run, it must be given a little time. If like me you had buried Funeral, then, to your shovels! it is time to get them out of the hole and to listen to 'Oratorium', the voice of their resurrection.

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Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
01. Burning with Regret
02. Hate
03. Break Me
04. Song of the Knell
05. From the Orchestral Grave
06. Making the World My Tomb
07. Will You Have Me?

Duration : Approx. 72 minutes

Visit the Funeral bandpage.

Reviewed on 2013-01-28 by Bertrand Marchal
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