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Marche Funèbre : Roots Of Grief

Everything is a little more refined and consistent in Marche Funèbre's sophomore.

It's been a couple of years since I reviewed Mechelen's finest's debut full-length, 'To Drown' (link here), with the summary: interesting, eclectic, inspired and sometimes great. Returning to look at this year's 'Roots Of Grief', the only obvious change is that of bassist, newly recruited before the recording sessions started. Otherwise, the line-up has been constant since 2009's 'Norizon' EP, the release is again on Belgium's Shiver Records and visual continuity comes from another haunting Brooke Shaden photograph for the cover. Flipping the case over quickly establishes that the band's fondness for (very) long tracks remains undiminished.

In short: first impressions are ones of evolution and familiarity rather than radical change. Not necessarily a bad thing: Marche Funèbre's approach is one of unconventionally-contrasted welding of Black/Death/Doom influences in such a way that they retain their structural elements and differences; compositions move between these poles rather than seek to merge them. It is an interesting hybrid, in which one may hear all sorts of brief comparisons with other Death/Doom acts, none continuously enough to draw a direct parallel.

Listening confirms this: everything is a little more refined and consistent. The tempo changes and shifts and drives to crescendo transition deftly and smoothly, both heavier and subtler moments captured with a clear and balanced mix. The musicianship, again, is exemplary; anchored on busy, varied drumming and alternately rumbling or clear bass. Both guitarists complement each other, filling the space with atmospheric mood and melody lines, distorted textures or cranking out fast and furious riffs: the lack of additional fripperies such as keys, strings or samples goes unnoticed. Lyrically, the same mixture of thoughtful, intelligent songwriting and inspiration from classic poetry continues.

The vocals - love or hate them - are an essential part of what makes the Marche Funèbre sound. Not just a distinctive voice, but a singular way of delivering it, across an entire range of whispers, clean singing, growls and cries. I would say these have matured and improved considerably, from a sometimes uncomfortable force-to-fit on previous outings, to a more suitable match for the music. There is still a certain frailty in the clean parts, but it mostly sounds genuine and emotional, while the harsh passages are more dynamic and commanding.

With an album such as this - long, and packed with uncompromisingly dense, extended slabs of composition - digesting it in detail requires a certain degree of concentration, even dedication. Leave it to wash over you, and it may well remain in the realms of monolithic inaccessibility; it may, anyway, if that standard of hefty, largely-unadorned guitar-and-vocal-driven Doom doesn't really hold your interest. But there are considerable rewards to be found for those who do appreciate it: in amongst the melodic yet batteringly heavy chunks of riffage, atmospheric interludes and changes of pace, there are some standout calls to attention. The intonation of Emily Dickinson's terse, oddly-punctuated and surprisingly morbid poetry in 'These Fevered Days'; the guitar passage towards the end of 'L'Avenue Des Cœurs Passés'; the rousing 'Roots Of Grief'; the paradoxically fragile but stirring emotion of 'Crown Of Hope': these all reach out over and above the baseline sound. To be fair, there are also moments where it doesn't quite gel to my ears, with parts of 'As In Autumn' and 'Nothing To Declare' sounding a little laboured.

Still, and overall, 'Roots Of Grief' is a step forward from 'To Drown', holding on to the band identity at the same time as refining it. In realising more of the promise apparent from previous excursions, some of the darker extremes have been replaced with a degree of romanticism, but there's still plenty of the former to be found lingering within. If the need for listeners' predisposition towards huge tracks and eclectic idiosyncracy of delivery is a flaw, then I can see some would consider it flawed, but, personally, I like the direction and the result.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. These Fevered Days
2. As In Autumn
3. La Marche Funèbre I: L'Avenue Des Cœurs Passés
4. II: Nothing To Declare
5. III: Roots Of Grief
6. IV: Bleak
7. V: Crown Of Hope

Duration : Approx. 64 minutes

Visit the Marche Funèbre bandpage.

Reviewed on 2013-09-30 by Mike Liassides
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