“Funerary Descent is the always present dread.
Funerary Descent is the void of existence.
Funerary Descent is the madness of eternity.”
Have you ever heard of the “Windlass of Erasmus”? Well, as the tale goes, Saint Erasmus of Formia was a Christian saint and martyr who died back in the heady days of 303 AD. He is venerated as the patron saint of both sailors and abdominal pain. Why abdominal pain? Because his death was allegedly the product of one of history’s cruelest and most harrowing forms of torture.
Ol’ Elmo apparently shuffled off the mortal coil in a particularly horrifying way. Bound on a rack by Romans a neat little incision was made in his abdomen and his intestines separated from his stomach, attached to the windlass and then spooled slowly out of him; winding around the makeshift crank as he writhed in what was sure to be excruciating pain. He died an agonized and protracted death, completely helpless and only able to watch as his guts were removed incrementally and inexorably from his body. Why do I mention this? Because the sheer pain, suffering and sense of doom you would be consumed by in that situation is the closest approximation to the experience created by US duo Funerary Descent‘s despair-filled debut album ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’.
The trauma begins with the portentous sound of a solitary piano in a storm… Before everything then explodes in a grand thunderclap of rain-drenched misery. Opening track ‘It Crawls In The Venomous Hollow’ is ten minutes of the most soul-draining funereal wretchedness you’ll have heard in your life; the guitar tone bitingly morose while each ponderous, echoing drum hit is the sound of seconds ticking by while your life is running out. The riffs scrape past like nails on a blackboard and you can almost feel them sucking the life out of you. The rasping vocals have stepped up; they possess a new savagery and are far more powerful compared to the throatwork on their 2016 demo ‘Winds of Dissonance’. In fact, in my opinion everything about this is a huge step up; more vital, deadlier, blacker.
Something the duo of Dread (also of Vampyric Bvrial) and Blind (ex Serapheum) already did astoundingly well on their last demo was envelop you with their compositions and paint a vivid mental image of the terror; here they’ve not only kept up the standard but somehow managed to hit all new levels of devastating clarity. Visions of cloaked figures move slowly toward you in procession, a horrifying visage as the midnight rain pours on your wracked and broken body. You’re right there, soaked, delirious, frozen in pain and terror; the spool of your intestines growing larger with every passing minute.
Second death rite ‘Sunderance Ov The King’s Manor’ is where the ravens appear, circling and waiting in the shadows to ravage your flesh and pick your corpse until only bones remain. The opening dirge was merely a warm up, now the torturous element of their sound really comes into play. At over thirteen minutes long the track is given ample space and time to be sure its morbid task is done to greatest effect, miasma seeping in and filling every inch of your lungs as the death-knell riffs turn the windlass evermore.
Third passage ‘Eternal War of the Eclipsing Sun’ is where things reach critical mass. Opening with the sounds of a panicked battle, this battle is also your own as you fight for what remains of your slowly fading life. Several tempo changes from a relative canter to a depraved crawl make this the most dynamic track on the album, while the storms remain ever-present, bearing morbid witness to your final, struggling breaths.
And then, mercifully and yet all too soon, it’s over. Titular final piece ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’ is an instrumental accompaniment as your spirit, finally freed of its shattered flesh prison, passes almost gratefully into the next plane of existence.
I sometimes find it hard to connect with your typical blackened doom act, but there’s absolutely no danger of that happening here. The misery is simply exquisite. A remarkable debut in which the hellish duo have not only challenged your pain tolerance and capacity for torture, but delivered on the promise of the demo in spades. The same spades wielded by hooded and moonlit figures, digging your shallow grave in a location nobody will ever find, right now.
Available 27th April through the one and only Fólkvangr Records. Limited to 50 copies, pre-orders up now. Your doom awaits.