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Funeral Winds – Essence

Funeral Winds
by Matt Bozenda at 11 January 2021, 6:18 PM

We are officially barrelling headlong into the year of our very absent lord 2021. While some might see light at the end of the tunnel, many will have grown suspicious of good tidings, and will find it hard to be convinced that anything good is happening at all. The pandemic’s isolation has at least brought inspiration to Prague-based Hellchrist XUL as his one-man band FUNERAL WINDS releases its fifth album, "Essence". Three years in the making and three decades since the band’s formation, the old world sensibilities of Black Metal are not left behind while the essential sound of the band remains largely the same.

Starting off angry but a bit confused is "Towards The Glorious Triumph Of Satan’s Empire", which gets things started on a pretty uneven foot, though not for a lack of trying. "Of Black Tongues And Sulphuric Breath" continues this but while going much faster, with slight hints of cohesiveness peppering the track. It isn’t until "Liberating Rays Of Death" on track three that the band hits its stride and that chaotic vanguard finally takes formation.

Following up with a big dose of bass is "The Heart Of Darkness", featuring a delightful heaviness that may bring a darkness to your own now-palpitating heart. "Rise Of The Dark Imperium" is a short but sweet track, and the undead theme in the lyrics work right into the tune’s classic genre feel. The title track, also the album’s second longest, is so deep in Black Metal orthodoxy that one must actually question when it was recorded; between 2017 and 2020 as claimed, or thirty years prior?

"The Bowls Of Wrath And Ancient Hate" is another such vintage/contemporary track, and is a demonstration of the band’s ability to create a more industry-conventional song. "The Worm God" is the album’s shortest at just over two and half minutes, and much like track five, it sounds like the old days of Black Metal, like when only one guy from MAYHEM was dead.

The capper finally comes with "Aeon Of Darkness", and the best was saved not just for last but also for the longest as this song, weighing in at five-twenty-two, is a gauntlet run of the album’s total sound, featuring bridges and tempo shifts aplenty before fading out to a despairing single drum.

So, overall, "Essence" is not just a Satanic tale, it’s the journey of an evolving golem. Black Metal is not renowned for its technical side, and that old Punk mentality reigns over the album’s start as it blobs about, almost flailing as it looks for purchase. Once the legs sprout some feet and the hands grab their weapons, this album really starts to fight. It retains the best portion of the aggression left over from 2018’s "Sinister Creed", and shakes off the hint of Crust that album had on occasion.

The year is still new, and everything else might suck right now, but it would not be out of bounds to declare "Essence" as an early entrant in the battle for Black Metal album of the year, the hard start notwithstanding. Zealous devotion to the genre, with little to no deviations or mixtures, has seen FUNERAL WINDS to this point, and there’s no reason to believe it can’t continue. By every measure, it certainly should.

Musicianship: 8
Songwriting: 6
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

1. Towards The Glorious Triumph Of Satan’s Empire
2. Of Black Tongues And Sulphuric Breath
3. Liberating Rays Of Death
4. The Heart Of Darkness
5. Rise Of The Dark Imperium
6. Essence
7. The Bowls Of Wrath And Ancient Hate
8. The Worm God
9. Aeon Of Darkness
Hellchrist XUL – All instruments, vocals
Record Label: Avantgarde Music


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