Funereal Presence – Achatius Review

New York-by-way-of-Germany black metal act Funereal Presence is another in the long line of projects that will remind listeners of many bands while sounding like none of them. Considering that the one band member – Mattias “Bestial Devotion” Müller – spends most of his musical time hitting the drum kit in Negative Plane, this should come as very little surprise. Like his main band, Bestial Devotion’s solo project is often defined by being “out there,” but not so strange as to leave listeners without a good hook, and Funereal Presence is a tad more accessible than Negative Plane.

Release date: February 15, 2019. Label: The Ajna Offensive, Sepulchral Voice.
Accessible is a relative term here, of course, as sophomore full length Achatius is still out there, but it’s also simultaneously classy, progressive, regressive, malevolent, exploratory, and downright playful. Like debut full length The Archer Takes Aim, the starting point for Achatius is still Negative Plane’s “chamber black metal” (which kinda-sorta had its roots in Tormentor), but Bestial Devotion has found a way to weave in more threads than were apparent on the debut, while also making a big jump in terms of riff quality and songcraft.

The aforementioned “reminds of many but sounds like no one” quality is absolutely what defines this record. There’s a fair amount of fellow weird black metallers Master’s Hammer to be heard, particularly in the mid-paced “blast beats” and the generally drunk feeling to several passages, but Funereal Presence uses far larger song structures (four songs at over 11 minutes each). The music is extremely spry in a way that reminds of Satan, but the production is raw and rife with echo and atmosphere and a lack of refinement, as if Court In The Act was recorded by early 80s Sodom. Along the same lines, the scope, bursts of neo-classicism, and general bombast (bells at key moments) might remind listeners of a band like Emperor, but Funereal Presence almost entirely forgoes the violence and aggression of the Norwegian greats.

The real melodic meat of the record is a heap of intertwining leads in varying states of improvisation, backed up by drum patterns ranging from blasts and hammers to shuffles and d-beat work played on top of the least d-beat metal imaginable. Between these elements – and they really sound like they’re sandwiched in – are riffs ranging from the almost thrashing to something Dissection and Dawn might have written after being brought in from the cold and wrapped in warm blankets. Add in some wonderfully cavern-belched vocals and you have a sound that on paper seems all over the place but is incredibly focused on record.

If one were to look for possible complaints, one could point out that there isn’t much to distinguish the individual songs, but with each being absolutely loaded with cool melodies, riffs, and motifs, the whole thing still manages to be a pretty fast 48 minute record. If anything, the album could have been longer, with something else at the end to really wrap things up instead of the rather unceremonious and sudden stop (that would be the only real complaint, albeit a minor one).

It’s rare that a solo side project is at the level of the musician’s main band, but Achatius is absolutely capable of competing with Negative Plane’s two top notch full lengths. More than that, Funereal Presence’s latest should manage to somewhat ease the thirsts of parched Negative Plane fans while also providing something that stands on its own in terms of both style and quality. A highlight in an already strong year for black metal, this one.

Posted by Zach Duvall

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; Obnoxious overuser of baseball metaphors.

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