[Artwork by Yuka Yoshihara]
More so than any other branch of metal, funeral doom represents a true “sink or swim” moment. People who love it seem wired to do so from the womb for reasons that are often intangible, and the likelihood that any one album fitting the true style will cause a non-believer to suddenly see the light is as low as a sock drawer on a sunken submarine.
Adding to its impenetrability, funeral doom’s glacial force and incurable heart make it virtually impervious to commercialism, the closest breach coming at the hands of outfits such as Ahab (who have gradually steered their sound nearer to a style that’s best described as “slow metal”) or very early Pallbearer and their vanguard, Warning. But frankly, even these examples seem like very distant cousins to funereal trailblazers (trailsnailers?) like Skepticism, Esoteric and Mournful Congregation.
In the case of Profetus—a band that’s as funereal as a week-long burial for the Count of Sobbingham—they most often earn comparisons to fellow Finns Skepticism, because, you know, both are as slow as the line to kiss Tony Iommi’s ring, and both incorporate loads of churchy organs into the mix. Skepticism is several shades more avant-garde and directly in your face, though—particularly in the modern age—and Profetus opts for a more outwardly…“peaceful” brand of creeping melancholy that still maintains the heaviness. With The Sadness of Time Passing, only the band’s third full-length in over a decade of existence, we find an even more intimate progression of their style that boasts a very honest, clean and organic production that’s begging to wobble from a big set of speakers. Every instrument is as clear as a bell, and ancillary sounds, such as breath intakes before chants, are preserved, giving the record a very live and personal impression.
If you’re unfamiliar with the name, Goldsworthy is an environmental artist who’s best known for site-specific installations that incorporate natural surroundings into pieces that are, for the most part, extremely temporary. Elaborate works become washed away by incoming tides, melted by the afternoon sun, or obliterated by a sudden gust of wind:
Perhaps a bit out of left field, but Goldsworthy’s name popped into my head more than a few times while spinning The Sadness of Time Passing. The connection is relevant because the overall theme behind this record is linked to the Japanese perception of impermanence, known as “Mono no aware.” Author Mari Jujimoto describes this concept in a book titled Ikagi & Other Japanese Words to Live By as “the ephemeral nature of beauty,” and further as “…being both saddened and appreciative of transience—and also about the relationship between life and death. In Japan, there are four very distinct seasons, and you really become aware of life and mortality and transience.”
Profetus boss-man / guitarist / vocalist and sole original member Anssi Mäkinen (assuming he alone is responsible for the band’s overall direction) does a remarkable job of embracing the Mono no aware approach and interpreting it through the very applicable medium of funeral doom. While the easiest conclusion you’ll reach all week will likely be “the mood of this music is absolutely miserable,” it’s also a very contented form of misery that’s oftentimes gentle, and there are stretches here—the heart of the riffing deeper into “Momentary Burial,” for example—where the tone shifts to a more…reconciled feel.
As is always the case, the songs are as long and gradual as a season, and shifts in tone and mood are often subtle enough that multiple passes are necessary for full appreciation. It feels like an uncomplicated affair on the surface—a matter that’s certainly magnified by the record’s stark production and the lack of leads or bursts of speed—but it’s also rather sneaky in that repetition reveals just enough sleeved tricks to make each song unique inside a very cohesive overall narrative. Generous doses of organ, glimpses of acoustic guitar, and various forms of chanting and spoken word are all elements used by Profetus in the past, but they manage to feel even more visceral here in a nearly tactile sense.
The riffs here are actually doomy. That might sound…well, kind of obvious, but a great number of Profetus’ peers are granted the “doom” part of the funeral doom equation simply by virtue of playing terrifically slow and being hideously heavy. Profetus play actual doom riffs, and that particular component is cranked to the nth degree with The Sadness of Time Passing. Speed the record up a tidge and pack in Patrick Walker’s grieving vocals and one could mistake certain stretches for a lost Warning record—”feel-good” suffering shot straight into the heart.
There’s basically zip to complain about here, assuming you’re the sort of metal listener who would jump at the chance to catalog the delayed shifts in color for one particular leaf in the midst of a slow, autumnal decline. The front half is strong, but the two songs that make up the closing 32 minutes (360º slam dunk) are funeral doom exemplar. “Northern Crown” spends its first six minutes sounding like the most forbidding church service in existence before slowly pulverizing your bones into contented dust, and “Tiarnia” mixes in soft rain, thunder and an exceptionally delicious bit of dungeon synth sorcery that puts a perfectly royal and decayed end to the grand voyage.
Not exactly the sort of record to reach for in an effort to “let the good times roll,” but that’s very much by design. This is required listening for any and all introverted hermits who love it brutally slow, slower, and so-fucking-slow-your-head-might-fall-off. Five years in the making and landing just in time to help usher in winter’s inescapable grip, The Sadness of Time Passing is a true triumph of agony.