FUNERAL ORCHESTRA  Negative Evocation Rites  LP   (Nuclear War Now! Productions)   19.99

Funeral Orchestra's stuff on physical format has been a real challenge for me to get my mitts on, and from what I can tell, most of their stuff is out of print right now. Nuclear War Now's recent release of Negative Evocation Rites is to be applauded, then, 'cuz when it comes to the sound of funeral doom stripped down all the way to its dessicated, rat-chewed skeletal remains, this is what you get. Real horror music, titanic-length songs that shed any indication of romanticism that you would have heard on the progenitatorss of the genre, instead sticking with a very raw death metal ugliness that is reduced to the most turgid tempos possible without leaving the realm of actual metal completely. When they describe this stuff as "minimal", they mean it; Rudolfsson and his crew drag that tempo on their albums down to the most base metronommic pulse, a glacial, twenty BPM megalith pushed forward by tight (it ain't easy staying in the pocket when you're playing at this level of slowness, you know?) and mammoth drum work alongside a gut-rumbling bass presence. But that backdrop of bilious, slow motion, downtruned power reveals itself as a canvas for the band's awesome atmospheric murals of complete sonic death and decay, with the guitars and synthesizers winding and wrapping around that trance-inducing rhythmic structure like heaps of rotten priestly cerements, heavily stained burial shrouds, and the rags of sweat-soaked keriah, the rent and ripped garments of funereal mourners.

The four songs that make up Negative Evocation Rites virtually stink of the open tomb, each massive piece of funereal doom crawling out of crumbled stone and toppled monuments with only a riff or three, never really changing tempo once furing the whole experience, but seriously burying you beneath that sodden gravitational weight and tear-stained guitar melodies, decimating droning chord progressions and searing electronic beams. This continuation of the ghastly ambient death metal of classic rot-bangers like Slow Shalt Be The Whole Of The Law and Feeding The Abyss from the 2000s sounds like the band hasn't missed any time at all, still grinding through these signature processionals with an agonizing level of heaviness. Each song reaches upwards of ten minutes or longer on average, but it's neve boring: guitars weave an array of eerie melodies, strange discordant chord forms, sickly single-note leads that bend in an almosy weirdly bluesy way before getting hammered back down by that incessant glacial crush.

I've mentioned it elsewhere when writing about Funeral Orchestra, and it still stands true to me: the stuff on this album like "Negative Evocations", "Flesh Infiltrations" and the two-part epic "Negations" blare forth some unholy but magesterial melodies and swarming blackened tremelo-blurred picking amongst the gruesome droning churn of the guitars ad bass, and those vile, lich-like shrieks and roars that drift all throughout the album. It's fuckin' awesome, vast and miserable but augemnted with these huige-sounding hymn-like male vocals and priestly chanting all off in the distance, and those keyboards, man, that synthesizer only gets pulled out at key moments here, but when it shows up, it looms over the rest of the music, this weirdly kosmische wave of electronic distortion sweeping over it all, or sometimes taking the shape as a bleary, barely-perceptible Hammond organa-esque buzz in the background that twists the creep-knob up to ten. It's that psychedelic ghastliness that distinguishes Funeral Orchestra's sound, which goes completely nuts with the final song as all of those elements melt together just as the drummers abruptly drop in this gargantuan militaristic drumming that sounds like something off a Triarii or Arditi performance, leading into a weird, exquisitely trippy finale.