Funeral Leech – Death Meditation Review

The idea of combining death metal and doom metal is exciting. The viciousness of death metal combined with the depression of the slow an alluring combination for many bands. It’s in a metalhead’s nature – we’re not always angry and we’re not always solemn. Finding a way of unifying death and doom to perfection in a track, an album, is like finding the answer to the great mysteries of existence. Of course, a track can lose focus in its mission to combine the two styles, switching between the two with too much impatience. Songs can lose their potency on the switch of a riff, the scaling up or down of speed. If an album is to succeed it needs to feel unified; all of its elements need to combine to form a whole. There are the extremes: the body of the sprinter is different to that of the marathon runner; the sound of doom is different to the sound of death. What is it we look for in our metal? Do we want it all in one, a medley of sounds like a buffet. Or do we want it separate, different experiences for different days? Funeral Leech, with their debut release Death Meditation, attempt to merge both. What have they created?

A torrent of rain and an electronic shimmer: the slow-pan opening to a death-doom nightmare. Then a revival, something stirs; deep, low rumblings emerge from the languorous opening of “Downpour” in the form of down-tuned heaviness. Funeral Leech are slow, steady and monotonous, rarely deviating from set patterns, letting their dread spread through simplicity. Heaviness, thematic and sonic, is created through the buzzsaw dismality of the mix; there is a depth to Funeral Leech’s sound which is captivating. Above the grinding metallic gears of the track’s instrumentals and growls, enchanting choir vocals levitate between the gaps in the fuzz and glumness of the sauntering mid-pace. A simple melancholy solo – lengthed notes ringing out through the echoing chants and pained growls – brings the funeral march to a solemn closing. Follow up “Statues” shuns an introduction, churning its mid-paced crust of sound from the opening seconds. Funeral Leech inject venom into the mix, firing off sparks in the form of sharper riffs and less restrained vocal fire. When the track expectedly reverts back to its marching mid-pace the tactful layering of a ghostly vocal hum adds simple texture to the mix. Beneath this, the driving riffs and percussion move along in a growingly tedious manner; there’s a sense that the foundation of the record is growing stale. As it develops, Death Meditation might turn into a mush of bland, recycled ideas.

Spectral whispers, guitars chiming like church bells, and an ethereal clean vocal hum drag “The Burden of Flesh” and “Lament” into being. After two-minutes of adept atmosphere building, a chugging groove emerges in both; they evolve monotonously. A hollow snare drum echoes hollowly, becoming distracting. The growls, less and less hooking, sink into the mulch. The record has settled and there’s not a lot to really sing about. Where the atmosphere is strong the direction is weak; riff variety is minimal, pacing suffers with this, and any longevity these long songs develop quickly fades. “Lament” settles into a chuggy mid-pace at its midpoint and fails to resurrect from here. When the track moves into a more satisfying slow pace, Lucas Anderson’s vocals are given more space. Small deviations in his delivery – spitting up-turns at the end of lyrical phrases, increasingly more abrasive snarls from the gut – add a character to a record lacking in confident personality. 

Minor fluctuations in pace and tone throughout attempt to show development. “Morbid Transcendence” and “I am the Cosmos” show the band finding their groove. Simple pace increases – expected, predictable – push the tracks through the gates. Both are strong but too long. Pacing wise, the tracks have an energy and a tonal uniqueness, when compared to the rest of the album, suggesting Funeral Leech do have something in them to make their sound more dynamic. “Cosmos” especially finds a more unique cosmic groove, emphasized by greater variety in vocals, more cryptic in their delivery. It feels directionless, though – a string of solid riffs of varied pace strung together with no end goal.

Atmospherically, Funeral Leech have successfully conjured darkness. Though lacking meat in the drum department, Death Meditation sounds thick and nasty. The record struggles to find its identity, too often deciding to switch between the funeral-slow and death-fast. Testing both waters, the band fail to create tracks that have a strong direction and impact. The band have rooted their sound in the old school, recalling the menacing spirit of early Asphyx, Grave and Paradise Lost.  Those bands were in their formative periods then, just as Funeral Leech are now – nearly 30 years later.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Independent
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide April 17th, 2020

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