Funeral – Praesentialis in Aeternum Review

December’s always been a bittersweet month for me. One the one hand, it’s when my job’s the most absolutely insane in terms of how busy it is. That, combined with my general distaste for humanity as a collective whole, usually drives my level of holiday spirit to the levels of non-existence. However, it’s also the month where my favorite beers1 and coffee beverages2 make their welcome reappearance, and all is right with the world once more. Also making their welcome reappearance? Long-dormant Norwegian doom legends, Funeral. When we last heard from them, it was 2012’s Oratorium, but with a new label and members, how does Praesentialis in Aeternum stack up against their legendary classics? After all, nine years is an awfully long time to lay low.

Even with a line-up shuffle and a lengthy time away from the grind,3 Praesentialis picks up right where Oratorium left off. Opener “Ånd” begins with an almost upbeat orchestral backdrop complete with blaring horns and bright piano melodies before hurtling straight into the doom, with vocalist Sindre Nedlund sharing vocal duties with his brother, Lars (Borknagar, Solefald), offering a nice contrast between Lars’ upper register and Sindre’s deeper crooning and death growls. Musically, all the classic trademarks of Funeral’s sound make their presence felt. Drummer (and sole founder) Anders Eek still hits his kit with remarkable power and energy, keeping the atmosphere downtrodden and mournful. New guitarist Magnus Olav Tveiten lays down an incredible riff backdrop for Erlend Nybø’s soaring-yet-tasteful leads. In the near-decade absence, Funeral didn’t miss a beat in terms of reclaiming their rightful place in the doom metal pantheon.

But with all that said, Praesentialis comes with some issues. Despite being a six-track album4 at 56 minutes, the album’s second half contains the longest songs, and it feels like the length is padded out a bit unnecessarily. Whereas “Erindring I – Hovmod” deftly weaves between different moods and motifs, its companion “Erindring II – Fall” feels too disjointed and repetitious, dragging everything down under its own massive weight. And while “Oppvåkning” attempts to course-correct by utilizing Sindre’s choral chants and a massive main riff section while keeping the repetition to a lesser degree, closer “Dvelen” drives that repetitious feeling to worrying levels, making all eleven minutes-and-change drag on for far longer.

Sonically, Praesentialis sounds punishing in all the best ways possible. Eek’s kit remains as thunderous as it did during From These Wounds, while the guitars still retain their heft and volume without sounding fried like they did on that landmark album. Also, the orchestration and keyboards by André Aaslie sounds bright and colorful. Sadly, I wish Rune Gandrud’s bass had more of a presence, but you can still feel his playing throughout the album. I just wish Funeral tightened up the songwriting a bit. I’m a firm believer that songs should reach their logical conclusions, no matter how long that takes. However, in just about every song, what I felt were perfect ending points to songs were instead just red herrings as they would go on and on for extra minutes for no discernable reason. Despite the strong performances by every member of the band, it still becomes a drag to listen to when the songs don’t know when to stop.

Thankfully, the good far, far outweighs the bad here. Funeral, along with genre stalwarts Evoken and Skepticism, put funeral doom on the map, and few do it quite as well. So to see them return after a lengthy lay-off with renewed energy is an incredible thing, as I honestly didn’t think they’d return. Will it replace From These Wounds as my all-time favorite Funeral procession? No, but that’s not to say that Praesentialis in Aeternus is lacking in quality material. If you enjoy funeral doom at all, you owe it to yourself to give it a whirl with your favorite seasonal drink of choice. Cheers, and be safe out there.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Releases Worldwide: December 10th, 2021

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Southern Tier’s 2XMAS, now and forever.
  2. Peppermint mocha or GTFOH.
  3. Crawl? Saunter? Lurch?
  4. Unless you get the digital version, then you’ve got four more songs, including a cover of Candlemass’ “Samarithan.” Sadly, we only received the six-song CD version for review.
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