I will not be reviewing the new release by funeral doom titans Esoteric next month. Not because I don’t want to (I do). No, this sad state of affairs is owing to my general n00bness Larger, more established writers push scrawny newcomers off of the promo carousel until they’ve had a chance to ride. While this hurts my baby n00b feelings, I have no doubt that once I’ve gained some tenure, I’ll be running around giving newer writers wedgies and slapping promos out of their filthy, unworthy hands, and then they’ll be sorry. Oh yes Precious, sorry indeed. So as you and I wait for an Esoteric review to be penned by Ferrous Beuller—we hates him—I’ve taken the only course of action left to me and chosen a promo by another funeral doom band. Will Profetus deliver with their own take on the slowest and saddest of all metals on their third full-length The Sadness of Time Passing?
From the first minutes, it will be obvious to followers of the style that Profetus model their slow trudging misery after funeral forefathers Thergothon and Skepticism. This makes sense, as all three bands hail from Finland, home of the world’s most metal bands per capita at two bands per person. Furthermore, Profetus make their dolorous living on Avantgarde Music, which began its existence with the release of Thergothon‘s Stream From the Heavens back in the mid-90s. The opening title track sets the tone with its impossibly slow ship-at-sea undulation, drum strikes coming at five second intervals matching the guitar and key parts to build a hypnotic dirge. The Skepticism worship is especially strong as keyboards are permanently set to “church organ played solemnly by a hunchback who been wronged.” The entire affair strays very little from the formula laid out by Stormcrowfleet, right down to the lack of a bassist.
This adherence to the early classics of the sub-sub-genre is, to this reviewer, The Sadness of Time Passing‘s main limitation. However groundbreaking those albums were for turning down the tempo and turning up the despondency, they remain to me objects of respect more than love (unless you put My Dying Bride in the conversation). It doesn’t help that there is little change-up between songs on TSoTP, with the most notable deviation coming in the first half of “Northern Crown,” when most of the instruments fall away in favor of a drawn out, pulsating organ—stop laughing—echoey spoken lyrics and a woman’s wordless singing. There is one major difference between TSoTP and those early genre albums, in that Profetus uses spacious modern production in lieu of covering their recording equipment in blankets and playing their instruments in an adjacent room.
This is not to say the music is poorly executed or unenjoyable in its own right if you, like me, are someone willing to give yourself over to the trance-like state it can induce. With multiple listens especially, the subtle guitar plucks and drum hits between spaces take on more meaning, while guitarist/vocalist Anssi Mäkinen’s protracted death rasps bring otherworldly anguish. Profetus‘ long compositions build slowly to crescendos that, at their best, offer catharsis. The final two minutes of “Nostalgia” do this well enough, but the high point of the album comes from the slow build of aforementioned “Northern Crown.” After six minutes of subdued, almost pretty organ and vocals, the song erupts into a heavy death march that grows more insistent until Mäkinen’s harsh vocals and Ana Carolina Ojeda’s cleans entwine in a pinnacle of grief nearly eleven minutes in. It’s a clear album highlight that had me involuntarily holding invisible fruit aloft.
Funeral doom has diversified in sound quite a bit since the mid-90s, yet there Profetus remain. They play their homage well, but it’s been a long time since this particular approach sounded fresh. And while they have the pastiche of the era down pat, the relative lack of variation across the five tracks on The Sadness of Time Passing keeps this from reaching the heights of the albums they clearly draw from. Fans of the genre will appreciate this, but it won’t have anyone saying “Esoteric who?” Have we mentioned we hates Ferrous Beuller? We do, Precious.