The Funeral Orchestra – Negative Evocation Rights Review

As just the second full-length from The Funeral Orchestra in 18 years of existence,1 to say that Negative Evocation Rights has been long in the making feels like a massive understatement. The follow up to 2003’s Feeding the Abyss, and given the band’s nom de plume and the fact that this Swedish trio do actually specialize in an ultra-slow, stripped back form of doom – it should be my opportunity to hold forth, at length, on the funeral doom genre.  Annoyingly, however, a certain Pvppet recently had occasion to do so in relation to the positively funereal Noctu and it would be churlish of me to cover the same ground. So let us instead ask simply, do The Funeral Orchestra’s meditations a burial evoke?

Well, it certainly feels like this Gothenburg three piece are seeking to bury you under the massive, glacially slow riffs and mountains of feedback piled into Negative Evocation Rights but, while the mood is certainly not cheery, it is not funereal. Closer to the ultra-slow rawness of Ocean Chief – with whom The Funeral Orchestra appeared on a 2010 split, The Northern Lights II – than the haunting mournfulness of Noctu, Negative Evocation Rights very much picks up where this golden-masked trio left off on Feeding the Abyss. If anything, The Funeral Orchestra have doubled down on their sound. Gone are the interludes like “Worship” and “Black Orbit,” which punctuated the claustrophobic weight of the debut. Negative Evocation Rights has no time for such trifles. Its four tracks, covering 41 agonizingly slow minutes, are unchanging and uncompromising.

From the off, The Funeral Orchestra set out their stall and, if you want something else, you’d best fuck off somewhere else to find it. On Negative Evocation Rights there are riffs so slow they could be used to measure geological eras, percussion so sluggish you would be forgiven for thinking it the heartbeat of a mammoth at rest. The throaty roars and semi-chants on vocals are like Mizmor on ketamine. Only third track, “Negations I,” offers something resembling variation or respite. Don’t get me wrong, we never get above an excruciatingly slow crawl but, BUT, there is something resembling a melody that is allowed to play gently just above the tectonic riffage and churning vocals. It is, in fact, a great shame that The Funeral Orchestra limit themselves for much of the record to a stubbornly Sunn 0)))-esque approach to their craft, i.e. “here is a note we like, which you may now gorge on for five minutes.” While it’s hard to call something moving at 2.5 mph a banger, “Negations I” does show what Priests I through III are capable of. It remains epically slow, colossally weighty doom but that hint of melody is a hook for the listener to cling to, like a tiny piece of driftwood on a storm-tossed ocean and it makes all the difference.

‘Brooding’ is perhaps the best single word to describe Negative Evocation Rights, which at times has an occult feel to it, as Priest I’s vocals occasionally fall back in a deep, rhythmic chant (“Negations II”). In case there was any doubt, The Funeral Orchestra do not set out to dazzle anyone with the technicality of their playing but what they do do is efficient and effective. They generate an appropriately cavernous sound – for all I know it may actually have been recorded in a cavern – with a rumbling, echoing quality to both Priest I’s guitars and the bass wielded by Priest II. The work on drums feels almost ritualistic, pacing out the rhythms for Priest III’s colleagues, but it is hampered by a very irritating snare tone, though it is used so sparingly it is not nearly as annoying as it could be.

The Funeral Orchestra had their route all mapped out and they held their course. Unwaveringly. And I have no doubt that there is an audience out there who will be with them every step of the way but I found Negative Evocation Rights a frustrating listen. “Negations I” demonstrated – to me at least – that a small tweak to the blueprint ≥3% would shift this record from a well-executed but utterly unremarkable album to a really interesting, engaging – perhaps even evocative – piece of work. This is a case of nearly but not quite. If I am still alive when The Funeral Orchestra return with their third outing, I will be interested to see if they can relent, just a tiny bit, on their uncompromising vision.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear War Now! Productions
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: July 15th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Apocalyptic Plague Ritual MMXX, released earlier this year, is largely a re-working of songs from the band’s debut.
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