The Ethereal – From Funeral Skies

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that not a whole hell of a lot goes on in ‘From Funeral Skies’. This shit is really sparse and repetitive even for a funeral doom album, and there’s no way to deny it: there’s very little in the way of actual content and what little there is gets repeated to death over the course of four (or, if you have the older version, three) songs. No, this project isn’t very necessary (but neither are the rest of Stjin’s hundred projects), but for some reason, I can’t really fault it because, damn, I actually enjoy it.

Stjin clearly wants you to know that this is a Funeral Fucking Doom album. When you hear the phrase ‘funeral doom’, this is the music that you hear in your mind. Incredibly slow tempos, ultra-low, whispery growls, plunging, subterranean bass, thin, incredibly sharp and equally slow lead guitar stitching out tiny fragments of melody amid the crushing desolation. And this is sure as hell some desolate music: the space between notes is even further than the average funeral doom, stretched out into unbelievably long stretches of pure nothingness.

This is funeral doom taken to a ridiculous extreme. There almost seems to be a perception in the doom metal scene that funeral doom is sort of the endpoint of the genre: that all the other stylistic divergences are a way of preparing you for funeral doom, the be-all, end-all of artistic development for doom metal. Well, if we take that to be true, The Ethereal is easily the absolutely monolithic end point of the end point, the final, impossibly vast canyon that greets those who have raced across the desert of funeral doom. And when you arrive at the end, you almost say to yourself, “Is this it? Is that all there is?”

But the point of ‘From Funeral Skies’ really is, yes, that is all there is. The cover art describes the music perfectly: the band’s name on a backdrop of purple, white, grey, and black sky. Utterly sparse and desolate in every way, minimalist, devoid of any and all unnecessary elements. What Stjin has done with The Ethereal is to break funeral doom into its barest components, and take handfuls of chords and notes and words and line them up for presentation. Imagine, at the end of that desert of funeral doom, with its dark grey sands and endless, stormy skies, you finally reach the canyon that is The Ethereal. Incomprehensibly vast, low rumblings echoing out slowly and eternally, and beyond that canyon? More flat grey desert stretching on forevermore, and an endless ridge of dark grey mountains to your left trapping you here, unless you attempt to walk to the right, with no end to the sand in sight. Whether this image strikes a chord in you is the litmus test as to whether you will enjoy ‘From Funeral Skies’ or not.

Personally? I find it entrancing. That image that I described stands out impossibly clearly in my mind when I listen to this album. Yes, ‘From Funeral Skies’ is essentially nothingness. But it is a pure representation of nothingness, using these bare, monolithic elements to draw attention to this vast loneliness and emptiness. It’s music composed only of thunderclaps and endlessly held notes, repeated ad infinitum, allowing you to explore every detail of this vast, desolate soundscape. I find music like this incredibly gripping, despite how objectively thin what’s going on is. Obviously, many will find this boring, meaningless, and trite, but for those of us who find the finality of funeral doom to be one of the ultimate expressions of art and finality, you can find little better an album than this.

Emptiness. A cold, quiet, vast, unending, lonely, wandering, grey, desolate void. Make of that what you will.

(Originally written for http://www.vampire-magazine.com)

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~ by noktorn on May 21, 2007.

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