Review by Daniel for Funereal Presence - Achatius (2019) Review by Daniel for Funereal Presence - Achatius (2019)

Daniel Daniel / July 14, 2019 / 1

Back when the Metal Academy website first went live a few years ago now, I had the opportunity to choose my clans of choice & honestly thought it would be a complete no-brainer. I’ve always been an extreme metal fan first & foremost so the option of allocating myself The Pit, The Horde, The Fallen & The North was an obvious one. But over time I began to realise that my preferences within The North weren’t as broad as they were for the other three clans & I opted to drop back to three clans. High quality black metal still clearly sat amongst the most elite genres for me however the scope of the black metal sound had expanded significantly since the 1990’s & I found that the modern scene included a whole plethora of different variations or sub-subgenres that often offered me very little appeal. Sometimes I’d even find it hard to understand the appeal in an artist that was generally well-regarded by the audience for your more conventional black metal & 2019’s sophomore album from US multi-instrumentalist Funereal Presence is a pretty good example of this.

“Achatius” is made up of four lengthy pieces that all exceed the ten minute mark with lone member Bestial Devotion (also the drummer for fellow US black metallers Negative Plane) producing a package that offers considerable structural variation & always keeps the listener on their toes through consistent changes-ups. The Funereal Presence sound is certainly built on the old-school mentality of classic black metal bands like Darkthrone & Bathory however there’s a greater level of complexity in the use of melody here, at times even bordering on the melodic black metal subgenre. It’s this use of melody that gives Funereal Presence their own unique sound as it often feels a little unusual or avant-garde, despite the fact that there’s nothing all that obscure happening when you examine things closely. The use of non-traditional instruments like church bells also contributes to this & is a noteworthy feature of the album as a whole.

The production job is clear & accessible without ever moving away from the lo-fi black metal aesthetic & I think it does the material justice. It’s interesting that the performances are often pretty dodgy though, particularly the drumming which sounds very much like poor Bestial is pushing himself a little further than his technical limitations should really allow for & the same can be said for some of the guitar work which struggles for timing (check out the clean section in “Wherein Seven Celestial Beasts Are Revealed To Him” for example – yuck!), a flaw that was perhaps accentuated by to the inconsistencies in the drumming. For this reason, I definitely think that “Achatius” had the potential to be more than what we’ve received. The inclusion of some more highly skilled & instrument-specific third parties could have taken this material to another level however you would usually have thought that a one-man band would be very tight given that its conforming to just the one overarching vision. That’s certainly not the case here & I find myself struggling a little bit as a result. Perhaps Bestial Devotion simply found it tough to get his tracks down tightly without the backing of other instrumentalists during the recording of each track? It’s certainly possible from my experience in the studio.

The other thing I struggle with is the more melodic material which I find to not only take me outside of my comfort zone further than I’m comfortable with but also to sound pretty sickly at times. Bestial Devotion’s decision to utilize cow bell at various points across the tracklisting was never a good idea either. I’ve always been a strong detractor of that particular rhythmic instrument’s metal credentials & would actually go so far as to suggest that it should be banned altogether. It probably won’t come as any sort of surprise that the more extreme sections of the album offer me the most appeal though with second track “Wherein A Messenger Of The Devil Appears” being my clear highlight. The other three tracks simply fall short of the mark for me, particularly the two tracks that close out the album which were a clear step down from the A-side.

I don’t think too many black metal fans will have trouble with the vocals which sit comfortably within the safe confines of the genre however they’re also not particularly engaging & don’t really serve as the focal point at any stage in my opinion. If you’re going to buy into “Achatius” then it’s likely for the melodic complexity in the guitar work rather than the extreme nature of the vocals though. The occasional rough-shod yet psychotic Quorthon-esque guitar solo is a nice touch which probably could have been explored a little further although Bestial Devotion’s limited capabilities in this area are probably a large part of the reason for this & that kinda sums up my issues with the album to be honest. I don’t mind a black metal album that’s low on technical skill but caters for it with pure darkness & evil. “Achatius” aims significantly higher than that though & doesn’t stick within its technical limitations which leads to this ol’ metal musician sporting a fair few cringes throughout the 49 minute run time. There’s enjoyment to be had when Funeral Presence keep it simpler & more aggressive but I struggle with his more ambitious moments & this has led to an underwhelming overall impression of the album.

For fans of Negative Plane, Cultes des Ghoules & Darkthrone.

Comments (1)

Sonny Sonny / May 14, 2021

Great review Daniel. I didn't have the same reservations myself as I don't have the same technical background and am not averse to a bit of melody in black metal, but I do appreciate a well-written review with well-argued points even if I don't necessarily agree.