Starting off 2019 with the news of a new Funereal Presence full length was cause for excitement, especially considering that the announcement occurred only a handful of weeks before release. For those who have not come across the name before, Funereal Presence is the solo work of Negative Plane drummer Bestial Devotion and finds him taking some of the old-school spirit and experimentation of his main band in different directions. 2014’s full-length debut The Archer Takes Aim tied together one killer riff after the next, with songs sprawling outwards in an epic fashion. This year’s Achatius takes a similar approach but continues to provide one memorable riff after another woven together into black metal that channels the old way without merely rehashing it.
Achatius provides listeners a significant amount to dig into, as each of the four songs is eleven minutes or longer. While that may suggest that Funereal Presence has a significant amount of build-up or repetition this isn’t the case at all, as each track twists and turns from one minute to the next while still feeling cohesive. The writing showcases a sense of fluidity that isn’t always common in black metal, quickly transitioning between softer atmospheric passages, classic heavy metal style riffing, and the genre’s familiar icy blasts without missing a beat. Achatius is the type of album that has immediate appeal with riffs that instantly hook you, but to truly get a feel for all the details and transitions that make up each of the songs will take a good deal of time. It’s rare to find an album that’s worth putting on repeat from beginning to end for hours or focusing on a particular song, but that’s what Funereal Presence’s latest is capable of. Whether hitting you with extremely catchy air guitar worthy leads that are reminiscent of both Negative Plane and Malokarpatan, icy blasting, or softer passages that let the macabre and otherworldly atmosphere seep in, there’s a lot to like about what Bestial Devotion has offered here.
Much like its predecessor, Achatius succeeds not only thanks to its consistently engaging riffing but also its varied vocal performance that touches upon just every side of the spectrum one can think of. Bestial Devotion’s pseudonym proves to be incredibly accurate, as his higher pitched screams come through with so much raw intensity that they send chills down my spine with every listen despite knowing when to expect them. “Wherein Achatius is Awakened and Called Upon” is a perfect example of how much power the vocals have to offer, as towards the end just as it seems as though the pitch is heading towards a softer section it reverses course and delivers a truly overwhelming screech. Funereal Presence once again incorporates singing/chanting throughout the album, which gives the album a considerable amount of variety and keeps you on your toes just as much as the instrumentation.
There are similarities to the overall songwriting approach when looking at The Archer Takes Aimand Achatius, but the latter proves to be just as compelling with twists and turns that take on an epic feel. Funereal Presence takes the best of 80s and 90s black metal alongside a healthy dose of classic heavy metal and creates a whirlwind of enchanting riffs and vocal work. Expect to still be listening to this one after the initial awe factor has worn off, as there’s more than enough substance to keep you discovering nuances for some time to come. We’re only two months into 2019 and Funereal Presence has delivered what looks to be one of the genre’s best and most exciting efforts. Achatius is available now from The Ajna Offensive and Sepulchral Voice Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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