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Music Review: Funeral Mist – Maranatha

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After a six year hiatus, the enigmatic growlster Daniel Rosten (also known as Arioch) returns with a second full length album by his Swedish black metal project, Funeral Mist.

On this release he does all the instrumentation himself, answering a big question regarding whether the glory of Funeral Mist’s previous work were attributed solely to Arioch himself, or that he really needed others to help him fuel the beauty. As it turns out, Maranatha proves that maybe one man cannot do everything aline. While Arioch’s demonically unique vocals are the highlight of the album (on the end of the track “Anathema Maranatha” he sounds just downright scary and fantastic), the rest is seems a bit muddled.

Starting from the opening track, the listener is assaulted with samples from movies revolving around God and demons before being pummeled with furious drums, vocals, and guitars all at once. The problem with this is that they DO come at you all at once, and it keeps coming at you all at once for a large percentage of the album; it becomes hard to really pick out any one instrument clearly. The guitars are whiny, buzzing, and sometimes Arioch’s vocals can match the whining as he grunts and groans, trying to incorporate many different vocal styles into work to sound deranged as possible, somewhat ruining the effects.

The drums are barely audible as they pummel out beats at blinding speed; at times it is so fast you’d think it was one of the guitars instead. There is hardly any bass; when there is it is completely buried in the sound.

The lyrics are wonderfully philosophical and intriguing, but one would have to read the lyrics sheet or look them up online because Arioch’s vocals are so muddled amongst the music. Every once in a while things will quiet down and one can understand what he’s saying for a few moments. But, then the sonic assault will start up again and it becomes lost on the listener. About eighty percent of the album is like this.

The samples themselves do add atmosphere and originality to Maranatha, but there are also times when it is completely unnecessary. For example, on the longest track- “Blessed Curse”- the album is dominated by a sample of a priest going on and on about the wrath of God. In the middle Arioch interjects with his music, but by then the listener has probably already skipped the track because the sample had been going on for too long. Samples are nice, but not for three minutes worth.

At other points in the album the music will actually quiet down enough so one can finally hear the drum rhythm and the bass guitar (harrah!) amongst the other hidden Easter eggs that Funeral Mist has to offer. On “A New Light” in the middle of the song there an excellent quiet moment where there is a church choir section that just really makes the music moving… and ironic as most of it is anti-god. Sadly, there are not many moments like these, which to the album’s credit, makes them all the more memorable.

Overall, the music is revolutionary at first, only to later fall short due to the muddled, distorted work. While black metal was originally a genre of muddled music in the early nineties, this is 2009. Cleaner production makes a huge difference on the listening experience and sadly Funeral Mist did not achieve that milestone here on Maranatha. If you really want to see Arioch shine with not only his fantastic voice but also some clearly audible music, check out his work in his other band, Marduk.

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