The term “black metal” was coined way back in 1982 as the title of Venom‘s second album. The band proudly took their music into the darkest territory metal had dared to trod, and it was pretty shocking at the time. Back then, any group tarred with the “Satanism” brush were persecuted as if it were the Salem witch trials. In the 1980s, mainstream acts Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne were actually put on trial for their music. The ridiculous allegation was that their songs had “caused” their fans to commit suicide. It was recognized that these actions were nothing more than political posturing, at least until the 1990s. The metal-related church burnings and murders in Sweden during 1992-1996 were all too real to be dismissed.
It is against this background that I have followed the black metal movement, although it has been some time since I have listened to the music. And I can honestly say that I have never heard a metal band (black or otherwise) from Sri Lanka. So when I heard about a new split album featuring two Sri Lankan black metal bands, I was more than a little intrigued. The groups in question are Funeral In Heaven, and Plecto Aliquem Capite, and the album is titled Astral Mantras of Dyslexia. As it turns out, there is some wild stuff going on in Southeast Asian metal these days.
Astral Mantras contains seven tracks, three from each band, plus a collaborative final cut. Funeral In Heaven go first, with “Transmigrations Into Eternal Submission (of Altered Consciousness)” (11:30). I was practically certain I had been taken for a ride when I heard this one. “Transmigrations” features traditional Hindu instruments plus keyboards playing what borders on a tribal chant. It is definitely not what I expected to hear on this album, especially as the opening cut.
The darkness descends with the next tune though, “Bandhana (Gatahaththey Kathaa Wasthuwa)” (12:41). The black metal is present here no question, with heavy, down-tuned guitars, and some truly otherworldly vocals. It becomes clear that “Transmigrations” was there to set an atmospheric stage where anything is possible. And with “Bandhana” that promise is fulfilled.
Funeral In Heaven’s final piece is almost superfluous at this point, because we definitely get what they are all about now. So they throw another left-turn by covering “Buddhang Saranang,” (7:12), which was written by fellow Sri Lankans Thapas. The occult feel of this tune remains fully intact, and with their atmospheric (and lengthy) arrangement, Funeral In Heaven definitely live up to their name.