News and Reviews, letter "F" edition: Funeral Moth and Fra Hedensk Tid
When the drunken little prick that runs this shithole website told me I had to do some album reviews, I naturally assumed that I’d be reviewing a recent release by a modern mainstream metal band. “No problem”, I answered nonchalantly while tossing him a cold beer, and while he was preoccupied with this distraction I threw open the nearest window and prepared to hurl myself out of it. I was hoping for a quick death or at least a debilitating spinal injury that would get me off the hook. I’m not terribly fond of modern mainstream metal acts, you see. Unfortunately my editor wasn’t fooled by my diversion and managed to tackle me at the knees before I even got one leg out the window. He swiftly and competently maneuvered me into The Walls of Jericho, which wrestling fans may recognize as a modified Boston Crab. He was sitting on my back and wrenching my legs backward, bending my spine almost in half, and as I howled in pain and indignation he explained that I would be reviewing a couple Japanese extreme metal albums that, while recent, weren’t exactly “new” releases.
I ignored the painful pressure caused by my spine being bent like a sideways "U" and considered this. It wasn’t until I had arrived in Japan that I started getting a taste for extreme metal. I figured I owed it to the country to write up at least a couple album reviews and it was this, combined with the fact that my editor was still squatting on my back and refusing to release my legs, that lead me to nod my head and accept the assignment. He helped me up and handed me a copy of Fra Hedensk Tid’s 2013 full-length 回帰への祈り, as well as Funeral Moth’s Dense Fog. I took the discs, slapped him across the mouth and ran out the door before he could grab me again.
When it comes to black metal my tastes aren’t particularly refined. Bloody Ears n’ Beer contributor (and Retch drummer) Thom Skuld has an educated palette and in the past has made numerous attempts to educate me, but I tend to stick fast to classic Immortal and Emperor. I’ve talked about Tokyo band Funeral Sutra before and how much ass they kick at their live shows, but in general I prefer death metal over black. Still, when I popped in Fra Hedensk Tid I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. My initial -- and only -- complaint is one I have pretty often when it comes to black metal, and it concerns the drums: they’re never loud enough for me. It seems there’s an unspoken law requiring the drum track to be drowned out by the guitar, and its always a shame when bands don’t value the rhythmic elements as much as they should. I’ve made this complaint often enough to the members of Retch that they’re read to...well...retch, I suppose, which would be neat, except that one or two of them have already thrown up on me in the past and it was not an experience I'd like to repeat.
But I digress. The very first track on 回帰への祈りreminded me of Funeral Sutra and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that those guys and Fra Hedensk Tid have similar influences. Both bands put me in mind of a lone figure standing in a maelstrom, howling into the wind and chaos, unheeding of the cyclone tearing at his clothes and hair, his words lost in the tempest. At times there’s something almost melancholy in Fra Hedensk Tid’s sound, as if their rage is occasionally tempered by sadness, or more likely a sense of futility. The lone figure, raging not at the storm but with it, doesn’t seem to be aiming his ire at anything in particular, but I can detect a darkness in it that doesn’t stem from something ugly. It’s a surprisingly human element, and I think I’m beginning to understand why Thomas Skuld keeps telling me that on the whole black metal is a bizarrely personal genre.
The title track of 回帰への祈り is easily my favorite on the album. I could swear I hear the death of hope in it, which is no easy sentiment to express musically and Fra Hedensk Tid should be congratulated for their eloquence in this regard; but there’s an acceptance too, or perhaps an acknowledgement, of the spoiling and degradation of something that once was good, and in this context several other tracks start to feel like a stoic refusal to be cowed by this state of affairs, a refusal to turn away from the ruins of hope and the loss of anything good in the world. The lone figure will not flinch or tremble at the bleak landscape left behind by the storm. He or she may be the last living person on a ruined earth devoid of such human conceits as goodness or purity, but by devil they’ll wander this desolate waste and witness the ruin of man with a bit of goddam dignity.
The aptly named Dense Fog was released back in 2014 and consists of four tracks with a total run-time of nearly 90 minutes. This is not unusual for doom metal albums, and I’d tell aficionados of the genre to pick up Dense Fog immediately but in all probability any aficionado will already own a copy. Funeral Moth’s most recent show was July 19th of this year and was notable for it being the last show of bass player and founding member Nobuyuki Sento. The hole caused by his absence has been filled by Ryo Amamiya, and unfortunately we’ll all have to wait until December 12th to hear the new lineup. They’ll be playing at Kokubunji Morgana, which I believe is west of Shinjuku on the Chuo line, down past Ogikubo.