Formed in Västerbotten area northeastern Sweden circa 2003, as a non-serious ‘black metal parody’ band named Valmer & Hook, Feral have been on a steadily rising upswing since becoming a thing back in 2007. They continue to be an immense sonic exaggeration of pioneering death metal works from Entombed, specifically the space between ‘Clandestine’ and ‘Wolverine Blues’ with a double-fisted chainsaw guitar tone bigger than most ham-fisted post-‘Massive Killing Capacity’ wannabes. Because they are working with archetypal death tones amplified to ridiculous levels, the only chance that Feral give themselves to shine expresses as a balance of distinct composition and untoward treatment of cliches. ‘Flesh for Funerals Eternal’ is as exuberant as it is ominous and ultimately survives through the sheer habitability of its grooves. The question is, can you live within the corrosive walls of Feral‘s ultra-HM-2 sound?
I can, and in fact I celebrate that distinctly ‘death metal’ guitar sound as often as possible without directly encouraging its use. This prevalent enough sound acts as a direct link to nostalgia for a moderately enduring regional heavy metal culture but also represents a golden era where death metal began to gain worldwide above-ground distribution. It can be frustrating to have highly positive formative experiences with records like ‘Left Hand Path’ as a confounding variable in judging musical value of records like ‘Flesh For Funerals Eternal’. If limited to the previous album, ‘Where Dead Dreams Dwell’ (2015), and this latest album I’d more likely compare Feral to Unleashed or Entrails than the more directly ‘Wolverine Blues’ inspired ‘Dragged to the Altar’ (2011). ‘Where Dead Dreams Dwell’ was a more dynamically composed record with a less brutally paced feeling whereas ‘Flesh for Funerals Eternal’ is insistent a la Bolt Thrower‘s ‘War Master’.
Though it won’t seem like a ‘riff’ album if you’re not thrilled by huge grooves the explosive mix of the record feels balanced and yet overblown in its extremity. If the riffs didn’t keep up throughout it’d have been hard to appreciate the high production values of the record that go right to the edge of mud a la ‘Back From the Grave’. With the big grooves and the big sound the ‘hook’ of Feral‘s latest comes in the songwriting and no song passes without some sort of memorable guitar work making some sort of successfully ominous melodic statement; This both creates the sort of existentialist old school horror that defines classic Swedish death metal and keeps things interesting throughout a full listen. The incredible escalating swing of “Of Gods No Longer Invoked” is the second great peak of the record with the death ‘n roll gymnastics (and incredibly hard drop) of “Gathering Their Bones” offering relief from the pure mosh metal of the opening tracks. Beneath the soil of a couple more moshable numbers in the second half of the album Feral have buried two of the best tracks on the album in succession with “Stygian Void” as an exemplar sample of their sound and “Buried” as a perfect example of the heavy groove they’re most deadly with.
The inherent catchiness of Feral‘s best moments owe just as much to the classics of doom metal as they do Autopsy when replicated and I found my doom sensibilities peaked during a few tracks (see: “Buried”). Otherwise they are amplifying the Swedish death metal guitar tone to a ridiculously high standard and writing solid, memorable records with that extremity in mind. It is less intricate and more brutal than ‘Where Dead Dreams Dwell’ and the savagery of the opening tracks might deter some listeners before the really good stuff hits. With more extensive listening and analysis I found myself suffocated by the sound of ‘Flesh For Funerals Eternal’ but thrilled by the content; There are some flat moments but the greater hits of the record do a good job of carrying it. As such I can highly recommend this record to folks who have no palatable aversion to Swedeath chainsaw chug records. For preview I think “Gathering Their Bones” will hit hard and fast with most listeners but “Of Gods No Longer Evoked” will convince that a full spin is necessary.
Cursed by their caskets. 4.25/5.0
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