Haunting the supplicant’s rest in the sleeping halls of the oracle the treacherous slither of Helen’s sister, now a ghost, wakes the Erinyes to layer vengeance atop vengeance ’til her nuclear family would all perish. As cunning as hawk and hound at once these furies descend upon the matricidal son thanks to the motherly blood still soaking the soles of his feet. In the eyes of ever-treacherous Gods the house he’d doubly broken in detest of his mothers homicidal lust was no less sullied for whatever reasoning that vengeance incurred. Surrounded and suffocated within the walls of Athens there he cried out for justice and the fairness of Athena answered with an impartial trial. The complexity of the crime was acknowledged and because lady justice would err on the side of mercy, he would see vindication. The hunger to believe in a ‘just’ creator is too satiating for the anxietous heap of modern man, so much so that we’d never stop falling for the fables of religion-infused state and the easily crumbled society of hopeful idiots it’d conjure. A mind stricken with pangs of disbelief can only watch civilization dissect itself into a bloody mess for so long before the instinct of escapism and esoteric worship create oppositional zealot of the disenfranchised. With the cleverness of coexistent man spent upon false and dissolute digital worth even our fables lack character enough to convince as existence becomes a prison of anhedonia without compelling art to stir the mind. The ‘Arcane Mysteries’ that’d specifically pull the Hellenic black metal fandom away from ruin in 2019 come from the unexpectedly centrifugal effluence of Funeral Storm who’ve quickly refined into a major force after solidifying a stable line-up a couple of years ago.
Intermittently active as a solo project starting in the early 2000’s Funeral Storm would take a far backseat in terms of founder Sakis Axiotis aka Wampyrion Markhor Necrowolf primarily focusing on electronic and industrial music as SynthetiC. All output prior to this full-length had been sporadic split releases that’d feature a very different sound than that of ‘Arcane Mysteries’ until the split with Celestial Rite in 2017, there a slightly more typical Hellenic black metal sound would appear on the horizon. At that point Stefan Necroabyssious (Varathron, Katavasia) would lend his vocals and Karkinos guitarist Arcania would provide the second guitar spot. Though I am a die-hard Varathron fan I was still a bit taken aback upon firing up ‘Arcane Mysteries’ up for the first time and finding Funeral Storm had essentially written an effective throwback to those first two Varathron full-lengths, ‘Walpurgisnacht’ in particular. Because Karkinos is a similar unit with Nergal‘s vocalist swapped for Necroabyssious I’d figured the quality would be comparably low with fairly cheap production values but Funeral Storm appears much more serious and invested as a whole. Beyond the fairly obvious bouts of ‘Walpurgisnacht’ worship the general niche entertained within is of the more mid-paced ‘epic’ Greek black metal style that bands like Caedes Cruenta (‘Σκιές Δαιμόνων’ especially), Agatus, and Cult of Eibon all exemplify though there are some riffs that’d fit right into the Macabre Omen or ’93-’96 era Rotting Christ realms. That is about as deep as the experience goes, and it rules.
Funeral Storm do Greek black metal proper and make it sound effortless as they quickly find that mystic early 90’s moodiness and key into those gnarled slow-motion heavy metal riffs the movement is known for. In firing off a solid batch atop classically staggered drum machine patterns some major nostalgia is incited in witness of ‘Arcane Mysteries’. How well do they nail it? You can check their work as they’ve covered Varathron‘s “Flowers of My Youth” which appears as if it were included just as a glorious litmus test for authenticity. I’m sure it helps a bit to have the man himself on vocals for it but it is nonetheless an exciting moment to hear how well those ancient compositions blend into the rest of Funeral Storm‘s debut. Despite the amount of gushing I could continue to do over the sound of this album it does hold up beyond simple resemblance of classic Hellenic black metal; At no point does ‘Arcane Mysteries’ appear as an tiredly archaic throwback or a blandly unoriginal piece thanks to reasonably developed songwriting and some slightly modern touches.
The full listen is well paced and almost entirely memorable thanks almost entirely to the guitar work and generally authentic atmospheric qualities Funeral Storm have focused on. The major flaw that impedes ‘Arcane Mysteries’ comes with filler that does appear intrusive to the flow of the record, namely “Wandering Through the Abyss” and “From the Great Deep of the Primordial Waters of Creation”. Both tracks aren’t bad so much as they are unnecessary distractions from the otherwise spellbinding experience. This isn’t such a big deal considering the fandom stems from idiosyncratic occult origins and they’ve committed no great sin with some ambient pieces for a change of pace. I wouldn’t come to this record for revolution or grand revision but for a beautiful rendering of one of black metals very finest and long-lasting movements. I’ve given Funeral Storm‘s debut a very high recommendation partially because of my own fandom for thier style of black but primarily because ‘Arcane Mysteries’ is a well above average example of that niche thanks in no small part to the masters involved. For preview two of the later tracks on the album are given as preview prior to release but I’d say it’ll be “Ego Sum Filius Draconis” and “Martyr of the Lake” that will absolutely sell this thing to Hellenic black metal obsessives.
Emperors of ancient times. 4.25/5.0
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