Although the forward-thinking excesses of extreme doom metal would forge archetypal funeral doom variants within Poland, Italy, England and the United States the accreditation of the fully realized concept is most often handed to the ever-sorrowful Finnish mastery of what is a righteously absurd extension of gothic doom metal. This idea that Finland is primarily responsible for the popularization of funeral doom is only uncomfortable as a mincing of words where ‘popularity’ is relative to the niche’s very minor presence from the earliest ’91 demo tapes (Mordor, Thergothon, etc.) issued on Wild Rags Records up ’til at least the millennium when it became impossible to ignore the developments from Evoken, Esoteric, Mournful Congregation et al. that’d generally peak beyond their development in the 90’s. In sticking with this timeline Tampere, Finland based funeral doom project Profetus found their momentum as an alternate outlet among their own ‘second wave’ of funeral doom artistry that’d extended from the circles of Tyranny, Wormphlegm, and their ilk. Heavily influenced by Skepticism and (I’d say) Shape of Despair, the style that this A. Mäkinen (ex-Khert-Neter) fronted band leads with remains consistent from 2006 ’til today across three full-lengths where the third and latest, ‘The Sadness of Time Passing’, best realizes their finest realization of the atmospheric ambitions of the project without losing the grand diabolic austerity that this ‘classic’ attuned style of funeral doom demands.
The use of a cathedralesque organ as the central font of atmospheric tension has long been the distinctive modus of Profetus and for that reason they’ve often been dismissed by fans (yes, including myself) as either standard or average within the bigger picture of funeral doom sound design. The lack of death metal or death/doom influences upon their sound leaves the Tampere entity in an excellent position as a sort of puritanical example of Finnish funeral doom that does not bend far from the slow-motion ‘experimental gothic metal’ ethos of the sub-genre pre-2000’s but certainly adopts the clear-and-present fidelity beyond that point in history. The seasoned funeral doom listener should understand the musical language of this release as nearly hard-headed in terms of composition, a reasonably slow doom metal crawl set in the middle of a droning organist’s tristesse, up to its neck in growling lament. What isn’t entirely a point of orthodoxy comes with a mood I’d most often read as anxietous, a sort of ‘edge of the seat’ pacing that I’m more likely to associate with a more jerkily-atmospheric group like Colosseum rather than say, Shape of Despair. Beyond my own subjective sense of mood what’d ultimately make ‘The Shades of Time Passing’ worthy of a closer look in 2019 is its exemplar simplicity that might invoke genre before mood but provides an ultimately satisfying full hour of listening.
As an extreme doom fan and long-time funeral doom nut I wouldn’t blame the gut reaction anyone’d have in response to preview of this new Profetus album. It could be boiled down to a general boost in recording quality and an iteration on their core sound but beyond the gorgeous atmospheric render therein ‘The Sadness of Time Passing’ is a phenomenally dark and personal record that has much more to offer than a pure capture of post-2000 Finnish funeral doom metal style. Awareness of the impermanence of all things, a profoundly connected theme among all ancient philosophical cultures of the world, in this case translates as a great melancholy due to the realist’s sense of morbidity. Death forever lingers as a part of the great constant, change, and though (from my perspective) Heraclitus didn’t see this as starkly as Profetus‘ disambiguation of the Japanese derived “mono no aware” (“the pathos of being”) referred to in the press materials for ‘The Sadness of Time Passing’ the theme of mortality as a constant state of sorrow is no less impactful as accompaniment for an hours meditation on funeral doom. At no point does this translate as self-pity or witless nihilism so much as it instead wallows in the resignation that traumatic death(s) and the resultant chaotic reality enforces.
Whether or not you embrace the cathartic ruin of its prosaic wonders or simply crank its funereal dirge and fill the void with your own meaning there is some potential for Profetus‘ third album to either feel redundant in their discography or ‘plain’. As I’d stated before the production values are the big ‘step up’ here where the songwriting is not drastically changed. Drums are more sparse and less repetitive in structure, vocals are probably at their highest consistency in terms of performance, and… Well, the real issue I’d had came with what could be considered Profetus‘ signature element, the droning keyboard work which loosely shapes the progression of each song as a choral constant, a ringing reminder that this is a place of mourning. There is a trade-off here with the simplicity and plainness of the keyboard/organ work in that it functions as the tent pole for the atmosphere of each piece and their droning instrumentation is a small point of signature for the band but there is no “new” idea thrown in, only doubled down upon.
The thread they’ve arrived at on ‘The Sadness of Time Passing’ is a continuous thought that makes good sense in recapping 2006 until today but nothing about it is so gripping or different that I’d been impressed, only pleased with each of my many full listens. I appreciate the ‘traditional’ approach here to what I’d consider that prime era of early 2000’s funeral doom metal where Profetus were more-or-less born from but at no point was I blown away by the entirety of the experience. It is tough to say whether the ‘right’ mood is needed to fully valuate a funeral doom record but I can say that this is a genre entry sort of album that could serve as a fine introductory piece for the uninitiated or a nice addition to the collection of a die-hard funeral doom metal fan. For my own taste the time spent with this album’s personal themes and darkly graceful tones warrants a moderately high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest either the opener/title track or the oddly pensive “Momentary Burial” as good first bites of Profetus‘ sound.
To these star-born bodies coiling. 3.5/5.0
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