The abstinence of asceticism is a natural, subtle resignation often left undefined for those who’ve drank deep from the cup of life and reached the bottom of their existential rungs without satisfaction. Depression and subconscious deprivation align as a natural path of the disappointed and lamented self for the homeless-by-choice free thinkers among us or, the religious who’d wear minimalist selflessness as austerity within certain Asian cultures. Despite appearances, each are undeniably joyous within the throes of presence that fanatic minimalism provides, separated from the demands made by society as microcosms of Diogenes‘ infamously outward and honest personality. What then is the state of mind of the Sokushinbutsu in process of death’s advance? Is the high-level ascetic mindset so decided and freed by the final stage of transcendence of the corporeal, a self-directed liberation from the chains of rebirth, that a living death by way of slow public mummification can be endured without breaking their devotion? Empowerment through suffering cannot be understated as peak motivation within a life examined and there are few better outlets for this self-actualization than the realm of mid-paced death/doom metal such as that of New York-based quartet Funeral Leech who’ve achieved an intense and painful mummification of the ‘self’ in seeming geologic time on their debut full-length album, ‘Death Meditation’.
There are several generations of death metal niche backing the traditions that Funeral Leech have lead with from the start but no doubt they’ve distinguished their sound by way of mid-to-late 90’s Bolt Thrower records beyond ‘…For Victory‘ and its grand modification within Runemagick‘s second album ‘Enter the Realm of Death‘. The succession beyond should implicate Slugathor to some degree and today’s modern ‘old school’ death/doom metal bands such as Ossuarium, Spectral Voice and Innumerable Forms are kin to thier inhabited cosmos. This was all evident as soon as Funeral Leech‘s first demo (‘The Funereality‘, 2017) dropped into view, implicating high quality patternation and resemblance of a classic style of death metal that I’ve long been a sucker for. Though they’ve been incorporated since 2015 or so there is no long-standing association with death metal proper amongst the ranks of this band, many of them have featured in hardcore punk bands (Terror Level Red, Hubris) as well as blackened sludge (Mortals) and grindcore (Grudges) projects over the last two decades. Whether it was a long-missing piece of their creative passion or fun sub-genre to fuck with the reality is that ‘Death Meditation’ is an outstanding debut for the classic death/doom metal fandom, myself included.
Death’s new beginning is the lifeless void, the utter dark, and the realm far beyond the putridity of flesh where the reverberations of the mind’s chemically scourged emotional discharge ideally warps tumescent into a never ending corridor of riffs much like the slithering, chunking wallop of album opener “Downpour”. The harrowing monastic chants of countless distended souls resounding in unison within this posited infinite purgatorial tomb would no doubt find its soundtrack in the trance-like hum of “Statues”, my personal favorite track on ‘Death Meditation’ for its haunting vocal work and bristling-yet-mournful death/doom movements. The mark of a true ‘old school’ death metal album when considering the implied deeper sub-genre niche therein, is a Wagnerian introduction of forms that dilate to a great fervor, peaking into something truly miserable as it ends rather than peaking at the start of Side B and padding its ass-end with lesser songs. Having enough killer material for a debut full-length is a justification many bands unfortunately avoid for the sake of carrying momentum, I’d suggest that Funeral Leech absolutely justify the full ~45 minutes of their debut, remarkably so. That said they’re a bit more subtle in their mastery than a more seasoned band like Solothus and again maybe more on par with the sensorial experience of Ossuarium‘s fine debut from last year on ‘Death Meditation’.
There are yet many effective subtleties to expand upon here, such as the swell of the bassline as they pull out of the last minute of “Lament” or the grinding Desecresy-esque riffing that highlights album closer “I Am The Cosmos”. These are ideas that could become bolder points of personality further down Funeral Leech‘s career but for now they act as extra value for the repeatability of the listening experience; Details that enhance in importance as ‘Death Meditation’ becomes more familiar in pattern and voice. No doubt it’ll be the Bolt Thrower-isms that will grip the ear first and because of this “Downpour” and “Morbid Transcendence” end up being key flashpoints for the first impression. I’d suggest there is more to the album than that first impression and plenty of life in this record for the classic death/doom metal fan who’d understand a record like this needs to breathe, be swirled, and spat like a freshly uncorked bottle of room temperature wine. For my own tastes ‘Death Meditation’ is one of the best death metal records I’ve heard so far this year and I’ve already gotten enough mileage out of Funeral Leech‘s debut that I can give a very high recommendation for it.
Very high recommendation. 4.75/5.0
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