Obsessed with the forgotten knowledge of the obscurant occult and inspired by the boldness of men possessed by rituals of pure evil, we find Mexican black metal trio Unholy Funeral generating their own idiosyncratic darkness under the banner of the sub-genre’s on-the-cusp beginnings as their third full-length album surfaces. Counting only the most grandiose (for their time) exaggerations of style amongst its main points of inspiration ‘The Ancient God of Fire‘ is exactly the feral, unchallenged beast that it intends to be. Roughly hewn and mayhemic in motion their work is entirely capable of steady musicianship, though not always bothered. A shambling, bursting, and screaming half-hour feature provides a restless, yearning lilt to their nuance-light and referential craft. It is by sheer ingenuity and appreciation for the niche that this group ultimately finds themselves hitting an inch above average on this unusually stated and fairly brief record.
Unholy Funeral formed three years ago in early 2020 by way of drummer Lord Morganor (Ereshkigal, Ravnkald), guitarist/bassist and keyboardist Serpental Conqueror (ex-Sargatanas) and vocalist Heinous Murmur (Mordskog) and these personalities should be familiar to anyone who’d ever sought out ancient and uncompromising black metal acts of Mexican origin. These are folks who place utmost value on the craftsmanship and passion of early black metal as it formed in idiosyncratic parts of the world be it eastern Europe, the Mediterranean or down in Brazil and this is quite clearly communicated in all three of their albums thus far. Of course the name of the band should be an obvious enough indicator of where their mindset was set when starting the group, though not all of their output aims directly at ‘His Majesty at the Swamp‘ so much as it reflects some of the best traits of pre-’93 works from Rotting Christ, Mystifier, Beherit and even a hint of Behemoth‘s melodic sensibilities early on. Of course there are many more groups one could reference but this covers a clear enough sense of arcane, ancient black metal scenes that’d escaped being absorbed into (or, directly influenced) the Norwegian and Swedish realms as they became more widespread.
The trio are all veterans of the greater psychic war of black metal at this point and had been ready with their debut ~full-length (‘Triarchy ov Darkness‘, 2020) within about six months and as was to be expected based on their other projects they’d nailed that pre-’93 archaic black metal spiritus, raw enough to generate an uneven yet distinct presence which should speak to the underground black metal aficionado up front. The piece to surprise me on the debut was “Ode to the Fallen”, a grand and dramatic piece of melodic death metal which artfully swapped between kicking heavy metal stomp and more intensely rushed-at blasts, a simple yet evocative modulation of pace and movement. ‘Perverted Idolatry‘ (2021) was a more official debut in terms of its greater composition and the over the top performances from their vocalist which’d helped to characterize their own style as erratic, occult inspired and I suppose it’d sounded like an early Swedish black metal record to my ears, even if they did cover Murder Rape (Brazil) to close the album. This sound took me back to discovering groups like Samael and Varathron ages ago and always wanting more with a similarly mystic, unearthly feeling and thankfully that core appeal still applies to their third record here today.
Even if one could safely go into Unholy Funeral‘s third record knowing what sort of channeling to expect ‘The Ancient God of Fire‘ still makes a few surprising choices, a few odd decisions which keep it eternally underground and I’d say righteously obscure. This helps the band register their own personae in this realm which also finds them escaping anything that’d read as to plainly imitative, or, pandering in a cheap way. Now, granted that is a fat roll of qualifiers to introduce such a simply set ‘old school’ black metal record but this is a very specific niche which needs a few banners raised before all rare partakers awaken from their slumber.
A ritual of rotten blood amidst offerings of blackest fire. — More stoic than they are chivalric the general approach to dual-set guitar melodies found on ‘Perverted Idolatry‘ receive a general upgrade here both in terms of the recording quality, which now seeps back to the bombastic homebrewed clarity of Unholy Funeral‘s debut, and general tunefulness. While the title track/opener (“The Ancient God of Fire”) sets the tone with a flood of a piece that quickly proves itself unafraid to stop and stomp it out in regular intervals the rasping echo of the vocals and the rush of the drumming create the leading textures for the first impression and I would say this is the first of many examples of vocalist Murmur having improved considerable after taking stock of the previous album’s successes. This performance particularly reminds me of the more intensely reverberating vocal parts of the original version of Dawn‘s debut LP while the music itself lends itself to the more aggressive side of ‘Fall, Ascension, Domination‘ from Amen Corner, this rang especially true when the pace of the album sped up a bit here and there. Where that reference falls off is when we begin to grasp the full reach of the throne and the drummer’s style which I particularly enjoy. Stepping into the main verses of “The Mysteries of Darkness” the melodic side of the band is yet understated and still speaks loudest to Hellenic darkness but with some clear enough influences from Swedish and Polish riff styles in framing the melody. It all begins to curiously hint at early pagan black metal when the whoa-oh vocals begin to build their own refractory melody in the final third of the song.
The real impact of this album comes within the first three pieces (minus the intro) with “Remembering to the Black Emperors” being the most exemplar ‘epic’ of these mid-paced and stomped out numbers. Here we find the clean vocals from Murmur at their most effective and a strongest yet piece in a thread of very strong opening numbers. ‘The Ancient God of Fire‘ is just over a half hour long but by the time the fifth track (“Gloria in Tenebris”) they’re already more-or-less finished with the most potent statements on record. “Majestic Fire” feels like an extra piece which was maybe just too outrageous to not include, it doesn’t fit quite as well with the other five songs before it yet it’ll stand out for its higher speed, simple guitar progression and at some point the protagonist chugs a bottle of something, proclaims “I will show you the way” and grabs a shotgun and starts firing on a screaming crowd. It’d have been a kind of wild, unforgettable outro for the album if they’d not stuck an average cover of Rotting Christ‘s “Fgmenth, Thy Gift” at the end. Much as I enjoy that song it didn’t end up fitting in with the originals on the full listen.
Much as I appreciate the journey Unholy Funeral have taken in the span of their three ~30 minute records thus far I’d definitely noticed a pattern in my listening habits with each that’d found me immersed within the first four or five pieces and soon checking out before the final pieces and covers hit. There isn’t anything so deep or involved happening ‘The Ancient God of Fire‘ worth intellectualizing beyond some very inspired worship of the old ways which feels as raw, unhinged yet character-rich as it should. It’ll have to be the sort of record I’ll pick up when looking for this specific sound, another offering to the arcane black metal ungods, and an easy record to spin twenty or so minutes at a time. The first few songs will quickly sell this record to the right sort of fan, otherwise a moderately high recommendation for the general black metal audience.
Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:
Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.
Make a one-time donation
Make a monthly donation
Make a yearly donation
Choose an amount
Or enter a custom amount
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly