Being a sub-genre that’s infamous for copycat riffs, copycat production values and copycat artwork, black metal can get, blatantly put, bland. One look at the cover of Ghost Bath (鬼浴)’s Funeral, and I can tell nothing’s predictable here. After learning the Chinese outfit employs piano and has a flair for depressive additives, I was already tuned up for a rare way of playing metal’s most despondent style.
And I was right.
“Torment” opts for a post-black metal (almost surf-rock) persona before banshee-like vocals come forward; add the flock of fragrant tones landing on the scratchy mix, and it’s given more character. With the sound of a weeping figure, “Burial”‘s percussion takes another turn; unsettling bells chime, shutting down the track. Following that song, “Silence” dawdles in aimless guitar-playing.
Things get spicy once “Procession” slithers forward. It’s a downright, unapologetic, tremolo-laden tornado of despair, spitting out hazardous debris at a hazardous speed. Although “Dead” could be “Procession”‘s twin, it captures a differing, relieved mood. Thundershowers drench “Sorrow,” but the piano and a wind instrument pair as a portal to sadness.
Strangely enough, I almost expect to hear Dio’s voice soaring over that dark guitar riff that appears on “Calling,” which sounds an awful lot like “Heaven and Hell”; this grants some heaviness, but the rest of the album is more syrupy than that. The final few tracks let refreshing auras take hold; “Birth” is free-spirited and rejuvenating, and just when you think it’s without drums, they kick in. Being quite grand, musically, “Forever” is an appropriate closer.
Funeral gets a lot done. It drains the saturation out of what die-hards know as black metal and chases after something that’s more artsy; Ghost Bath inject theatrical snippets, such as the echoed chorus on “Sorrow” and the sickening cries on “Burial.” Listeners will be especially wowed by “Procession” and “Dead,” if they’re seeking tracks that lean toward extremity.
Most of the first few songs are lengthy, but they shorten near the end of this thought-provoking record. When it comes to the production, the guitars are tangy, and the drums are a bit rattly. Vocals wail and screech from a distance in the mix; these wisely contribute to Ghost Bath’s style. Funeral emits a post-black metal vapor, wrapping around a unique way to question suffering and mortality. It shows how a picture really can be worth a thousand—in this case, tortured—words.