Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Black Funeral - Vampyr: Throne of the Beast (1996)

Vampyr - Throne of the Beast is the debut L.P. from Black Funeral. According to the liner notes, it was recorded in the Dungeons Of Cachtice Castle, June 1995. Most likely, this is merely a reference to one of the band member's basement. While most American Black Metal was completely pathetic, such as Judas Iscariot, Black Funeral managed to pull off something rather interesting, though not without its flaws.

The primary complaints regarding this album are limited to the vocals and the bass guitar. As for the latter, it is just too noticeable at times, though this is more of a personal bias. The vocals are more of a concern as, at times, they sound more befitting of a Death Metal release. The pitch is lower than what one would expect and a raspier tone would have suited the music better. This was one of the things that was corrected on Empire of Blood, when the band re-recorded most of this material and gave it a colder, more northern Black Metal feeling.

The music is quite interesting, being similar enough to some of their European counterparts, while retaining some identity of their own. The dreary atmosphere is well-served by the melancholic riffs, extinguishing all light. The album features a variety of tempos, with the tremolo melody / blast beat combo making enough of an appearance to maintain the connection with some of their influences, but the majority of the rhythms are more old school in feel and execution. "The Floating Blue Witchlight" and "Spectral Agony of Pain and Loneliness" are among the most memorable tracks of the whole album and really capture the spirit of what Black Funeral was attempting to do.

The production is a little odd. Rather than sounding cold, this actually has a warm feeling to it. The prominence of the bass really adds to this sense. The drumming is buried enough to keep out of the way, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, the guitars do not cut through all of this in the way that they should. Only with the follow-up to this album did the band rectify this issue, opting for a colder and more piercing guitar tone and making sure that it would be higher in the mix.

Vampyr - Throne of the Beast is one of the few records from the American Black Metal scene that comes recommended. Rather than, pathetically, copying other bands note for note, they used the inspiration to create something that paid tribute to those that came before while also developing their own sound. In a way, this release ended up serving the same purpose as a demo, since most of the tracks were re-worked and re-recorded the following year. Either way, this possesses its own charm as well, so it is certainly worth a listen.