I’ve stated it many times before, and it bears repeating here: Swedish death metal and I have a complicated relationship. Some of my all-time favorite death metal releases originated from bands like Entombed, At the Gates, and Dismember, so I would never claim that the style itself is utterly bereft of quality. But as this particular subgenre has developed, its propensity for one-note performances and stale songwriting has pushed me farther and farther away from the chainsaw chug I once loved so well. While I enjoy a thorough death metal pummeling as much as the next guy, there’s only so much I can take before boredom kicks in. With this in tow, I approached Feral’s third full-length record, Flesh for Funerals Eternal with some level of caution. Thankfully, it appears there’s some juice left in the Swedeath tank, as this record slays in a multitude of ways.
All the staples of Swedish death metal are here in droves for devotees of the sound: Titanic drum work, buzzsaw HM-2 guitar tone, and guttural vocal nastiness abounds. But where Feral take their approach to the subgenre a step further is in their songwriting. Sure, opener “Vaults of Undead Horror” is a pretty typical slab of rage-filled Swedeath (performed impeccably, mind you), but the flourishes in these songs are supremely effective and help this record and the band’s approach to the subgenre rise above the rabble. That track in particular features brief Slayer-esque salvos of solos that are fun and impactful additions. “Black Coven Secrets” features a doomy passage about halfway through that is a welcome change of pace, but in the most stunning development of all, “Dormant Disease” highlights the oft completely forgotten work of the bassist, and features a bass solo that adds a progressive tinge one normally doesn’t hear in this type of death metal. These welcome points of emphasis help this record stick out from a crowd of generally mediocre releases, and make Flesh for Funerals Eternal a more adventurous journey than many may expect.
I would be remiss to leave out the importance of the mix and production work here as well. Swedeath isn’t necessarily known for its pristine production values, but this record just sounds superb for the style. The guitars are chunky and as clear as HM-2 fuzz allows, while the work behind the kit gets plenty of thunderous heft in the mix. But as stated above, I’m most thoroughly impressed by the emphasis that the bass is given on this record. It adds so much flavor to the music, and I commend the production team behind this record for allowing each of these instruments room to breathe. It’s a rarity in Swedeath, and by itself helps to highlight the depths of instrumental brutality this subgenre is capable of.
Flesh for Funerals Eternal isn’t a groundbreaking record when it comes to Swedeath norms, but it does so many things right and adds enough flair to the formula that I can heartily recommend it to fans of the subgenre without even the slightest hesitation. These songs are brutal, but are never constructed without thought and care. The performances are commendable, the production fantastic, and the songwriting varied and interesting enough to keep even this jaded soul intrigued throughout. If Swedeath is up your alley, I can think of no better cap to the year than this record. Front-to-back, it’s a damned good time.
Flesh for Funerals Eternal is out December 30th on Transcending Obscurity Records, and can be pre-ordered on the band’s Bandcamp page.