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Stream from the Heavens (1994)

Funeral doom is a very unique sub-genre of metal. This style of music takes things to a completely different extreme than what most others had in mind. As an offshoot of death/doom, these bands took the heavy and depressing vibe that was already present, along with the harsh vocals, yet slowed the music down much more than ever before. This helped add to the feeling of lifelessness, as the crawling pace was the total antithesis of the high-energy, fast-paced stuff that was more likely to get the adrenaline flowing. Thergothon's one and only full-length album, Stream from the Heavens, is considered to be the most influential work within this scene. Released in 1994 by Obscure Plasma Records (the same label that released Mayhem's Live in Leipzig), this monumental record has stood the test of time and never fails to obliterate those that are lured to the dark depths wherein this music resides.

Upon first entering the world of funeral doom, there is a distinction to be made between the words 'doom' and 'depressive'. One would expect a certain level of sorrow to permeate such songs, yet this is not always true. In fact, a lot of more recent bands focus on creating an atmosphere that is almost completely bereft of any feeling other than a sense of impending dread. In my view, these fail to connect with people on a more meaningful level and are not quite as dark as they could be. However, the Finnish band Thergothon perfectly blends both, creating a masterpiece of doom that gives the listener the feeling that the end of the world is near while also poisoning your very spirit with a feeling of unbearable grief. In this way, the music captures the ill fate of the world in general, while also zeroing in and reflecting the more personal destruction that comes from within and the despair that it begets. The morbid pace of the songs has a way of really draining the life out of you, causing you to feel empty and hopeless. Very rarely do things pick up enough to where you get any sense of life, here, other than that which is slowly dying in utter anguish and misery. The guitar riffs are absolutely oppressive and make it somewhat difficult for you to breathe. Throughout the album, these slow and sombre riffs crush you, again and again, leaving nothing but crumbled remains. The guitars are the most dominant aspect of this, possessing a very heavy sound that has become the trademark of this sub-genre. The drumming is fairly low-key, which perfectly suits the songwriting. There are fills, here and there, but the percussion does well to maintain the funereal pace of the music and never distracts from the riffs. Accentuating the bleak atmosphere is the rather tasteful use of synth. In this case, it is not overbearing and comes and goes as needed in an effort to add a little depth. As for the vocals, there is some variation though the primary approach is a very deep and almost belch-like growl. Vocalists often ruin otherwise decent funeral doom, as so many go for such a low pitch that there is no feeling conveyed and thus they add nothing to the atmosphere. In this case, it is done in such a manner as to imbue the listener with the image of a being that has been subjected to untold torment. Whereas Count Grishnackh's voice, on the old Burzum albums, conjured the image of a create that was currently suffering terrible agony, Thergothon's vocalist sounds as one that has already suffered unimaginable hell and has been transformed into something almost inhuman. Traces of his humanity call out from the dark, from time to time, through the use of occasional clean vocals that do a lot to contribute to the dreary feeling.

The production is fairly low quality. Everything is kind of muddy and subdued. The mix is such that all of the various elements blend together, in a way. Also working against this album is the fact that is possesses a relatively low volume, compared to most normal CDs. The poor sound is not necessarily a horrible thing and does not have such a detrimental effect on the music. There are times when the guitars come off sounding as if the master tape was slightly warped, before they produced the CDs. In a way, these shortcomings lend something to the overall obscure vibe of the album. The only difference that I would have liked would be a slightly sharper and colder guitar tone, which would have worked well with the atmosphere. That said, this warmer sound may have something to do with the oppressive character of the music.

Stream from the Heavens is absolutely essential for those into funeral doom. You are not likely to find any other album in this sub-genre that is as completely flawless, regarding the songwriting and execution. From the apocalyptic feeling of tracks like "Yet the Watchers Guard" and "Crying Blood + Crimson Snow" to the utterly sorrowful and depressing quality of "Elemental" (the most epic track on here, and personal highlight of the album) Thergothon did everything right and set a precedent that has hardly been matched in all the years since. They perfectly captured the misery and emptiness of this existence, and such woeful sounds will likely lead many to an early demise. Seek this out with confidence.
(29 Sept. 2012)

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