Marche Funèbre
To Drown

For the last entry in my 2011 Shiver Records catch-up run we have the debut release of Belgium’s Marche Funèbre, a swampy ooze of melancholy death-doom.

One thing I need to just get out of the way is that I simply despise the clean singing on this disc. It’s a warbly, pseudo-operatic, sadghost voice that makes me want to punch my computer screen. Your mileage may vary of course, but if Jacob Marley showed up one night and talked to me like that I’d laugh in his face and kick him in his spectral balls. Half the time the singing doesn’t even jive with anything else going on, as though the band forced the vocalist to track his parts before guitars were recorded. I mean, I get what they’re going for, that whole new wave gothic melodrama and all, but it’s just ridiculous.

Okay, with that in mind, To Drown is actually not a bad album due to the strength of the songwriting and instrumental performances. The compositions could stand to be more atmospheric but they have a good deal of variation to make up for it, jumping through upbeat and fast sections here and there, then slowing down with twin guitar harmonies and mellow, clean sections. I can hear early Opeth influence in a lot of what they’re doing, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Everything flows pretty well together.

The grim vocals are solid enough, kind of like Moonspell but lacking some of the power. Not really anything special, but they slot right into place and do their job. I could get a real kick out of To Drown if that was the only kind of singing on the album.

Goddammit, I hate those clean vocals. I mean, come on, when you’re doing a rocking, Iron Maiden-inspired riff like on “The Well That Drowns Me” you just can’t whine all over it like that! It’s causing me more cognitive dissonance than a Gorod album. It’s like watching a great movie that suddenly has a really cheap special effect that ruins your suspension of disbelief.

Okay, sorry, back on track. I would say the album highlight for me is the combination of the songs “Regiment of the Hopeless” and “Of Dreams and Vanity,” which are basically one work across two tracks. The former crescendos from clean, cloudy softness into spooky riffage with the most evil (and most sparse) vocals on the album. The latter track is more developed with some really burning, ferocious sections alternating with more gothy verses. It works, and the vocals kind of actually try to stay on key some, which helps to not kill the immersion for a few minutes.

I’m really digging the murky production on To Drown. The bass could stand to be more audible, but hey you know, it’s heavy metal. Other than that everything is very clear, but rawness isn’t sacrificed to achieve it. I… Jesus, listen to that whining.

You know what? Fuck it, I’m done.

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Andrew Young
May 25th, 2012

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