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Funeral: Oratorium

Ambitious new album from doom metal pioneers

On their first recordings circa 1993-95 this Norwegian quintet were a discreetly pioneering force in extreme metal, intensifying the mournful atmospheres of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost to new levels of crushing doleful abjection, inspiring the subsequent funeral doom scene alongside Finnish innovators Thergothon, Skepticism and Unholy.

Founding drummer Anders Eek is the only Funeral member to survive from those early days, but the ornate romanticism and lachrymose twin guitars are still a trademark. The sound is brighter and cleaner, the arrangements richer, the kitchen-sink instrumentation more skilfully deployed; prominent organ, strings and brass add a powerful cinematic sweep, while vocals alternate between death growls, croaky goth croons and profuse, soaring multi-part harmonies.

At first it all feels rather overstated and extravagant, especially at a daunting 73 minutes, but with repeated spins the labyrinthine Oratorium becomes more affecting, its ambitions towards professionalism and progression more laudable. Besides, there are plenty of chilly old-school death-doom riffs scattered throughout.