Album Review – Funeral Hearse / In Devotion of… (2019)

A fantastic album of 80’s Hardcore and Crust Punk-infused Black Metal by a one-man army from Singapore, paying homage to the terrifying Aghori sadhus.

Hailing from Kovan, a neighborhood located within the town of Hougang, in the northeast region of Singapore, Black/Death Metal one-man army Funeral Hearse plays a diverse mix of 80’s Hardcore/Crust Punk-infused Black Metal with themes ranging from religion, politics, nuclear annihilation and society. Formed in 2016 as a two-piece outfit comprised of multi-instrumentalist Azrael (also known as Imran Manaff) and vocalist and lyricist Deadwax, who decided to leave the band in early 2018 leaving Azrael as the sole member, Funeral Hearse returns in full force with its first full-length album, entitled In Devotion of…, fresh off its 2017 successful double EP Heralding the Death Winds and The Fist, The Spit, The Sword, paying homage to the Aghori sadhus, a sect of Hinduism with left-hand path rituals, practices and philosophy towards life and death, bringing their attributes to life through a series of musical onslaught accompanied by sounds of nature interwoven to create a surreal journey.

Written, recorded and produced by Azrael himself, and featuring a dark, straightforward artwork by Czech artist Vojtech Doubek (Moonroot), In Devotion of… follows a similar pattern as the band’s 2017 releases by exploring a recurring theme of religion, this time focusing on the aforementioned Aghori sadhus. “The Aghori Sadhus theme was actually suggested by Deadwax, who was intrigued by this religious sect. He brought the idea to me and after reading more about them we became captivated and enthralled by these Aghoris who would display their devotion through indulging in left-hand practices such as residing on cremation grounds, acts of cannibalism and the list goes on,” explains Azrael on the theme of the album. Musically speaking, In Devotion of… is an ode to all things extreme music, inspired by iconic names such as Marduk, Immortal, Celtic Frost and Darkthrone, among others, leaving you completely disoriented after its infernal 37 minutes of music are over.

A ritualistic, tribal intro morphs into pulverizing sounds and tones in the opening track Into the Eye of the Serpent, where Azrael begins roaring like a demonic entity while at the same time he shreds his guitar chords in a dark and vile manner, not to mention how organic the programmed drums sound, with chaos reigning supreme from start to finish. And a classic Black Metal riffage dictates the rhythm in Burning Embers from a Funeral Pyre, an ominous and dense creation by Azrael that grows in intensity and rage as the music progresses, all enhanced by his visceral growling attack, and with the guitar sounds slashing our ears and minds mercilessly until the song’s cryptic finale; followed by In Worship of the Divine, which already begins at full speed with Azrael smashing his ax in great fashion, adding a touch of Atmospheric Black Metal to his already visceral sound. In summary, this is that type of storm of heavier-than-hell sounds we all love to hear in Extreme Metal.

Then delicate sounds kick off the also demolishing Under the Eclipse of a Pale Moon, where Azrael is on absolute fire delivering aggressive riffs and bass punches inspired by the greatest bands of the genre such as Immortal and Marduk, sounding at times like a dark waltz of extreme music. All that sonic havoc gives place to serene notes in Cleansing a Damned Soul, but that peace doesn’t last long as Azrael fires sheer violence and rage from his guitar lines and screams, with the music remaining obscure and sharp until the very end, proving our talented lone ranger loves extreme music from the bottom of his (blackened) heart. And last but not least, simply inhale and exhale deeply for a few seconds before Alternate State of Consciousness puts a ferocious ending to the album, with its old school Black Metal-inspired riffs being flawlessly accompanied by gruesome Death Metal vocal lines, flowing like an arrow in flames through the night, and with an acoustic passage giving us a chance to breathe before Azrael’s final onrush of crushing Black Metal.

I’m a huge fan of one-man bands, not only because it’s impressive how some people are capable of generating a full-bodied sonority all by themselves, especially in the Black Metal scene, but also because those lone wolves (and lone she-wolves, of course) are usually extremely creative when composing their music and writing their lyrics. Who else on earth would be able to bring forth an album of extreme music based on the practices and uniqueness of the Aghori sadhus if not a black metaller like Azrael? Having said that, please don’t forget to show your support to such talented musician by following Funeral Hearse on Facebook and, above all, by purchasing In Devotion of… from the band’s own BandCamp page or from the Spy Satellite Records’ BandCamp page, as well as from iTunes or from Amazon. It’s a world of cannibalism, religion, devotion, life and death in the form of top-of-the-line Black Metal. What else can you ask for in underground extreme music?

Best moments of the album: Burning Embers from a Funeral Pyre and Under the Eclipse of a Pale Moon.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Spy Satellite Records

Track listing
1. Into the Eye of the Serpent 6:46
2. Burning Embers from a Funeral Pyre 7:01
3. In Worship of the Divine 4:39
4. Under the Eclipse of a Pale Moon 7:08
5. Cleansing a Damned Soul 4:57
6. Alternate State of Consciousness 6:20

Band members
Azrael – vocals, guitars, bass, drum programming

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Album Review – The Wandering Ascetic / Crimson (2019)

Drawing influences from the Hellenic Black Metal scene, here comes a Singaporean squad armed with their brand new album of dissonant and hypnotic sounds.

Formed in 2011 in Singapore by Kathir, vocalist and bassist for Rudra, an iconic Death and Black Metal act from the local scene, The Wandering Ascetic are making a name for themselves in the underground of heavy music by blasting a more exemplary black and thrash sonority without the Indian classical instruments seen in the music by Rudra, but still retaining their trademark spiritual fervor. Accompanied by guitarist Vinod (also from Rudra), bassist Jayakumar and drummer Kannan K, Kathir and his The Wandering Ascetic draw their influences from the Hellenic Black Metal scene (as well as obviously from Rudra), generating dissonant, hypnotic sound s infused with crushing riffs and grooves, elevating their music and art to a whole different level.

After the release of their debut EP titled Manifest Destiny, in 2013, it’s time for The Wandering Ascetic to smash our senses once again with their first full-length opus, the excellent Crimson, featuring a life-transforming artwork by Mark Riddick (Fetid Zombie) and layout by Turkka Rantanen (Demilich, Demigod). Comprised of 10 unrelenting songs ranging from pure old school Black Metal to modern-day Southern Rock and Groove Metal, Crimson is a solid and very entertaining statement by The Wandering Ascetic in a scene that seems stagnant at times, showing how powerful Singaporean metal can be and, as a consequence, opening several doors in the international market for the band.

Vinod begins his slashing attack accompanied by Jayakumar’s thunderous bass in Eva Braun, with Kathir roaring demonically for our total delight in a Black and Death Metal attack spiced up by hints of Progressive Metal, flowing darkly until its eerie end; then the tribal beats by Kannan K ignite another obscure composition named I Sing the Body Electric, showcasing an obscure rhythm inspired by old school Black and Doom Metal tailored for fans of the genre where the guitar lines by Vinod sound as flammable as they can be. Bringing elements form the music by Gojira, Mastodon and Tool we have the beautifully titled The Exorcism of Mrs. Doe, a very intricate and sulfurous tune where Jayakumar and Kannan K generate a dense and disturbing atmosphere with their weapons, followed by The Gods Bleed!, a song perfect for breaking your neck headbanging spearheaded by Vinod’s devilish riffs, while Kathir continues to vociferate like a demonic entity, not to mention how metallic and impactful Jayakumar’s bass punches sound and feel.

Beast of Burden presents more melody blended with sheer darkness in the form of modern-day Death and Black Metal, with Vinod being on absolute fire with his riffs and solos while the gnarls by Kathir only get more and more infernal, and The Wandering Ascetic keep hammering our heads with their crushing sonority in The Will to Live, where all four band members make sure we don’t stop banging our heads to their vicious music, with highlights to Kathir’s enraged growls and Vinod’s ass-kicking guitar solo. After such high level of devastation, it’s time to dive deep into the crypts of Hades with those Singaporean metallers in To Hell, Back and to Hell Again, a classic, straightforward metal extravaganza with elements from the dirty Rock N’ Roll played by bands like Motörhead and Chrome Division, which obviously means it kicks some serious ass.

Here for the Good Things keeps the album at a very good level of malignancy and hatred despite sounding a bit generic (or I should say less inspired than the other songs), with Vinod slashing his guitar in a very precise and aggressive manner; and the cutting sound of his guitar is once again the main ingredient in the visceral Assassins, displaying some hypnotizing instrumental parts, in special Vinod’s guitar solo, while Kannan K doesn’t let the energy go down by smashing his drums nonstop. Finally we have Orang Laut, an ominous and grim blast of extreme music highly inspired by classic Doom Metal, with Vinod and Jayakumar extracting the most Stygian sounds from their strings and with the music ending as dark as anyone can imagine.

It’s not always that we have the pleasure of facing high-end metal music from such distinct country, completely out of the North American and European markets, and we metalheads should not only thank The Wandering Ascetic for that by following them on Facebook, but mainly by purchasing their new album Crimson from their own BandCamp page, from the Transcending Obscurity webstore, or from other retailers like Target. Crimson might not be considered a true revolution in music, but the four guys from The Wandering Ascetic definitely put on a lot of energy, creativity and passion in the writing, composing and recording of the album to ensure they were not just playing “more of the same”. Quite the contrary, Crimson does sound very unique and compelling, elevating the name of Singapore in the world of heavy music and paving a very interesting future for the quartet.

Best moments of the album: I Sing the Body Electric, The Gods Bleed! and To Hell, Back and to Hell Again.

Worst moments of the album: Here for the Good Things.

Released in 2019 Transcending Obscurity Asia

Track listing
1. Eva Braun 5:18
2. I Sing the Body Electric 4:46
3. The Exorcism of Mrs. Doe 4:28
4. The Gods Bleed! 4:42
5. Beast of Burden 4:01
6. The Will to Live 3:15
7. To Hell, Back and to Hell Again 3:10
8. Here for the Good Things 4:10
9. Assassins 5:04
10. Orang Laut 3:12

Band members
Kathir – vocals
Vinod – lead & rhythm guitars
Jayakumar – bass
Kannan K – drums