Funeral in Heaven / Plecto Aliquem Capite – Astral Mantras of Dyslexia (25 February 2012, Dunkelheit Producktionen)
Isn’t the internet an awesome thing? I mean, seriously. For those of us who are old enough to remember what life was like before, how much awesomer is it now that you have instantaneous access to pretty much any information you could ever want, anytime, anywhere? Compared to back when you had to rely on just what you could find in books at the library — during the hours when the library was open? Or, how much more convenient is it to be able to buy pretty much anything you can imagine, from any store anywhere — instead of having to physically go to your local store, again only during the time they were open, and settle for whatever they had to sell you?
Out of all of these things, though, probably the greatest benefit of the internet is not being able to find whatever you are looking for, but rather finding shit you never even had any idea existed. Stuff you wouldn’t have dreamed about existing. Now that we are able to communicate with all sorts of people all over the world, it’s amazing what sorts of craziness we now have access to. Take music, for example, because obviously that’s what I’m eventually getting around to talking about. Growing up, my only option was to go to the local National Record Mart or Camelot Music (both of which closed up shop ages ago, by the way) and browse through whatever tapes or CDs they had on their shelves. I was able to hear some songs on the radio or on MTV, and if there was one that I especially liked, I could see if that album was in the store (and hope the rest of it was good, too). Occasionally, I could rely on friends to introduce me to some things that I might not have heard elsewhere. But mostly, I had no real way to discover new music aside from just randomly buying something and crossing my fingers. Not being particularly wealthy, I wasn’t usually able to take risks like this, unless I was digging through the clearance bin (which did result in a few winners, but not often).
Nowadays, though… our musical options are literally endless. There are so many places where you can sample new songs, new albums, new bands, even entirely new GENRES. I never would have imagined that so much variation existed out there, or that I’d ever have the ability to be directly in touch with fans and bands from every corner of the globe! Even without the internet, I knew about metal bands from places like Germany, Sweden, or Brazil, but in recent years that has definitely expanded to include way more parts of Europe, South America, Russia and the Far East, and even parts of Africa. More recently still, the spotlight has increasingly been shone on the Middle East and India, and I am just ecstatic at the expanding knowledge I am gaining and the way my worldly musical experiences are growing ever wider.
Today, I am listening to a split release from two blackened metal bands from Sri Lanka, and if I’m not mistaken, this is the first music I’ve ever heard from that island nation in the Indian Ocean. Naturally, I’m thrilled for the opportunity, and hopefully you will be too, so I am glad to share with you: Astral Mantras of Dyslexia, which consists of Astral Mantras by Funeral in Heaven, and Dyslexia by Plecto Aliquem Capite.
Right off the bat, I’d like to start out by saying I have always been totally intrigued by traditional Indian music, and as you might expect by judging the two countries’ proximity to each other, traditional Sri Lankan sounds share a lot of similarities. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am also a huge fan of the juxtaposition of traditional folk and ethnic styles with any type of metal. So anything that incorporates both of these things together, you can pretty much guarantee I’m going to love it. My favorite White Zombie song of all time is “Blood, Milk, and Sky”; I’ve always loved Type O Negative‘s “Can’t Lose You” and Amorphis‘ “Greed” … I think you get the picture.
However, before I go any further, I do have to disclose that while this album contains plenty of traditional Sri Lankan instrumentation as well as lots of black-metal-oriented material, it doesn’t quite blend all of these elements quite as much or as often as I would have hoped. Having said that, this is still an intriguing hour worth of music that is sometimes a bit challenging, sometimes rather engaging, but always (dare I say it?) entrancing.
The first side, Astral Mantras, begins with Funeral in Heaven leading a fascinating journey in their country’s ethnic heritage with the twelve-minute opus “Transmigrations into Eternal Submission (of Altered Consciousness).” Anyone who has seen video of Ravi Shankar performing, perhaps in the Woodstock documentary or elsewhere, can have some idea of how this sounds: a captivating and complex backbeat provided by the tabla, starting out slowly, with elongated droning tones in the background, and an exotic system of melody and countermelody complete with plenty of microtonal intervals, all of which gradually increase in tempo and intensity, until eventually they reach a state of fervor, then gradually winding down again. In this case, though, the lead part is primarily filled by the violin, and the drones that typically come only from the resonance of the sympathetic strings on the sitar, are here supplemented by overdriven electric guitar power chords.
The remainder of this half of the album consists of two other songs, which are both much more metallic in nature. First is the thirteen-minute “Bandhana (Gatahaththey Kathaa Wasthuwa)” which comes across as a sludgey, funereal waltz of the damned, utilizing chiefly a metal arrangement, although shortly past the midpoint the violin from the preceding track slinks its way in underneath some dark, ritualistic-sounding recitations, remaining in the mix briefly until the black metal vocals return. Closing out this side, and clocking in at “only” seven and a half minutes is “Buddhang Saranang (Thapas Tribute),” which includes a fairly sparse instrumentation of some heavy blues-metal riffing over a tribal-feeling drum part, with a blend of more black metal vocals with somewhat more traditional heavy metal singing (which is, incidentally, in English).
On the reverse side of the record, Dyslexia, Plecto Aliquem Capite get things started similarly, using traditional acoustic instruments on the much shorter (just under five minutes) “Lament.” Very aptly named, this somewhat more minimal piece is predominantly some minor-key arpeggios in the background of a mournful violin duet, accompanied by some mostly-indistinguishible anguished cries.
From there, this band takes things in a far more experimental fashion, drawing partly from black metal, but also from avant garde and noise directions. “Stoned Guru Ramblings,” which runs nearly seven minutes, is essentially built on top of sampled bits of speech — clearly, the titular “ramblings” — all sliced and diced and spliced back together, with a blend of blackened sludge metal and no-wave/noise insanity layered throughout. “Cemetary of the Deep” continues in a similar theme with dirgey sludgey black metal, with extremely dissonant and amelodic black-ish vocals that again are chopped up and manipulated almost beyond recognition as actual vocals.
Finally, the second side of the split concludes with the crown jewel of the album, “Crestfallen: Immolating Shakthi” which is a collaborative work that includes both bands. Pretty much all of the ideas that have come heretofore are combined together into a single, nine-minute epic. Black metal drums and doomy riffs are coupled with metal growls and gutterals, shrieks and screams, plus some sampled dialogue and other assorted noises. Over all of this, some traditional chanting and singing joins in for the last couple of minutes. This last piece has been made available for streaming or to download for free on Funeral in Heaven’s Bandcamp page:
Also, on their Youtube channel, they’ve put together this little sampler that includes various portions of the album’s songs:
This split was released on vinyl by Dunkelheit Produktionen back in December, which is still available on their website, but it is being reissued today in a CD Digipack, with different cover art and an extensive liner note booklet. The CD can be ordered from here. The LP can be obtained here in the regular black vinyl version, or here in the ultra-limited red vinyl package which includes a poster as well as “items used in occult practices in the crypts of Sri Lanka, which will include 1 pirith noola doused in spiritual citronella oil and 1 bodhi seed chain. Both items blessed by a local occult ritual practitioner.”
Funeral in Heaven: Facebook, Bandcamp, Youtube
Plecto Aliquem Capite: Facebook
Dunkelheit Produktionen: Official website, Facebook