Lord Vicar and Funeral Circle Split: The Cemetery Waits

A well-suited pairing between Finnish and Canadian outfits, Eyes Like Snow’s recently-issued split between Lord Vicar and Funeral Circle is doom for traditional doomers. It’s available in a variety of vinyl editions as well as CD, and with a total runtime of 22 minutes across three tracks, it’s a decent opportunity for anyone who hasn’t yet to get to know either band. Lord Vicar, with former members of Reverend Bizarre and Saint Vitus/Count Raven, is obviously the higher-profile act of the two, but Funeral Circle, who formed in 2007 in Vancouver, give a solid showing of themselves and even cover Witchfinder General to add memorability to their side of the record. It’s over quick, either way, but both Funeral Circle and Lord Vicar have something to offer doom heads: Namely, doom.

For Lord Vicar, this split with Funeral Circle follows one from this past winter with Swedish act Griftegård and will lead into one with Maryland doomers Revelation and the follow-up to 2008’s Fear No Pain debut full-length, reportedly titled Signs of Osiris. One thing that should be abundantly clear right away, then, is that Lord Vicar likes to keep busy. And why not? Guitarist Peter Inverted has been able to maintain the steady momentum of limited releases that helped Reverend Bizarre’s cult and sphere of influence grow as wide as they did and continue to do, and his pairing with vocalist Christian “Lord Chritus” Lindersson – who sang on Saint Vitus’ underrated C.O.D. album after fronting Count Raven for their 1990 debut, Storm Warning – has led to one of the most formidable partnerships in the current European scene. Here, Lord Vicar offers the 13:50 woeful epic “The Fear of Being Crushed,” which unsurprisingly finds Peter taking the lead on guitar with bassist Jussi “Iron Hammer” Myllykoski and drummer Gareth Millsted (ex-Centurions Ghost) adding righteous thickness behind. The song weaves its way, slowly, through longer heavy sections and offsetting acoustic breaks that do more to complement the atmosphere than detract from it, also – in the case of the middle one as opposed to the song’s intro or outro – allowing for Lindersson to show his emotional range in a kind of existential “how low can you go?” verse before the driving electric riff kicks back in with the bass and drums. Even without the context of Lord Vicar’s pedigree, it’s easy to hear in “The Fear of Being Crushed” why they’re among European trad doom’s forerunners; their overall melodic sensibility, Peter’s riffing, the tonal strength of Myllykoski’s bass (as heard when everything else cuts out 12 minutes in), Millsted’s steady plod and Lindersson’s sparse but effective vocals are not only paying homage to the foundational principles of their genre, but are helping to refine them as well. With crisp, clear production and the stateliness of their approach, the “duh” factor is high, as in, “Well, of course it rules. Duh.”

The production is more of an issue when it comes to Funeral Circle’s portion of the split – two songs totaling just over eight minutes – with drummer Patriarch (the whole band is pseudonyms-only) sounding muffled, but it’s less of a concern when you have to flip a record over to get to “The Hexenhammer” and “Burning a Sinner,” since there’s a natural pause. Vocalist Revenant is forward in the mix immediately on “The Hexenhammer” (bonus points for the awesomeness of that title) and injects his choruses with a falsetto that’s all the more enjoyable for not being completely pulled off. Hey man, if you can do it easily, that’s fine, but if it’s work, and if it sounds like you’re working, that just tells me you really want to do it, and it’s clear Revenant finds it key to his approach fronting the five-piece. He also gives a Tom G. Warrior grunt at the beginning of the song and laughs at the end over (one assumes) a sampled organ, so maybe Funeral Circle are a little self-aware in their methods, but “The Hexenhammer” is no less potent for it. Behind Revenant, the two guitars of Pilgrim and Heretic riff and solo ably, and the bass of Malphas follows behind, seeming more prominent on the start-stop progression of Witchfinder General’s “Burning a Sinner.” The track comes from the classic British outfit’s 1982 debut LP, Death Penalty, and appears here with all the original misogyny in tact and mostly unchanged from the original, except maybe in terms of key. For what it’s worth, Funeral Circle do a good job with a recognizable cut, the guitar solo about two minutes in being a particular high point, and the track as a whole emphasizing the “preaching to the converted” nature of the entire split. Revenant doesn’t apply his falsetto to Zeeb Parkes’ original patterns, but the song stands out nonetheless as an apt choice for a cover and a means for Funeral Circle to stand up some to Lord Vicar’s considerable pedigree.

Completists chasing down Lord Vicar material will find their efforts well met by “The Fear of Being Crushed,” and Funeral Circle get a solid introduction to a wider audience than they’ve before known, so no matter how you look at it, the split between the two of them is a win for both acts. Each seems to have its collective foot firmly planted in miserable cemetery dirt, and for experienced doomers and newcomers alike, there should be plenty in these 22 minutes to justify investigation. Doom on, because you will anyway.

Lord Vicar on Facebook

Funeral Circle on Facebook

Eyes Like Snow

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