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Having given their name to an entire Doom genre, Norway's Funeral have earned their place as an iconic and lasting band. Theirs has been far from the easiest of journeys, though, as Anders Eek discusses here with Comrade Aleks.

Interview with Funeral.
"'Funeral' is a popular name in the Metal scene, but Norwegian's Funeral, formed in 1991, for sure are one of the first and longest-running outfits with this title. They were pioneers in Funeral Doom and Death Doom metal. 'Tragedies', 'In Fields Of Pestilent Grief', the famous 'Demo '97' and later albums all left their lasting mark in doom scripture. Despite all the miseries and obstacles the band met on its way, it's still alive, even though the only original member left is drummer Anders Eek. While Funeral work on their new album, we got in touch with Anders and went through the band's history album to album."

Anders Eek, Funeral's last remaining founder, talks to Aleks today.

Anders, Funeral is one of the first wave of Death Doom bands in the Old World, even though it was born in a period when the Peaceville Three were already getting recognition. What are the band's roots? How was it started?

We were kids that were heavily into both thrash metal, death metal and early doom metal bands like Candlemass, Black Sabbath and so forth. We also had a fascination for classical music, but we felt no one really played as slow and extreme as we wanted. So basically we founded a band and genre that we felt wasn't available in stores. Funeral started out as a slow death metal band, really, and merged into what was to become our first sound. So it basically was a mix of our early influences, which it in many ways still is.

How did you come out with the concept for Funeral's first demo record 'Tristesse'? What did you want to fulfill in these songs?

As mentioned we wanted to go more extreme than any of the bands we already listened to, as well as incorporating classical music. And take doom-metal to new lows.

2015 line-up: Erlend Nybø (guitars), Rune Gandrud (bass), Mats Lerberg (vocals, guitars), Anders Eek (drums, vocals), Sindre Nedland (vocals).

What was on your mind when you started to write the first songs for 'Tragedies'? Did you have a general concept in your mind considering the sound and the lyrics? How had it changed since 1991, the year when the band was born?

"Tragedies" slowly evolved out of the style we already established with "Tristesse". But we wanted an even more classical approach, so we added soprano, more classical guitars and so on. The lyrics had to reflect the music, so we wrote about doom oriented concepts. We wanted it to be as somber and dark as possible. Those days we also were fans of The 3rd And The Mortal, one of the very good, early bands that had only female vocals.

How do you remember the recording sessions for 'Tragedies', how was this album's sound formed back then?

We entered the studio of a friend on the countryside. Lived there for a weekend, and just banged the songs out,really. Only using analogue equipment. No clicktracks, no computers, only tape. I borrowed a really good kit from a friend, and I think we managed to get what we wanted soundwise. All drumtracks done in one take.

Funeral - 'Heartache':

This album is usually tagged as one of the first Funeral Doom albums, what are your thoughts concerning such a description? Was this tag already used back in the '90s for the band?

No. We called it doom-metal, as simple as that. All the other subgenres appeared much later. Of course its an honour having a subgenre named after the band, but I never really cared what genre, style and so on people wanted to call us. It's slow, dark, somber and melancholic.

How did you come up with the idea to add this bleak medieval atmosphere to 'Tragedies'? Female vocals, a few acoustic sections, violin, organ and an overall mournful mood are strong features of the material just much as the slow and damn low guitars and its funeral pace.

It's our love for classical music. We wanted to incorporate that within our brand of doom-metal. I have always been a fan of both organs and general medieval classical music, so it was basically a natural progression. We also had a friend (16 years at the time) that was a classical guitar virtuos. He wrote pieces for us to use on the record.

I also wanted the music to fit with our bandname, so the slow pace and melancholy is obvious.

Live in Amuz Cathedral, 2018.

How often did you play gigs in the '90s? How quickly did the band get recognition, from your point of view?

Quite rare. We played a handful of gigs around our hometown and Oslo. That was it. There wasn't much recognition in Norway (remember this was in the midst of the BM explosion), so we really were in the hands of foreign press so to speak. And the early recordings made an impact around the world.

What's the story with the 'To Mourn Is A Virtue' demo you recorded in 1997? It turned out to be Funeral's highlight, but as I heard the story, it was all about bad luck and different obstacles.

We were extremely productive back then, and hooked up with the guys from My Dying Bride (and sound engineer) when they played in Norway in 1995. So we made a deal with Mags and the famous Academy studios, and went there some moths later for 10 days to record an album. We kicked out our singer just prior to the recording, so everything was recorded instrumentally, also this time analogue without click track, with the thought of recording vocals later, as we did. We recruited Sarah Eick, and released "Demo 97"..It didn't give us much attention unfortunately, so we just held on to the recording until Frode Forsmo joined is some years later, and re-wrote all the vocals. Then we released it through Solitude Prod some years later. I still think its one of our finest work.

Funeral - 'To Mourn Is A Virtue':

It took six years to build the second full-length album 'In Fields Of Pestilent Grief', and you recorded a pair of demos in that period. What slowed you down besides those troubles with vocalists?

That album was written just after the "To Mourn Is A Virtue" recording. We again had to recruit a new singer, and Hanne Hukkelberg was the choice. It wasn't anything that really slowed us down apart from the lack of interest from labels. We constantly wrote songs, and was absolutely certain to one day succeed.

Why did you decide to take a chance on female vocals for this album? As I understand Kjetil Ottersen recorded vocals only for one song.

In the studio for the "In Fields Of Pestilent Grief" album we decided to experiment. So both Kjetil and the studio-engineer recorded some vocals. But in retrospect I wasn't fully satisfied, so we shelved it, until finally Frode came along and did a really good job.

What did you have in your hands when you entered the studio to record these songs? Why didn't you just repeat the working formula of 'Tragedies'?

We evolved as both musicians and songwriters, so it was a natural development at the time.. We also got a bit tired of just playing slow for the sake of it.

It seems that there are always changes in Funeral's lineup. Besides regular rotations, Einar passed away in 2003, then Christian in 2006... You three were the band's kernel: how did that heavy loss influence the band and song-writing process? Did you want to stop Funeral at all?

This was a very hard time. Especially personally, as these guys were also my best friends. I put the band on hold for maybe a year. It should be said though, that neither Einar nor Christian was heavily into the writing process itself, but of course the dynamics within the band was laid in ruins.

Album 'From These Wounds' saw the light of the day in 2006: this time all vocals were done by Frode Forsmo. How do you see this album today? It seemed like the band not just survived but also improved its position.

It was a highlight recruiting Frode. I was a huge fan of his old band Minas Tirith, and really just asked him. Fortunately he said yes to the job and was given full freedom to both write lyrics and harmonies.

Today I think that album is way overproduced and commercial, and really can't listen to it. Of course most of our fans feel the opposite.

Frode Forsmo joined Funeral in 2004, and spent six years with the band. Some people adored his manner of singing, some didn't like it all. However his contribution in 'From These Wounds' and 'As The Light Does The Shadow' is significant. How do you value these two records? Was the work on both of them an easy and pleasant task?

I think Frode is one of the most talented singers ever. Having him as singer was huge for me. He also unfortunately was quite difficult to work with and had an issue or two, but in retrospect I am very satisfied with how it turned out. Especially "As The Light Does The Shadow" Its never easy to record a Funeral album... It seems like there is a curse hanging over the band.

What are your memories of 'From These Wounds' recording sessions? And what influenced the final result? Funeral turned out softer and more melancholic with this album, and 'As The Light Does The Shadow' carried on the same message, so I believe that you were satisfied after all with this sound?

It was definitely influences both by the death of Einar and the fact that that the band had been on a hiatus for some time. We were eager to develop our sound and try out new ideas, as always, really.
,br> As mentioned, "From These Wounds" I think were way overproduced and digital sounding. So we went the other way with "As The Light Does The Shadow", which I personally am much more satisfied with. It's also more varied in my view, and I think Frode did his best work to date with that album.

Funeral - 'Breathing Through You':

The fifth full-length, 'To Mourn Is A Virtue' was based on songs from Funeral's famous 'Demo 1997', but it seems that people weren't happy with the final result. How do you see the weak and strong sides of this work?

It is the songs recorded in '96, topped with new vocals , piano and some orchestration. I am very satisfied with that album to this day, and still think its one of our finest work. Of course Frode again did an amazing job with the vocal harmonies. Its still the album that have some of my personal favorite songs, like "Hunger" and "Father" (performed by Øystein Rustad, the soundengineer on "In Fields..") Awesome lyrics written by the late Einar Fredriksen. I think the weak side is the demo release of that recording with Sarah Eick. It didn't turn out the way it should.

Vocals on five of the songs were performed by Øystein Rustad; what didn't work out with him back when the tracks were originally recorded?

He was the soundengineer, and an awesome musician, but he wasn't really a part of the band, and didn't want to join as a permanent member. The whole "To Mourn Is A Virtue" sort of followed us through the years, as an album that never really got finished the way I wanted it to sound. So finally when Frode recorded his vocals I finally got it to sound the way I wanted. It was actually Frode`s audition as a member.

The 'Oratorium' album was recorded with an almost totally new lineup, what happened with the previous one? It worked for some time, Frode's vocals worked, the entire collaboration seemed to be tight, so what was it? And how swiftly did you find new members?

Frode decided to quit in the midst of pre-production, so at this time I was the only member apart from guitarist Erlend. So we recruited yet some new members. That's why it took a while to get it released.

Funeral - 'This Barren Skin':

How was this material composed? How do you see your own progress as songwriter and drummer on 'Oratorium'?

I wrote all songs except two written by Erlend. We recruited Roger Bjørge on orchestration (again) and that was it. The pre-production was done at Erlend`s homestudio. I think we all progressed as (and hopefully still do) both individuals and musicians and I both hope and think this reflects the songwriting and performance.

What kind of sound did you want to achieve with 'Oratorium'? What kind of goals did you set the band when you entered the studio?

I wanted it to sound really huge, bombastic and epic. Sort of be the perfect mixture of metal and classical music, something I think we achieved. I am very satisfied with this album.

At least some lyrics on 'Oratorium' were written by Einar, how did you find that? And did Sindre Nedland contribute some texts for the album?

I inherited all his poetry, equipment, music and drawings when he died. He always told me to use whatever lyrics I wanted. All lyrics on "Oratorium" are written by Einar. I also had and still has, a good relationship with his family, so I am very proud of his legacy and contribution in the band, even after his death. He was an excellent poet as well. A true artist in all aspects of the word, both good and bad. Sindre does not write lyrics in Funeral.

Anders, what is your current occupation? When will we get a chance to listen new Funeral?

I am a musician by heart, and play in several other bands as well. Unfortunately I am not able to live off the music, so I have to work as a nurse as well.

We are just about to wrap up the new album and are in the studio right now. It will be finished before summer. No release date yet though.

Funeral - 'Erindring' (Live premiere):

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Visit the Funeral bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-04-22 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Aesthetic Death
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