Otesanek / Loss / Orthodox / Mournful Congregation
Four Burials 

The Flenser 2011

The Flenser has done the world a great service by rereleasing this much sought after monument to funeral doom.  Originally released in 2008, this 4 song, 4-way split is soul-crushing in its heaviness and each band brings a slightly different angel to the style.  I will break it down by track.  

First up is Otesanek, a band I am totally unfamiliar with, but their song Seven Are They is like the sonic equivalent of two icebergs slowly grinding together.  The riffs are slow and methodical with a heavy nod to doom legends, Winter.  The fingers crawl along the strings like grim harbingers of a gloomy end.  The riffs rumble like slow-motion explosions all while Brad's monotone death vocals display the sterile bitterness of an uncaring god.

Next is Loss who use sampled vocals to add a level of dread to the minimalist strong strangulation that opens the track, (To Pass Away) Death March To My Ruin.  Forlorn and dusty guitar rise from the abyssic ambience that starts the track.  Clean guitar, full of sorrow carries the song into a wall of mammoth riffs.  The guitars lumber like elder gods across the soundscape and Mike's vocals are deep and guttural but remain emotionless.  There is a strong dismal futility to the guitar tone as each riff is struck out from the guitar and in many ways this brings to mind Warning's style of songwriting.  

Which brings us to one of my favorite doom bands, Spain's Orthodox.  These monks of sonic obscurity step quietly into the arena with muted bass guitar and wavering vocals, which unlike the other three bands are not death metal.  However, they are no less effective.  The track slowly builds with barren, clean guitars and a sparse drum beat which has many similarities to the spiritual feel of Earth's style.  When listening to this Orthodox track it transports me to a desert landscape, a place of peace and spiritual exploration where paranoia lurks at the edges of shadows.  Around the 6:30 mark the song changes direction and builds a bit of sullen momentum, like a storm cloud crossing the prairie.  And the track really is like a long journey, where an awakening becomes possible.  The lighter tone towards the end hints at this possibility.  

And then finally we come to my least favorite band on the comp, Mournful Congregation.  The melodic sorrow in their guitars and richer sound somehow conjures comparisons to Anathema's debut for me.  The pacing is a slow dragging march, filled with years of burden and sorrow.  The choir of vocals attempts to add a spiritual edge to the song but sounds flat.  As a matter of fact, taken in context this track sounds somewhat flat compared to the other three artists featured.  The song is effective, but unspectacular.

For me this is an essential slab of bone-shattering doom.  Each track highlights the bands' differing personalities and also serves to illustrate the similarities in emotion effect.  If you like doom, do yourself a favor and get this.