Sleeping on fucking awesome bands seems to be the story of my life lately. My Last.fm scrobbler claims that I’d listened to Faustcoven thirty times prior to getting down with Hellfire & Funeral Bells on my computer for the first time, but I sure as heck don’t remember ever experiencing this doomed excellence prior to taking advantage of Nuclear War Now! Productions’ recent mega-sale and picking up the band’s third album on CD. Granted, I used to listen to a lot of random things while completely shit-hammered at ungodly hours in college, so it is entirely possible that the brain cells that remember Faustcoven have been lost forever to the whiskey gods. Whatever the case may be, after spending a great deal of time with this ghastly recording, all I can say is goddamn, have I been missing out.
Hellfire and Funeral Bells comes off like the residual haunting of a Black Sabbath recording session; the sound is dark, distant and spectral, yet also horrifically heavy, lending the music a strange vibe that’s part 1970s proto-doom and part pre-Viking Bathory on quaaludes. Guitarist/vocalist Gunnar Hansen throws down with creepy-crawling dead man’s riffs, while his vocals sound like they’re echoing up from the bottom of an open grave. Drummer Johnny Tombthrasher brings the zombified beats, mostly plodding, but occasionally speeding up to something resembling a glacial gallop. The two work together perfectly to create an atmosphere of utter dread; it’s as if you’re wandering through a foggy cemetery at midnight, and terror lurks behind every tombstone.
While that aforementioned atmosphere is surely essential to Faustcoven’s sound, Hellfire and Funeral Bells is all about Hansen’s ghostly six-string. His riffs are pure simplicity but oh so perfect; the kind of riffs that lull you into a trance of slow-motion headbanging for the album’s entire forty-plus-minute duration. The guitar-work is an excellent mixture of doom, black metal and maybe some Mercyful Fate; Hansen seems to have soaked up the best aspects of metal’s early history and filtered them through his own funereal approach. And my sweet Satan, that tone; rarely if ever have I heard a tone so perfectly deathly and despondent. The eerie, distorted arpeggios towards the end of “Lost in the Forest of Suicide” alone are enough to make you want to join those gently swaying corpses.
Faustcoven have crafted an immensely awesome album with Hellfire and Funeral Bells; perfect for the cold, grey days and pitch-black nights we’ve been experiencing of late. I’m looking forward to diving headfirst into their back catalogue, but in the meantime I’m pretty darn content to enjoy this slab of unholy majesty from beyond the grave.