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Premiere: Profetus – “A Reverie (Midsummer’s Dying)”

Apart from drone, I can’t think of many musical genres that are as built for efficiency as funeral doom. The genre takes a minimum of musical inputs and wrenches them for existentially maximalist purposes: crumbling all human pretense to flitting dust while evoking the eons’-arc birth and death of galaxies.

There’s a catch, though: When your musical palette is so intentionally restrictive, the small things are everything. A bum note here, a flubbed transition there, a snare drum wound too tight, a guitar tone just a shiver-splint wrong — one miss and the whole edifice collapses.

Perhaps as a result of this tightwire act, the bona fide classics of funeral doom are strewn somewhat sparsely across the years. And frankly, as far as this particular writing doofus is concerned, the genre could have pretty much up and called it a day with just two albums: Thergothon’s Stream from the Heavens and Skepticism’s Stormcrowfleet. That’s not to say there hasn’t been a wealth of catastrophically beautiful contemporaries and disciples — think Esoteric, Unholy, Mournful Congregation, Evoken, Asunder, Colosseum, Catacombs, Ahab, and so on — but those two founding documents of unrelenting Finnish gloom are rich enough to constitute an entire musical movement.

While plenty of bands have taken funeral doom in interesting directions — whether the blackened strains of Nortt and Elysian Blaze or the fuzzed-out nature-ambient of Celestiial’s Where Life Springs Eternal — in many ways the first fire still burns brightest. Thus to the issue at hand: the miraculously concise new album, As All Seasons Die, from the (unsurprisingly) Finnish band Profetus, who still make funeral doom for purists.

When the crushing blanket of sound appears all at once in the very first second of “A Reverie (Midsummer’s Dying)”, it either hits you immediately or it doesn’t: “This is it.” If your brain resonates on the Thergothon/Skepticism axis, Profetus are aiming their sounds directly at you. Everything here — and I mean every last thing — is perfect: from the dry, blown-own vocals, to the cathedral-filling organ, to the glacial-paced but searingly melancholic twin guitar leads, to the floor toms beating their ritualistic descant while the bass kick pounds its deep, earthly heartbeat.

At not even 37 minutes, As All Seasons Die is hardly an endurance test. And yet, each time the album closes, I find myself almost entirely drained. Such is the power of music that fills every inch you grant it with the full measure of its emotion. Even conjured from such small components — a few notes here, an achingly slow tempo there, and all of it played again and again and again — the cumulative effect is incalculably immense.

And then it’s over, and you’re alone but for the memory, pressed sinew-deep and hewn from its indelible origin.

Profetus’ As All Seasons Die will be out June 13 via Svart Records in LP and digital versions. Preorders are now available.

— Dan Lawrence

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