Funeral Doom. Now there’s a tough nut of a genre to crack. I once went to a doom metal festival in Helsinki, Finland, and there was a funeral doom band playing. This was a Friday evening after work, and I was after some good music, good company and a couple of beers. I have to tell you, I have rarely felt as claustrophobic and isolated from everything in the world as I was there, in that crowded, dark, hot club with that band playing. One chord seemed to take hours to finish, and it felt like every time the drum hit, I had downed a beer and ordered the next one. It was not a bad trip, it was a horrible trip. Funeral doom is not the kind of music you listen to because it’s nice, because it’s fun. Regular doom fits that, sure, even death/doom in its own rotten manner. But funeral doom… no. It’s the kind of music you listen to in bouts of alienation, isolation and exile.
The above has actually very little to do with Thergothon, because of course it wasn’t Thergothon who were playing. This gig was in 2009, and Thergothon split up in 1993. So short-lived and brief was the Finnish funeral doom pioneers’ career, that by the time their seminal debut (and sole) album was released, the band was no more. Band leader Jori Sjöroos would go on to greater commercial success with indie band Magenta Skycode and writing material for Finnish chart toppers PMMP.
But brief though their career was, and short their discography, the reverberations can still be felt in the extreme metal scene today. By 1994, doom-infused death (or the other way around) was nothing unheard of, but taking it to the extremes Thergothon did… that was. The drum beat is lurching at best, and the notes are painfully pulled from the guitar, allowed to linger and languish until they fade away, apparently with heavy use of a slow flanger/phaser effect to make them sound even muddier and more obscure. Laden with horror synths and wistful, demented guttural croaking (and the occasional not-too-on-key clean vocals), this does not make easy listening. Kind of like US doom/death pioneers Winter at 1/4 speed. This is the kind of music that can be excruciating to concentrate upon, but is somehow far too disturbing to have playing in the background. I return to the first paragraph: this is not something you listen to because it’s nice or fun or you enjoy it. In fact, I don’t think I really got this music before I went through depression and the self-isolation, alienation and emotional exile that leads to, the total mental estrangement from all things human. That’s what Thergothon sounds like.
Stream From The Heavens is not the music of doomsday or the apocalypse. It’s not the funeral dirge of a dragged-out burial. It’s not the despairing wailing of a mind falling apart. Stream From The Heavens is what comes after. The desolation after the end of everything, the nothingness that remains when you have lost everything. As uneasy and discomforting as that is, there is an unfamiliar sense of peace in it. Like there is in the dark bottom of the pits of depression, amid all the pain.
Fittingly, a lot of Thergothons’ lyrics dealt with the Lovecraftian Cthulhu Mythos. There’s not much cosmic horror here, no, but the estrangement and utterly alien nature of the world Lovecraft painted at his most poetic is contained here.
Stream From The Heavens is a classic, one of the foundations of funeral doom. Rightly so. It is a pretty unique and extremely powerful album, essential for anyone who has an interest in extreme metal. But it’s not something you’ll want to play every day or even every year. Maybe almost never. But it’s something that cannot be denied; when you’ve heard it, it’ll keep on reverberating.