The Funeral Pyre - _Wounds_
(Prosthetic, 2008)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (8.5 out of 10)
Two years after semi-breakthrough _The Nature of Betrayal_, Cali's woozy melodic black metal stalwarts The Funeral Pyle have eighty-sixed the keyboards, doubled down on the guitars, and pushed the songwriting further into galloping goth-prog territory. This doesn't sound quite like the same band of 2006, although they also sound little like the "blackened death metal" the press release pins them as, but either way it's hard to put a finger on whether the changes are an improvement or merely a sidestep. The songs are diverse, more accomplished, and the second guitar allows for some pretty nifty harmonizing, but there's also a downgrading of the punishing intensity found on _...Betrayal_, not to mention the heightened contrast of one guitar and one keyboard butting heads, rather than just two axes working in brotherly tandem.

But it's no bust we're talking about here, just so we're clear on that. The band are ultimately more at home in their shoes and know just where they want to go with each song, the extra confidence giving them the foresight to take their time getting there, as on the pace setting battle march of the title track and the scabrous, elementally multitudinous album closer, "Ghost Walker". Not all of the material ascends the same heights as "Thieves", a vicious kick start to a record chock full of virulent lashing out, and by the time one gets to late-period album fodder along the lines of "These Ties That Bind" and "Where the Light Ends", there's undeniably a certain same-iness to the incessant blast beats and relentless throat shredding. Going further, the technicality and compositions would have strongly benefited from sharper production and tighter, precision playing -- both are somewhat flat, if not quite altogether mediocre. Nonetheless, _Wounds_ represents at least a conditional triumph for The Funeral Pyre. Were this a more well-rounded effort, it may have been a contender for album of the year.


(article published 17/9/2008)

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