My experience with Distant Voices as a record label has been largely positive. Their depressive-oriented roster may lack variety and dynamics, but with that comes a consistency. Every album I’ve been sent has come in a black envelope which is signature to the label’s output, and with albums restricted to extremely limited runs (there are only eighty-one regular-edition copies of No Days to the Funeral), I feel there’s a certain degree of sacrament to this or any art that will only ever be experienced by a tiny number of people. In no situation is that imposed obscurity so suitable as with the darkest ambient and depressive black metal; sects of music that are inherently solipsistic and self-alienating.
Although the sound of Misery is fairly lost amidst a crowd of one-man DSBM projects, it’s not a new name to me. I had the chance of hearing the similarly limited Black Crafted Elegies earlier this year. Having heard the lackadaisical, appropriately and utterly miserable sound from that album, I wasn’t at all surprised when first beholding No Days to the Funeral. If you’ve heard anything from the truly depressive, non-cathartic and listless end of the DSBM spectrum, you should know what to expect as well. This is music that revels in its lack of highs and lows, its dearth of energy. To Misery’s credit, I am sure this is exactly what multi-instrumentalist Fille De Misère (Thomas Bel) set out to create with this band. No Days to the Funeral is vaguely atmospheric but otherwise listless and unrepentantly boring, but can Misery really be faulted for such when that was the artist’s intention to begin with?
With ambient black metal even more so than other ambient-influenced music, I tend to find myself at an impasse as a listener and would-be reviewer. Somewhat hypocritically, I tend to hold in contempt the armchair critics who dismiss bands (and sometimes the entire style) as too boring or unvaried. I mean, that’s the fucking point with something like this. Nevertheless, even the most lethargic material takes a few listens before I’m able to distinguish the good and great from the middling or even worthless. It’s sometimes hard to really distinguish the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of an album’s quality, but it’s much easier to feel it. With the good, I’ll come out of it feeling uplifted (with cathartic stuff like Austere) or purposefully wretched (see: Xasthur). With the bad stuff, I might even laugh, but with the mediocre and unengaging? I’ll feel nothing. The music will pass over me like wasted time or gloomy wallpaper, and no number of attentive listens will really hope to alter that.
I enjoyed Black Crafted Elegies quite a bit in spite of it doing nothing new with an inherently tired sound. No Days to the Funeral does much the same, but to a lesser effect. This album essentially unfolds as three slabs of interchangeable, mid-paced, treble-infused gloom with a vaguely ambient piece (replete with dreary whispering) to cap it off. Adding to that are muffled screeches in the background throughout the album’s length, if only to remind you of the human agonies infused in its making. As ambient black metal, Misery’s basic elements are much what I’d completely expect for a band like this. Bel’s palette of sound hits its mark for its raw ends, and some of his work with melodies are even promising, albeit curtailed by the minimalistic and unmoving nature of these compositions.
But again, I don’t feel No Days to the Funeral can be rightly attacked in any conventional terms. This subset of black metal openly rejects conventional notions of quality, and trying to dissect it purely in terms of composition, melody, texture, or whatever else would probably make the aggressor look like an imbecile. Instead, unlike Black Crafted Elegies, which was decent, if far from exceptional, I can call No Days to the Funeral mediocre for the fact that it’s done nothing to stir me one way or the other. It passes as the aforementioned gloomy wallpaper, and for its lack of distinct personality it’s difficult to say much more than that.
02) In Veins, in Vain
04) Failed in Faith