The Funeral Pyre

Vultures at Dawn

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The Funeral Pyre's gradual transformation from a somewhat hybrid proposition (fusing black, death, thrash, and symphonic metal elements, among others) into a straight-up American black metal band seemingly achieves its ultimate conclusion on the group's fourth album, and third for the Prosthetic label, Vultures at Dawn. Here, the California quintet decisively forgoes the last remaining vestiges of its past "transgressions" and embraces Norwegian black metal rule wholeheartedly, resulting in an album that's short on surprises but really none too shabby in terms of songwriting effectiveness. "Destroying Gods" literally pulses with cruel necro-majesty despite shifting constantly between first and fifth gear, while the snail-paced "Monolith" slowly drips with the bloodied entrails of its victims and the multi-pronged "Clarity of Our Time" boasts, oh, roughly 45 different guitar riffs from start to finish (i.e., never a dull moment). Only a few songs resort to virtually inexorable blastbeat beatdowns ("Blistered Hands" and the still quite excellent "To Watch the Earth Rot") and the rest ("Vultures," "Personal Exile," and another favorite, "Seeking Flesh and Bone") temper such excess with well-conceived atmospheric passages that breathe bone-chilling winter winds amid the surrounding hellish flames. All in all, the Funeral Pyre are obviously not out to compete with the cutting-edge avant-garde of American black metal (Nachtmystium, Cobalt, Agalloch, etc.), but their faithful interpretation of the style's traditional Scandinavian hallmarks is altogether convincing and entertaining enough to justify fully the group's decision to shift gears in that direction.

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