Written by Jeremy Witt
Funerus first emerged in the early 1990s, released a few demos and then vanished, resurfacing in 2003 with their first full-length offering, Festering Earth. In the eight years between now and then, long-time guitarist / vocalist Brad Heiple departed, leaving the band in the hands of Jill and John McEntee – the former was the earlier Funerus’ final bassist, now turned vocalist, and the latter is the leader of Incantation and the owner of Ibex Moon.
As you’d expect from an Ibex Moon release, old-school death metal is the approach, and Incantation is a good comparison, since Funerus often trades in the same noxious and trudging tones as that particular band. (Asphyx is another valid comparative – Funerus alternates between the mid-paced mauling death metal and the vile near-doom crawl.) Stylistically, Reduced To Sludge fits within the recent done-to-death old-school revival (although the band is legitimately old-school themselves, even if not in this particular version), and while Funerus checks all the appropriate boxes in terms of death metal competency, nothing on hand truly stands out from the sea of clones kneeling at the altar of / usurping the band’s style.
Jill’s voice is a grand and grating mid-range growl – as good a female vocal in an old-school death metal band as I’ve heard – but the problem with Funerus lies within the run-of-the-mill riffage and less-than-innovative song structures. The production is as solid and unspectacular as the performances, and overall, Reduced To Sludge trundles by in a lumbering daze of respectable but regrettably unremarkable death metal. None of these tunes stand out in either direction, and as the disc spins, the whole affair is enjoyable and then eminently forgettable. Scattered memorable moments crop up – the bass-driven and brilliantly titled “Bedpan Commando” foremost among them.
But what goodwill Reduced To Sludge engenders in its best moments is drained away through the plodding / pounding crawl of the remainder of its interchangeable tunes, and overall, the entire affair just doesn’t differentiate itself enough to make necessary any recommendation above the most casual. Still, sometimes, all you want is a quick fix of solid ugliness, and in those instances, one could certainly do far worse than Funerus, though the converse is equally true. This one’s as down-the-middle as it comes, I’m afraid, neither here nor there and far from mandatory. There is good; there is bad; and between them, there is Funerus.
Regardless, on the definite plus side, that album art is truly killer.