“Yes, sweet is the fruit that grows from the tree of bitterness.”
In no small way should the term “sleeper hit” be associated with Maranatha. After all, Arioch released it covertly on the Norma Evangelium Diaboli label (home to DsO and Katharsis, among others) without little press or so much as a studio report. It’s probably why reviewers are getting to it now; I was beginning to think I had reviewed this album far too late considering its release date was back in February, but I was fortunate to have found that I was not the first to be surprised at the presence of a new Funeral Mist album. More surprising was Maranatha’s ability to best its predecessor, Salvation, but I will get to that in due time.
Daniel Rosten is perhaps less known in the west for his work in Funeral Mist than he is for revitalizing the once-diminishing output in Marduk, under the moniker Mortuus. It is only fair we start by discussing Plague Angel, since Maranatha shares a primitive, external aesthetic of impiety, death, and inescapability. There is something strangely entrancing in the details of Maranatha’s cover artwork, featuring a single angel blowing a trumpet towards a grotesque, androgynous figure as another man holds his head in his hands. Seven trumpets altogether sound at the breaking of the seventh seal in the book of Revelation. Perhaps the trumpeter is playing to the first seal broken by Death; the trumpet also sounds the coming of the lord. After all, Maranatha translates to “o lord, come.” It is certainly open to interpretation, disgusting and fascinating all at once.
The credo of Arioch’s stunning musicality is the exposure of powerful religious sentiments as more venomous than the songs he creates. The album opens with a harried declaration: “It’s the blood! It’s the blood!” Guess whose blood? Arioch underplays the frenzied screaming with some digitally processed guttural vocals before segueing to “Sword of Faith,” featuring some swirling, recalcitrant guitar riffs and monstrous vocals. Enter Rom 5:12’s influence on Maranatha, though that influence could be entirely reciprocal, depending on how much Arioch contributed to Marduk’s last two records. Regardless, Maranatha resembles Rom 5:12 on occasion, though Funeral Mist is indubitably not a Marduk clone. They just have the same vocalist, though Arioch has never sounded so bizarre, manic, or theatrical than on Maranatha.
Though not altogether reserved, Funeral Mist has…well, we’ll call them “less bestial” passages. “Jesus Saves!” (I love that title) crosses folksy Elysian fields following a blistering straight-ahead five-minute-long black metal track. “Anti-Flesh Nimbus” kicks off with a simplistic drum pattern before breaking down into visceral insanity, featuring clean female choruses and wispy keyboards, all leading into a trumpet-heavy orchestral march (are you starting to see a pattern here?). “White Stone” carries most of its heft in a single chord, dampened by a dead-air mix. Arioch has a knack for compiling majestic soundscapes meant to make you feel unclean and powerful at the same time. Funeral Mist expresses his knack by any means possible, and therein lies a flaw if Maranatha has any.
The great divide with an album like Maranatha is how much artistry one is willing to accept in their cathartic, cancerous dose of black metal. I imagine someone who enjoys the rest of the Norma Evangelium Diaboli roster will take to Funeral Mist like a coprophile to diarrhea pills, but some may find the synapse hyperactivity elicited by Maranatha a bit exhausting. Countless others, including myself, will count Funeral Mist’s Maranatha among the very best black metal albums in a very long time. How delightfully venomous, says I.