Old Funeral - The Older Ones
Hammerheart Records
Death Metal, Black Metal
12 songs (48:38)
Release year: 1999
Hammerheart Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

This collection brings together the work of a band that few but the faithful will have heard of, although the varied line-ups that recorded the songs here will have more than a couple of familiar names. Hailing from Norway and formed all the way back in 1988, Old Funeral split in 1992 with the first official release of any material coming in 1999, and the best way to think of the band is as pre-Black Metal. Although they started by playing pretty frantic Death Metal that’s best described as a less technical version of Darkthrone’s Soulside Journey, there’s a similar dark atmosphere being invoked. The first tracks you hear are from the 1990 Abduction Of Limbs demo, and feature Olve Eikemo (better known as Immortal’s Abbath) on bass and vocals, Tore Bratseth (The Batallion, Desekrator) on guitar and Immortal drummer Padden on the percussion stool. It’s a raging, dark, old-school burst of fury that proves that these guys had talent from the go – hardly the most technical thing you’ll hear, or the best-produced, but if you like your Death Metal to be made pre-1995 then The Older Ones is a must for these tracks alone.

In many ways, this is also an extremely interesting piece of Black Metal history. As well as featuring Abbath for the demo, the band’s second incarnation (for the 1991 Devoured Carcass EP) kept Padden and Tore but added the unknown Thorlak on bass and some guy called Kristian Vikernes on second guitar. There’s a bit of difference in these tracks; the guitars are clearly different and Padden’s vocals are much more retching and ‘sick’ than Abbath’s. The atmosphere is even more dread-ridden; the evolution of the band’s sound as they get closer and closer to the sound that would eventually become the Black Metal that we know and love is fascinating. For the moment, Incantation fans will love the sludgy sound here, and Devoured Carcass is practically Grindcore. This line-up was the one performing on the live version of that song that closes The Older Ones, and surprisingly the sound is pretty good. Of course, even if it was terrible, the chance to hear this recording of history is vital – where else can you hear Varg playing live? On his official website he remembers the others as ‘excellent and serious musicians’ but he left eventually due to the band having gone from ‘techno thrash’ to ‘boring death metal’, and we all know what he did after that is, of course, a story for another time.

The final four tracks on the album were recorded after Vikernes’ departure; he was replaced by Jørn Inge Tunsberg, later of Hades but more infamous for his Church-burning activities. These tracks truly show the start of a Black Metal sound, Alone Walking especially (it’s hard not to believe that this was the influence for Hades’ first demo, Alone Walkyng). The musicianship isn’t improved, I assume deliberately, and yet there are hints of technicality at times, particularly in Padden’s drumming; it’s a step away from the Death Metal of the first two-thirds of the album and depending on what you expect may well be a step down in quality – it’s obvious that the step from Death to Black Metal for many of the bands at the time (if not all!) meant the exchange of technicality for atmosphere, and whilst these tracks are good they are evident of a work in progress. Overall, the Death Metal tracks are more fun to listen to, but the later tracks are more interesting – it’s of limited value as Metal in its own right.

However, there’s a lot of history riding in this band, and it is credited with being the earliest extreme metal band in Bergen, second in Norway only to Mayhem, as well as being the first Metal band to record at Grieghallen. Clearly, this album will be of most value to those interested in the background and history of Black Metal, but there’s much to recommend to anyone who likes their extreme metal to be old-school in every way.

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And as a bonus here’s an interesting interview with Tore Bratseth about the band!
Killing Songs :
Abduction Of Limbs, Skin And Bone, Incantation, Forced To Be Lost, Alone Walking
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