I hesitate to use the word epic when describing music, but certain sections of Mara W Horn and Sara Parkman’s striking Funeral Folk lend themselves to it. At times, the overbearing sonic gravity is massive, but the entire narrative spread is lofty and sublime. Horn and Parkman’s combined prowess for morose underpinnings and elemental drama sings loudly, drowning out any desire to reach the heavens.
Funeral Folk was initially composed for a dance performance created by Mattias Lech and Lisen Ellard. Particular movements in the suite are dizzying and ecstatic, like the cathartic vocal workouts and string reverie of “Till Margaretha.” There is so much power and spectacle in the firebreathing power chords crashing the intricate, orchestral sonic gates. “Lacrimosa” offers a pensive respite. Glimmering string plucks, and delicate organ arrangements create warm spaces that are inviting even with their hard edge.
Time is a dejected undercurrent throughout Funeral Folk. So much of this music lends itself to quiet recollection and consternation, fusing bitter memories with a grief’s stolid luster. “Kyrie” opens with low-frequency drones and swirling, ethereal voices. Stillness sets in while the abyss takes root. Ferocity builds. Ghosts are reminders of the void left behind. Doom-soaked metal blasts open the dam where emotions and remembrances were locked, a sacred choir of emptiness blees radiance into the open spaces. Emotion pours out as voices scream and wail, soaking this music with torment. “Kyrie” is one of the most breathtaking compositions I’ve heard all year.
Horn and Parkman have deep-rooted chemistry, and their respective approaches are symbiotic. Within the sorrow and gloom, even if the intensity of those emotions are at the core of Funeral Folk, they still weave in moments of softness and light. ”Memento mori” is a deep cleansing breath, and closer “Hornlåten” swims in feelings of acceptance and buoyancy. Elongated string arrangements hover at the horizon, promising mirth and understanding. The dawn becomes a contemplative ensemble. Morning bells ring. Timeless melodies return. We pause. Exhale. Distance brings us home.