One of the most important bands in the development of Dutch Black Metal is without a glimmer of a doubt Funeral Winds. Though now operating out of Czechia, Funeral Winds is still widely seen as a Dutch Black Metal band. In recent years the Dutch Black Metal scene has expanded, exploded into quite a few interesting and rather successful bands in an equal amount of various currents in the Black Metal genre of today. Ranging from the more dreamy sort of Atmospheric Black Metal like Turia, Fluisteraars and the likes to the regressive sort of Black Metal of acts like Helleruin. But long before Helleruin’s Niels “Carchost” Kuiper was even born, Funeral Winds already set that the blueprint for that brand of Black Metal in The Netherlands.
Although Funeral Winds has been cautiously experimenting with some contrary and even somewhat atonal riffs and guitar sound in recent years, the band’s lone inspirer, Hellchrist Xul, has nonetheless largely reverted to his 1990s primal sound with the previous album, ‘Gruzelementen’ (2021, New Era Productions). Although this album still fairly surprised in its relative, riff-based simplicity, it can definitely be considered the best Funeral Winds album. ‘Gruzelementen’ sounds catchier in pithiness, a setting in which the riffs are fully appreciated. A completely grim and cold piece of work that can proudly bear the name Funeral Winds and shows that Hellchrist Xul can do just fine on its own.
It is not only the quality of the work delivered that proves that statement, but also the pace at which it is now delivered is a lot faster. Whereas the output in the “classic” 90s era was a bit on the low side, Hellchrist Xul, since working alone on his Funeral Winds, comes up with a new album every two years with almost strict regularity. So it is in that cadence that we find the latest album, ‘Stigmata Mali’, the first album recorded for new home Osmose Productions. A collaboration it was almost inevitable that it would one day come about, both the band and the label have their roots in the same years and in the same formative musical ground.
Musically, ‘Stigmata Mali’ is a logical continuation of the previous album. Whereas on ‘Gruzelementen’, a residual element popped up here and there, here the somewhat contrary elements have completely disappeared. The result is a completely counter-revolutionary Black Metal album that pays homage to the band’s earliest roots, in which it worshipped its Norwegian examples. This does not mean, by the way, that the album is trite or even boring; it is packed with interesting tempo changes and good, hateful vocals. But, what especially stands out are the excellent riffs, sharp as a razor and cold as a winter night they cut straight through the music and pierce every unsuspecting soul. The strength of the album lies in those splendid riffs combined with the every time unexpected blast beat bursts.
The splendour of the album’s simplicity and the power of its dynamics are great, though it may take a few listens to fully appreciate it. Maybe ‘Stigmata Mali’ is not as good as ‘Gruzelementen’, but it comes damn near to it. If, either way, it proves anything is that Funeral Winds anno 202X is more powerful and effective than ever before. Hellchrist Xul may have moved to the Czech Republic, but its imprints in the Dutch Black Metal scene are great, even if it also still seems somewhat unacknowledged.