Genre: Funeral Doom Metal
01 My Beloveth
02 The fading Light in her Dying Eyes
03 She Gave Me Her All...
04 White Roses, White Coffin...
Mistress of the Dead is not actually a 'mistress' at all. It's the one-man project of Vlad Cristea Vales who has been running it single-handedly for the last five years. Maybe Vlad is confused about this own identity, maybe he has gender issues, or maybe he has a hope for something greater than the good Lord dealt him, but either way his vocals have the sound of someone with the right pair of chromosomes. Mistress of the Dead's music is bleak - very much so - as well as being drawn-out, heavy, and at times downright wearying, but this wouldn't be funeral doom otherwise. However, there's something about Mistress of the Dead's sound which is more pensive, more wistful and even more lonely than a lot of similar artists.
"White Roses, White Coffin" is dedicated to Jindřiška, an enigmatic figure who's alluded to only once inside the album. Not much is known about her apart from the fact that she has passed away from the artist's life or fantasy, but the album is nevertheless one long musical eulogy to her. 'Long' is the operative word here since this album, though only four tracks in total, is nigh on eighty minutes' worth of doom metal dirges, the shortest song clocking in at a very generous 13 minutes. The album's artwork is filled with allusions to cemeteries and flowers, the staple fodder for this kind of music, and though it may fool you into thinking that there's an air of beauty hidden within its aural layers, there certainly isn't. "White Roses, White Coffin" is a pained piece of doom metal: a massive, mournful hymn to unrealised affection, and at times it's almost difficult to listen to because of it.
It's not just the emotional content which makes the album hard to listen to. It is a mammoth, demanding piece of work and there's no point in which you'll hear the music picking up at anything above 30 bpm. This is emotional battery at its most slothful and only on repeated listens does its structure start to unravel itself. Vlad Cristea Vales, after several hundred demo's worth of musical compositions, knows that doom metal is not all about thudding guitar riffs but ambient sections, and especially at the beginning of the album we find the distortion ushered out the way by elevating guitar and organ drones which provide solace from the darker, grimmer moments.
Of course it's not just the instrumentation that plays a part in the ambience, but the vocals as well. Vlad's voice is thick, gruff and syrupy, singing the lyrics so slowly that they're indistinguishable from actual words, sounding more like tortured, otherwordly snarls. According to the inlay the lyrics are made up of coherent sentences - but they're so drawn out and elongated that the only way you'd be able to decipher them is to speed them up to triple their original tempo. This all adds perfectly to the viscosity of the music and though it would be nice to see some more tuneful riffs, melody and hooks, this isn't really what funeral doom is about. Mistress of the Dead produces songs for the most dour of moods: those unrushed, uncompromising moments of solitude where harmony is thrown aside to make way for the very depths of lengthened, crushing bereavement. "White Roses, White Coffin" is not an album that you can sling on at any moment and expect to hit the right spot, but when it does it's quite beautifully reassuring.