Bell Witch, Four Phantoms

It’s been a brutal year. A lot of darkness has crossed our thresholds, so that even when we make time to celebrate—to embrace life and joy—we can never entirely escape all the reasons to do the opposite. With winter poised to strike and our TV and computer screens continually stained with what look like signs of the apocalypse, it’s a fine time to consider five of 2015’s most wretchedly, painfully slow albums—they don’t even try to put the “fun” in “funeral doom,” and that feels awfully appropriate.

Bell Witch, Four Phantoms (Profound Lore)

When this Seattle duo released Four Phantoms this year, it seemed like everyone and their mothers finally realized that funeral doom rules—and specifically that Bell Witch excel at it. They range a bit beyond funeral doom’s mossy borders, adding melodic complexity to songs such as “Judgement, in Fire: I—Garden (Of Blooming Ash).” The album’s melodies and slices of near silence can be beautiful, but the total result is overwhelmingly heavy—it’s the sound of slow death, with lyrics about drowning, suffocation, and ultimate collapse set to music that moves at the pace of a condemned man’s lead-footed walk to the gallows.

Sunn O))), Kannon (Southern Lord)

Kannon is Sunn O)))‘s most accessible release to date, which means that to the majority of the population, its droning buzz and sepulchral vocals of course remain completely incomprehensible. The album ebbs and flows like the tide, never moving faster than a drifting fog, but it packs more intensity into one downstroke than most bands manage in an entire discography.

Un, The Tomb of All Things (Black Bow)

Un is all about negation (the name kind of gives it away), and on The Tomb of All Things, the Seattle outfit do away with any tempo above ten bpm. The album sticks close to funeral-doom tradition, with ten-plus-minute songs whose death-rotted vocals and lurching riffs shudder and collapse and extinguish any light that tries to sneak through the bleakness.

Chrch, Unanswered Hymns (Battleground)

These Sacramento newcomers (known as Church before a name dispute lost them their vowel) fall on the cosmic side of extreme torpidity. Their debut album, Unanswered Hymns, takes as many cues from Yob as it does from Saturnalia Temple or Electric Wizard—this turgid stoner-doom gem arrives replete with eerie, windswept vocals, lumbering slow-­motion riffs, and songs that scrape the 20-minute mark.

Ennui, Falsvs Anno Domini (Solitude Productions)

Georgian trio Ennui turn away from the straightforward stomp of death-doom to embrace a European brand of funeral doom, marrying heavy keyboards and chilling atmosphere to their own guttural invocations. The dilated melody of “When Our Light Dies Forever” crawls through the frozen mist on the Tbilisi band’s third full-length, Falsvs Anno Domini; its six songs total an hour and 20 minutes of pure misery and hopelessness.