Maurice Eggenschwiler, right, and Jan Kimmel harmonize in Blues Funeral.
Maurice Eggenschwiler, right, and Jan Kimmel harmonize in Blues Funeral.
Photos by Grooverock Photography/Courtesy of Blues Funeral

Blues Funeral Doesn't Care About Your Hurricane

It’s going to take more than a Category 3 hurricane to break Blues Funeral’s stride. The most serious wailing winds at White Oak Music Hall are likely to be billowing out of a Hammond organ tonight when the headbanging local outfit debuts their sophomore full-length, Awakening.

The timing could have been better, considering. White Oak Bayou is undoubtedly on the rise. But you don’t just cancel an album-release show at the city’s premiere music palace in case of a natural disaster. Especially when you’ve been waiting to share songs that have just about been in the can for two years already.

“The album was basically almost written in full by the time we hit the studio for The Search, so most of the material was already worked up and ready to go,” says Blues Funeral guitarist Maurice Eggenschwiler. “We really had the goal in mind to try to get back in the studio within a year of the first album to get this one out there.”

The band’s growing fan club is ready for it. Hell, they’ve been waiting for new albums like this since the ‘70s ended — or at least since the last Uriah Heep album. A few dozen hurricanes couldn’t wash away all of the throwback heavy-metal bands jamming in Houston, but Blues Funeral throws back farther than most. The group has a deep love for Deep Purple’s heavy, harmonic heyday, and with all those keys onstage, they’re hard to miss.

“There’s not a lot of folks that are experimenting with vocal harmonies, especially in a metal context or anything remotely relatable to that — especially live,” Eggenschwiler says. “There’s a lot of folks that we play with that I think sound great in kind of the same field, but we’re also a bit of a standout in that there’s not really a lot of bands I’m aware of doing something rooted in hard rock or metal using Hammond organ and going back to that ‘60s–‘70s vibe.”

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Eggenschwiler and Jan Kimmel, Blues Funeral’s keyboard- and guitar-playing lead vocalist, have found that vibe to be fertile creative grounds. They first began experimenting with proggier organ epics several years ago after their previous band, the heavy, grungy doom-metal act Sanctus Bellum, went on semi-permanent hiatus. As it happened, the pair were ready to do a little stretching, and found drummer Cory Cousins and bassist Gabriel Katz down with it.

This would be a different kind of metal band.

“For a long time prior to Blues Funeral, we didn’t really have a creative outlet to experiment with the more melodic ideas that have found their way into this band,” Eggenschwiler says. “In large part, I think it’s just been the idea that there’s no restraint on what’s possible musically in the confines of Blues Funeral.

“If a song takes form and it’s got more of a metal tonality to it, that’s fine,” he continues. “If a song takes form and it feels more like ‘60s–‘70s pop in the vein of Cream or Thin Lizzy — a little more hard, blues-based rock —that’s fine, too. It’s all possible. That’s just led to a huge spurt in creativity for both Jan and I.”

He’s not kidding. Album No. 2 drops tonight, and Eggenschwiler says No. 3 is already written, too. Awakening sounds very much like a natural continuation of the band’s debut; the Hammond organ is still out front alongside those twin guitar harmonies. It’s no retread, though. Blues Funeral took some real time to experiment in the studio with this one, and they came up with some pretty fun new ideas, introducing piano, female vocals, and touches of world music to the densely layered mix.

The song “Casimir,” inspired by the old Jewish quarter of Krakow known as Kazimierz where Kimmel spent some time growing up, even includes a whiff of klezmer music.

“We ended up blending that with some strong, exotic Latin vibes, which we tried to bring out with some Eastern scales and things like that in the song,” Eggenschwiler says. “Jan even played some finger cymbals just to really give it that exotic flair.”

No word on whether those finger cymbals will make an appearance at White Oak tonight, but Blues Funeral will be playing Awakening in full, and probably writing a few new songs while they’re doing it, just for fun. Safe to say they’re more than ready for you to hear it.

“We’re really excited about sharing some of this material with folks, because there are a couple of songs that we actually have never played live,” Eggenschwiler says. “There are a few that will get debuted that nobody has had the chance to hear before outside the band. But also, the prospect of getting to work on new music is great, too. I think everybody, once they get to the point where they’ve rehearsed the material to death, gone into the studio and listened to everything a million times, you reach a point where you’re ready to breathe some new life.

“Now that we’ve moved into the second record and listed the sophomore curse, it’s all flowing very naturally.”

Blues Funeral debuts Awakening tonight at White Oak Music Hall with Doomstress and Fiddle Witch and the Demons of Doom. $10. Doors open at 7 p.m.; $10.

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