Mournful Congregation - The Book of Kings
Funeral Doom
4 songs (76'49")
Release year: 2011
Reviewed by Alex
Album of the month

The massive nature of the latest Mournful Congregation opus threatened to overtake the whole of amount of music listening time I had the last couple of weeks. It threatened and it did so, dovetailing in perfectly with the change of seasons, a few personal troubles and overall gloomy mood. This monster of the funeral doom has suffocated any desire out of me to listen to anything else this week and, frankly, writing any other reviews either. When they often say “this album rules”, the reference is rather figurative. The Book of Kings, however, does rule literally.

Here at MetalReviews we used to have a writer named Dee. He was our doom-master extraordinaire, reviewed 20 albums or so, most or all of them with one doom reference or another, and then he disappeared. Completely vanished, having wiped out all of his e-mail accounts, social pages references, etc. Such “virtual” suicide was unexpected and creepy, so I hope the dude is OK in real life. Before Dee disappeared he managed to hook me up on Mournful Congregation with their tome The Monad of Creation back in 2005. There was another full-length along the way, but today, after an earlier 2011 compilation album, the doom/death metal specialists 20 Buck Spin are releasing The Book of Kings for what it seems like the first proper US distribution of the Australians doomy spirit. Mournful Congregation are planning to visit these shores soon, so having a US label to release The Book of Kings was imperative.

It is difficult to ascribe diversity to funeral doom genre in general, especially when the action unfolds over only four tracks consuming nearly 80 minutes. Protracted delivery is nothing new for Mournful Congregation, but there is actually quite a bit of range The Book of Kings displays.

The opener The Catechism of Depression is a classic, slower-than-slow, gut-pulling funeral doom in the tried and true tradition of Thergothon, Skepticism, Colosseum or early Yearning. The monumental wall of minor chords keeps building, reaching a culmination with a beautiful melody between 8th and 10th min. The band provides an acoustic respite from the overwhelming grief, but you would not want that elephantine heaviness and wallow in the mire feeling to stop. The sadness on The Catechism of Depression is sweet and forgiving, showing that depression does have both loss and hope sides. The closer mammoth 33 min long (!) title track also treads closer to the traditions. Just like on The Catechism of Depression the lead guitar assumes its own sideways harmony in relation to the bottom end heaviness, providing the weeping against the backdrop of reverberating blank stare. The alternating changes between distorted heaviness and unexpected cleanliness are subtle and flow smoothly into one another, replacing ominous chugs with cathedral-style reverence in this track. The ultimate pinnacle melody around 12 minutes is not allowed to last long enough for me, it gets killed way too soon after its genesis, so tender and, yes, mournful in this sea of doom. The ups and downs continue, as other funereal melodies re-emerge and die, with one last buildup going into a solo of almost wailing guitars, before collapsing into the monastic choir close.

The variety of the album is manifested in the album’s middle two tracks, The Waterless Streams and The Bitter Veils of Solemnity. Despite, or maybe precisely because, of the “waterless” reference in the track’s name I hear water a lot in The Waterless Streams. The first two minutes have a fluid lead, which actually reminds me of Gary Moore of all things, against a steady watery second guitar background. As the strength of the composition grows, the flow of The Waterless Streams becomes a waterfall wall of sound, the listener/traveller getting close to it, passing over its apex around 7 min with a dynamic guitar lead, only to float away at the bottom of the fall into the foamy quieter pit, which always exists at the foot of a waterfall.

The Bitter Veils of Solemnity is a quieter acoustic with a warm audible bass, the type of track absolutely essential when you want to be able to hear yourself think, to park your thoughts right beside yourself and observe them from the touchable distance, when you want the musical background to be there, but not to disturb the fragile structure borne out of your mind. With its acoustic vignettes reminding me of nowadays Cynic, The Bitter Veils of Solemnity is that song on the album.

Vocally, Mournful Congregation also displays the breadth. From the traditional bottomless growls on The Catechism of Depression and The Book of Kings, the voice is significantly cleaner on The Waterless Streams, and becomes a quiet ethereal whisper on The Bitter Veils of Solemnity, a perfect accompaniment to the track’s peaceful mode.

Not an album if you were never able to last through 5 min of funeral doom, The Book of Kings will be a very rewarding listen to the genre fans and could be a needed discovery for those who want to drown their depression in the music, rather than pills of something worse.

Killing Songs :
All are killer, but The Catechism of Depression had that extra for me
Alex quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Mournful Congregation that we have reviewed:
Mournful Congregation - The Incubus of Karma reviewed by Andy and quoted 89 / 100
Mournful Congregation - Concrescence of the Sophia reviewed by Andy and quoted no quote
Mournful Congregation - The Monad of Creation reviewed by Dee and quoted 82 / 100
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