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Mournful Congregation is the best Funeral Doom Metal band and the most consistent one – it’s been at it since years, slowly evolving, comfortable in its own space. Its earlier albums were melancholic masterpieces, all difficult to get into, because it’s nothing immediately striking, it’s something that’s an acquired taste – you have to get into that mood, cultivate patience and try and relate to the music. Then it becomes otherworldly.
It’s not typically oppressive or crushing, nor is too saturated with keyboards and deep endless growls. It’s keeping it tasteful. Elegant. That’s the word best describing this class band. ‘The June Frost’ saw a departure from the band’s previous sound, something lighter, airier. I felt its drawback was that it wasn’t consistent enough, and the songs weren’t complete in their full expression. New album ‘The Book of Kings’ fulfills that vision, boasting of four songs, all monoliths.
The songs average 20 minutes, and you won’t notice them going by as you would any other such form of music – that’s the beauty of this band. There’s not just one riff repetition nor is it too minimalist in its scope, there’s melodies, riffs, heaviness when needed and leads to accentuate the feelings it elegantly portrays. There are shades of varying emotions in every progressive segment, nothing drastic or unwarranted. There are people who won’t like it for its apparent lack of heaviness – it’s like the knife is taken out but the wound is still hurting. And this album doesn’t let it heal throughout its duration. There’s suffering, sweet suffering.
As such ‘The Book of Kings’ is a masterpiece – if you can appreciate its art. There’s genuine feeling and this band is full of it. There’s nothing dramatic or overly mellow, as would seem to be the case initially, but the album is full of subtle blows, in a deceptive manner. And there’s beauty in it, artful, compassionate and elegant.
Originally online at Transcending Obscurity - www.transcendingobscurity.com
I really like funeral doom. When it's done right, that is. The trouble is determining which albums are good, and which are bad. There are quite a few bad ones out there, because it's not difficult to play, and a band can get by without offering any real substance. And since it takes so long to listen to it, it's tough to decide whether it's any good just by listening to a song. That makes reviews very important. The trouble is, it's also tough to write a review of a funeral doom album.
I picked up Mournful Congregation's The Book of Kings based on a strong recommendation from Josh Haun, who named it co-album-of-the-year. He also noted the difficulty of reviewing this kind of album, stating "I feel as if my meager skills as a wordsmith are completely incapable of describing such a masterful recording". But I too will attempt it.
First, the clinical aspects. It's slow-moving metal, of course, and similar to Evoken although more funereal and less ornamented. No keyboards are present, leaving a thoroughly simple approach with sparse melodies and drums. Occasional guitar leads add interest when appropriate. Vocals range from a drone-like spoken word, to a whisper, to extended death growls. Dynamically, they do have some relatively faster parts, but the fastest they go is "barely funeral doom", and the slowest is sloooow. There are four tracks, the third having no distorted guitar, instead opting for acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. All four songs are very long, none less than 12 minutes, and the whole record is a whopping 76 minutes. To put things in perspective, the title track alone is four minutes longer than all of Reign in Blood.
The mood is less evil and more depressing than Evoken. The melodies are impactful, and the extended compositions will affect your mood. The entirety of the record is a great listen that never bored me in the slightest.
So, yes, it's great. Mere words are a terrible substitute.
The Verdict: The Book of Kings is certainly one of the finest funeral doom records in recent memory, although my description is too sterile to describe its worth.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
I would be lying if I said that funeral doom was my favorite style of doom. Sure, I love disEMBOWELMENT(the sounds precursor) and dig Thergothon, Evoken, Ahab, etc. But I am not particularly wild about the super slow, simplistic riffing and over-wrought atmosphere most funeral doom bands peddle. How so many bands can stretch three individual riffs over twenty minute songs is a mystery to me. And how unlucky for me that Mournful Congregation happen to be one of those bands.
The Book of Kings is well over an hour long, yet has no more than a dozen riffs sssssttttttrrrrreeeeettttcccchhhheeeeddd over it's incredible run-time. Your average Morbid Angel song has more riffs than this album, which is pretty impressive for both bands when you think about it. But who said it was about quantity? It's all about the quality right?
Much like the number of riffs, the quality here is lacking to say the least. Melodic intros lead into soft and... melodic riffs that crawl at a snails pace against the backdrop of bells and moans. Mournful Congregation have thrown musicianship and songwriting out the window here, and are putting all of their collective eggs into the "atmosphere" basket. The production is thick and inviting, and is by far the best part of The Book of Kings. It also helps that the pointless vocals are mostly lost underneath the strength of the guitars and the fuzz of the bass.
This is a war of attrition: how many minutes can you listen to the same riff, with the same melodic lead over the top of it, and the same bells in the background? I get the point of is all. The music is meant to hypnotize the listener, transfix them, until the fall into the waves of sound. Yet The Book of Kings failed to have anything close to this effect, and with so many superior alternatives abound in a genre not lacking in practitioners, it becomes increasingly hard to justify spending over an hour with this album. Where is the adventure? Where is the song-writing? The Book of Kings fails so miserably because instead of using the genre as a jumping post to greater ideas, it instead falls into funeral doom's biggest trap: incredible and relentless boredom.
Hardcore fans of funeral doom are sure to enjoy The Book of Kings. It follows every single genre convention to a T, never leaving the well trodden paths laid out by their forefathers in anyway. If that sounds incredibly boring to you, go ahead and just skip this one all together.
originally posted at http://curseofthegreatwhiteelephant.blogspot.com/