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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/