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The doom metal titan of 2008. - 94%

joncheetham88, December 2nd, 2008

It is ironic to be reviewing a band that makes Swallow the Sun and Draconian seem...well, light by comparison. The two aforementioned bands are the current doom metal darlings of the underground press and both have promising careers ready to take off for them. But comparing them to Mourning Beloveth is like comparing beer to absinthe; I love them both, I really do, but the latter is just so much more potent. The same with MB. A relatively small dose of their crushing doom styling has the same effect as a much, much larger dose of the other two synth-drenched outfits. Mourning Beloveth forego soprano female vocals, symphonic keyboards and progressive clean passages to serve up a hellish and pitch-black remedy for your happiness.

Taking for example the opening track, The Sickness. Beginning with the monstrous riffs and piledriving-but-ever-so-deliberate drumming that typifies this album, and soon assaulting you with completely horrible but completely effective growls, the track eventually allows you the reprieve of a clean vocals section. But there is no breathy, harmonious singing here, no gentle break before the guitars come back. The guitars stay there the whole time, as relentless as ever, whilst the clean vocals are if anything even more disturbing than the growls. Guitarist Frank Brennan is an extremely talented singer, unleashing a jarring cacophany of wails that will set your skin crawling and wishing the dirty growls would seep back. Which, inevitably, they do. A high point of this particular song is where, sometime after the six-minute mark, an atmospheric and somewhat cleaner guitar loop kicks in that perfectly complements Darren Moore's grunts and serves as an understated climax to the tragic mood of the song.

The near-thirteen minute centrepiece Primeval Rush is another standout, with a gentle intro that is the first real respite from the savage and carefully paced onslaught of the previous twenty-odd minutes; soon you are soaked with burning doomlike riffs and distant spoken-word vocals that draw you yet further into the singularly unpleasant but irresistible experience that you are having by this point. Primeval Rush really gets going at about the eight-minute mark. The quality of a good band is knowing when to undermine your expectations; despite the disturbing nature of the music on here, we know what to expect by this point, right? Wrong. After a grumbling bass motif, an urgent, more rapid and utterly undeniable collection of riffs begin that build to a double-bass climax and most importantly demand your attention if it was waning. The thrilling drumming by Timmy Johnson also deserves a mention here. The song, perfectly timed and paced, then stomps angrily to its end. If this doesn't get the hairs on your forearms tingling, it's time to go right back to those old Anathema discs from the '90s and start over.

While I haven't gone into them in the same depth, the remaining three songs maintain the mood and quality of the disc admirably, with particular moments of The Burning Man possessing a gentle quality that still has the band simmering to be back to their huge wall of sound that characterises 'A Disease For The Ages'. Meanwhile the closer Poison Beyond All builds and builds - including a riff two thirds in that seems teasingly as if to reprise the melody of The Sickness - , only to leave the listener with an abrupt ending that is all the eerier for the lack of closure: like a premature death or a dream that fled.

One of the things that makes the music of Mourning Beloveth so impressive is the fact that they retain the founding principle of genre-pioneers Black Sabbath; Tony Iommi created the band's sinister sound having seen how many people queued up to frighten themselves watching a horror movie at the cinema. MB have created a truly ghastly, monumental piece of music that really excels in its field without having to resort to experimentation or genre-splicing...and it will really scare you. Don't expect any violins or romantic lyrics, but if you, like me, have an ongoing love affair with such bands as My Dying Bride and early Anathema, this album will have possessed you after one, maybe two spins. If you're already a follower of the Irish kings, you know what you have to do.