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I've always fully believed that after the big 3 of Northern England the greatest band in the Death/Doom subgenre to be Mourning Beloveth. Now though, I think in some respects we should start considering the Kildare quintet of drab minstrels to have surpassed their English forebearers, at least in terms of consistency. Whereas Paradise Lost and Anathema have gone through numerous musical mutations and My Dying Bride have had peaks and troughs when it comes to album quality Mourning Beloveth have never failed to deliver the most plaintive and doleful of Metal dirges, with only a small sojourn into more expansive and progressive territories on A Murderous Circus altering their bloody-minded devotion to that maxim. Now 13 years after the release of the monumental début Dust and on album number five Mourning Beloveth give us their true opus, an album that summarily channels all their magnificent work to date.
“Theories Of Old Bones” which begins this album is a real test of patience, even for seasoned Death/Doom fans- 15 minutes of dense musical obsidian punctuated only by one passage of clean vocals and very little in the way of melody. It is tough going for the fairweather metalhead and redolent of their more obscure material from A Murderous Circus, but if you can avoid being swallowed whole by this opening dark pit then the payoff when the album bleeds into its more direct and melodic songs is huge.
“Ethics On The Precipice” is the longest track on here by a good 2 and a half minutes, though is more accessible than “Theories Of Old Bones” by being broken up with a lengthy interlude of morose, slow-strummed guitar, and the last 4 minutes is spectacularly good and makes for an early highpoint for the album.
“Old Rope” by contrast is the shortest song in Mourning Beloveth's back catalogue (except for “Sinistra”, the closing instrumental from Dust) but none of their trademark desolateness is lost by its brevity. In fact its short, dull and heavy thud is as dark and intense as the rest of this album and shows some great vocal variety out of Darren Moore, mixing some flat and monotone spoken word despondent rasps in with his usual abyssal growls. “This place is for people who like the way down” he moans on this song, inadvertently creating an anthem for the subgenre.
Dead Channel” keeps the quality rolling with some sterling call and response between Darren's deep bass-filled growling and Frank Brennan's clean caterwauling which is more tonally varied than ever before, and also delivers perhaps the best guitar solo in Mourning Beloveth's history too. “Nothing Has A Centre” steals the show to round out the main portion of the album though, with new guitarist and backing vocalist Pauric Gallagher proving he was a worthy addition to the band by providing harmony for Frank's clean vocals which take the lead on this number. The final five minutes sees the whole band firing on all cylinders though, including Timmy Johnson on drums who provides some fantastic drum fills and creates the absolute crowning glory for this record. No one comes close to Mourning Beloveth when it comes to this style- no one.
What really elevates this album to being Mourning Beloveth's real magnum opus though is the bonus CD featuring the 15 minute track entitled “Transmissions”- a haunting piece of spoken word with a simple guitar accompaniment. Dystopian ideas are not seen often in this sub-genre more known for personal tales of woe, but this imagining of a world where fact, truth and though no longer exist fits the atmosphere perfectly. “Scraped clean and re-inscribed as often as is necessary... War is peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strength”- those words manage to leave me with a deeper sense of depression than riffs, bestial howls and Nick Cave-esque croons ever could. [10/10]
From WAR ON ALL FRONTS A.D. 2013 zine- www.facebook.com/waronallfronts