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Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here - 95%

Mad Madame, December 4th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Osmose Productions

It's safe to assume that the new Mournful Congregation “The Incubus of Karma“ album would be like a magnum opus for the band with crushing guitar riffs . Since their first demo in 1994, they have released a significant discography, and their style and unique approach somehow resembles the doom/death lords Thergothon a while ago. Although all six tracks are strong enough to stand on their own, Mournful Congregation has created a musical journey that is best experienced as a whole. I think that music's worth cannot always be determined by its technicality. Despite the seven years long gap and the lineup change they’ve lost none of their ability to craft a despondent, melancholy atmosphere, and with this more than an hour effort, they’ve managed not to just live up to their previous works, but surpass them, drowning the listener in contemplation with their best effort to date.

This long and complex album starts with an intro-song named “The Indwelling Ascent”. From the beginning, the atmosphere becomes dark and melancholic. The album has gloomy tones before a crash of drums signals forth for the guitars to play their slow riffs. The guttural vocals, low and cavernous, with each intonation scattering the positivity, are present. The atmosphere of despair and melancholy is so expertly crafted that will drag you down and will leave you feeling overwhelmed. The band's success formula revolves around writing long songs based on distorted riff repetitions crafted by Justin Hartwig and mournful melodies. This is topped off with some of the best dark voice in scene attributed to Damon Good. “The Rubaiyat” make us think of quatrains attributed to Omar Khayyam (the Astronomer-Poet of Persia). The first part of this song sounds equal parts nihilistic and sorrowful completed by the suspense of the lyrics: “We recall all despair borne of the last, A reflection of man's pain so vast” then a gorgeous clean guitar part takes command, and morphs into a crashing wave of distorted melodies. Every part of the song cycles many times, and even the extreme metal sections have a strong hypnotic effect due to the repetition. The band knows exactly how many times to repeat every section to achieve maximum impact. This song has a sort of meditative, insightful aura given by the slow pace. “The incubus of Karma”, the fourth song of the album is the one that gives the name of the album. It starts with classical guitar tones that are interwoven with metallic harmonies.

“Scripture of Exaltation and Punishment” was the first single of this album. Its style is representative for the band and also for this album. The guitars draw you into the depths, the atmosphere is similar to the first Shape of Despair album, a swirling darkness that surrounds you and threatens to drown you in your own misery. The riffs are dark and oppressive, while maintaining your interest in almost a morbid way. Listening to this song is almost like descending into the inner abyss of unconscious, as it tends to bring certain difficult feelings back toward the surface, or connecting those that were already there. Yet it is difficult to turn this off once it has begun. The music, itself, paints a picture of a world consumed with an inescapable darkness that promises to devour your spirit. To the end, the song is built in a unitary harmony with a brilliant solo epilogue. The last song of the album,” A Picture of the Devouring Gloom Devouring the Spheres of Being” is also the longest. From the anguished sound of the title track to the funeral feeling possessed by this track , the songs seem to flow from one to the next in a most natural manner. Decadent and atmospheric, the guitars in the background are at the mercy of the hypnotic synthesized passages with luxuriant spectral attire.

Immortality and mortality; future, present, and past. It is a permanent struggle between the inner world and the shallow society and for those who are searching more than earthy delights, Mournful Congregation crafted this album. And I think they have outdone themselves.

http://dinintunerec.com/

Another Devouring Hole of Doom! - 100%

Punk Studios99, April 20th, 2018

The Incubus of Karma is the fifth studio album by the Australian funeral doom band Mournful Congregation. This album is not only a masterpiece but it is also a genre-defining, and life-changing journey through heavy riffs and dirge. Mournful Congregation has a unique brand of doom that no other band has been able to copy. They come up with the bleakest and most depressing riffs that humanity can possibly create. They have an intense sadness that seems to be different with every album but is also consistent enough to never stray from their signature sound.

On this album, we get some of the slowest and heaviest riffs the band has to offer. The sound on this record is huge mainly because of the excellent production and the number of guitars used. This is by far the best sounding record that the band has released quality wise. Every guitar is mixed perfectly with pounding, reverb-laden drums, and a thick bass tone. Damon Good did an excellent job of mixing this album and of course, the legend Brad Boatright mastered the album perfectly.

With The Incubus of Karma, we get just what we expect from the Mournful Congregation since Tears From A Grieving Heart, but we get a much more mature and different sound from this album as a whole. The band picked up where they left off after the mini album released in 2014 titled the Concrescence of the Sophia. The layering of the guitars and intricate sad melodies make up this album. It opens up with instant grieving on the intense intro titled "The Indwelling Ascent". The deep guitar riffs and solos are a pure funeral like experience. I love how the rhythm guitars are very heavily distorted and massive to help back up the leads. The whole album feels like its suffocating you in a good way as I felt like I was traveling through a treacherous black hole while listening to this album. Not only are the guitars a lot better but the vocal performance by Damon Good is stellar as well. The lyrics on this album are some of their best yet and Adrian Bickle does a great job on the drums providing just the right amount of simplicity and technicality at times too. For funeral doom, the drums are much better than your standard slow beats that don't take much skill.

In comparison to their other albums, The Incubus of Karma stands out as one of their best. I did not think that the band could ever top The Book of Kings but they have proved me wrong. The production is certainly better as well as the guitar, drum and vocal work. Overall I found myself liking the majority of this album as a whole better than The Book of Kings. Every track is excellent here and not one track outshines another. They all flow so well together. I don't know if I would call it their best work because to me this band has no flaws. Every album is great in its own way but this one is definitely more organized than the rest of their discography. They put a lot of detail on this album and it clearly shows.

Overall The Incubus of Karma gets a 100. This album is simply amazing and it makes me want to die again, which means that the band has done their job correctly! There are no flaws and no filler. If you want real brutal and crushing funeral doom, this is the band for you!

A Dark & Melancholic Opus With a Very Dismal Aura - 87%

felix headbanger, April 10th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Osmose Productions

It’s been almost seven years since the last full-length offering of Australia’s Mournful Congregation had consumed their listeners with that utter dismal aura that the quartet had always brought upon in every memorable opus that they had put out. That mentioned previous record was called “The Book of Kings” and it was released on November 1st of 2011 under Japan's Weird Truth Productions (in Asia), 20 Buck Spin (in the US), and Osmose Productions (in Europe). This year, Mournful Congregation is back once again with a new studio record that will most certainly give the fans a desolating experience which will again take you to a ride to an unknown realm where the surroundings will devour you with that utter feeling of anguish and despair.

This latest offering is “The Incubus of Karma” and it was unchained last March 23rd of 2018 via Weird Truth Productions (in Asia), 20 Buck Spin (in the US), and Osmose Productions (in Europe). With this latest record, the band had once more solidified their reputation in the funeral doom genre. “The Incubus of Karma” embraces the key attributes of funeral doom and that patently distinguishable yet seemingly difficult to match style of the band. The album holds six crushing and completely wretched tunes, two of which are instrumentals, which will pull the listeners to that deep and dark domain where despondency and melancholia cloak all its conditions.

From the smoggy-layered guitar harmonies, reverberating bass lines, austere drum work, and the cavernous low guttural howls; this fifth studio record is unquestionably a praiseworthy funeral doom material. The guitar department in “The Incubus of Karma” provides a vast amount of heart-crushing palm-muted riffs which are very emblematic of the interment-esque vibe of heaviness that the listeners are about to come across. These riffs kindle an undercurrent that weight sorrowful and negative thoughts which patently keeps the atmosphere of solitariness and barrenness pristine.

The bass area is audible and easily distinguishable though it is not as endemic as their previous four full-length releases. Still, this did not come short in reinforcing the pulverizing ingredient of the band’s music in general. While the drumming in here is, as usual, straightforward and quite easy to follow and occurring in a way that is expected; it still doesn’t dismiss the fact that the listeners are still going to be amazed by the remarkable control and tenaciousness that Jim Call (the man behind the kit who replaced Adrian Bickle) brings into the table.

Now what really awes me within every Mournful Congregation material, other than the guitar and bass sections, is the stirring vocal dispatch of Damon Good. His haunting delivery of deep and agonizing snarls completes the puzzle and performs a big part in conjuring that inconsolable ambiance in the record. The production of the record is outstanding and it really put forward all the instruments and elements of their music. It is very clean, one of the few albums with clean production that I dig, and very professionally done which helps a lot in stirring up that pessimistic mood and disheartenment vibe of the offering. Of course, this kind of mixing is crucial and of the utmost importance especially in the funeral doom genre.

All in all, this latest studio record of Mournful Congregation is a wicked and outstanding album. The guitars are heavy, the bass lines are convincing, the drumming is satisfying even with its simplicity, and the vocals are powerful enough to summon up negative emotions. The overall result of all those aspects working together well is a stunning addition to their already remarkable discography. If you are a fan of funeral doom and Mournful Congregation, then you should add this album to your collection. This is a very excellent material for veterans of the genre and for novices of the aforementioned music style.

Originally featured on Metalegion Magazine issue #3 (http://www.metalegion.com/content/)

The Catechism of Depression Remains - 85%

KonradKantor, March 24th, 2018

Are the placid waters of a large lake best disrupted by a deluge, or by singular drops upon its surface? Sit near any calm body of water as dark clouds approach, and you’ll probably experience the sensation of both. As individual drops of rain begin to fall, the ripples grow wider and wider, sometimes spanning tens if not hundreds of feet outward in all directions. As calming or soothing as the introductory droplets of a howling storm might be, they are easily noticed on a flat surface. Walk out to a lake in the middle of a perfect storm, however, and everything just seems a bit chaotic. Yet, an illusion of calmness is facilitated by the hundreds of thousands of raindrops spanning the entire body of water, thus making it impossible to focus on only one ripple. While the question of which visual sensation is more impactful is meant to be philosophical and not scientific, let us then attach the philosophical question to a metaphor. Consider your emotions, the flat lake; The individual drops of rain, harmonious guitar melodies; The blowing of the wind on the lake’s surface; The bending of strings; And the eventual deluge, the drenching force that is funeral doom.

If the purpose of the metaphor at hand is to describe South Australia’s Mournful Congregation, then let’s begin by stating there isn’t another storm like this in the sky. While Mournful Congregation has always stayed within the strict confines of funeral doom’s core, the group has managed to do so while still maintaining a style that’s easily recognizable yet seemingly impossible to duplicate. The Incubus of Karma is the band’s fifth full-length to date, and it tugs persistently at the heartstrings – much like the most memorable moments of its predecessors – for a full 80 minutes. If there was ever any doubt as to whether or not strong emotions could swell within singular notes on the fretboard, one peek inside Mournful Congregation’s ever expanding playbook would reveal feelings that dwarf any verbal description. This very traditional yet unique style of funeral doom is for guitar lovers first and foremost, as every other instrument follows suit behind a sorrowful, elegant display of emotion through 12 humbling strings.

Those already familiar with any of the band’s other albums are in for very few surprises, other than perhaps the album’s overall structure, which contains breathtaking short-form instrumentals that immediately grab the listener’s attention. On past albums, the band stampedes out of the gates with a wall of sound before emotions eventually and calmly float to the surface. Mournful Congregation’s sound wall has always been built up primarily upon deep, growling howls, as rumbling bass notes and pounding kick drums thicken the dense atmosphere that the vocals provide. While The Incubus of Karma has plenty of these exhilarating moments, the beginning of each of the album’s halves features a calmness not unlike the first few drops of a summer storm. Singular notes then slowly build one upon another as the slowest of all marches to the burial ground begins.

While Damon Good has always used vocals as a leading effect that enhances his songs’ overall sound, rare occurrences of spoken passages have always been a key component of where the listener sees him or herself in relation to the music. Speaking the way a creator would to one of its creations, Good’s approach to addressing his listeners would almost seem patronizing if it wasn’t for the gargantuan display of power in the way his message is delivered:

My child, you are receiving the primal matter. Understand the blindness and the dejection of your first condition.

If there was ever a divine spark hidden in the subconscious realms of human nature, this fine example of funeral doom has always been on the brink of bringing that to light in the realms of its listeners’ minds. If the “primal matter” is meant to serve as substance in the unconscious mind that is needed for the incarnation of a deity, then perhaps we humans will always be blind. Perhaps this very album is meant to signify the primal matter? Perhaps we are dejected because of primal matter? (Thank God I only have the time and ability to write about the music.)

While one of the genre defining instruments of Mournful Congregation’s contemporaries such as Skepticism and Thergothon has always been the organ (it is funeral doom, after all), the Australians have always used the sacred pipes somewhat sparingly, which is why the album’s third track “The Rubiyat” will come as a nice surprise for lovers of the genre’s earliest traditions. Even so, the “funeral” effect on The Incubus of Karma is still delivered most effectively through the stunning guitar leads played by both Damon Good and Justin Hartwig, as the unusually short title track emits a display of crippling emotion that serves as an interlude for the album’s true brightest – and darkest – moments.

If grieving or mourning are obligatory in the process of turning feelings of loss and sorrow into selfless compassion, then the album at hand has certainly painted us a perfect road map for the process of doing so. The album’s second to last track, “Scripture of Exaltation and Punishment,” contains The Incubus of Karma’s finest moment of cathartic brilliance, and follows a formula similar to “The Monad of Creation,” “White Cold Wrath Burnt Frozen Blood,” and “The Catechism of Depression.” Just as dark storm clouds will eventually bombard all that stand beneath them with a torrential downpour, carefully timed solos and soaring, interwoven guitar melodies allow anticipation to slowly build until the walls can no longer hold and the all emotions let loose upon the waters of the grieving heart. When the drums eventually quicken into a faster march, the storm’s face will finally demonstrate its full potential, leaving watery eyes and broken heartstrings in its wake. If the aforementioned songs from other albums were the pinnacles of epiphany on their respective albums, then “Scripture of Exaltation and Punishment” is the fifth album’s precipice. Oh, but keep holding on tight, because one song containing 22 more minutes of beautiful sadness still remains.

If there was ever a question of whether or not Mournful Congregation would deliver exactly what fans of the project have always craved, one listen will remove all doubt. The Incubus of Karma builds upon all of the painstakingly careful and patient steps the band has taken to construct the feelings of some heavy metal deity taking over the souls of its fans. This resonates far beyond the duration of the album, as repeated listens will only bring to mind the notes that we will again crave when sitting in absolute silence. Mournful Congregation is indeed a vast storm, and one that will bring both comfort and sorrow with each drop… with each ripple… with each gust of wind… with each deluge upon the vast waters of our aching hearts.

Originally written for http://yourlastrites.com