(Notice: Originally written for Encyclopedia Metallum, but rejected for formatting, but I have fixed it.)
Mournful Congregation, along with Esoteric and Evoken, are one of the more renowned and "popular" bands in the funeral doom metal genre. Never having heard of Mournful Congregation, and already being very fond of Esoteric, I decided to check this band out. Well, what better way to start with their new 2011 album, "The Book Of Kings"?
Mournful Congregation are a funeral doom trio from South Australia. Formed in 1993, it consists of Damon Good (vocals, guitar and bass), Justin Hartwig (bass) and Adrian Bickle (drums). To be honest, Mournful Congregation, like many other funeral doom metal bands, are not too original, in fact not really original at all, but they still know how to deliver good funeral doom influenced by all the classics of the genre.
The songs on here are all very long, ranging from 12 minutes to over half an hour, the album in total being 77 minutes, but rarely do they drag on or get boring. Upon listening to this album, I realized that Mournful Congregation are very skilled songwriters, given the fact that they can keep their songs captivating even throughout their massive lengths.
Damon Good, the vocalist who also plays bass and guitar, is absolutely stunning. He doesn't sound human, but (as cliche as it sounds) rather like the roaring of Cthulhu in a catacomb deep beneath your feet. He also delivers an occasional whisper also typical of the genre. Still, not original for the style, but definetely great. The lyrics are also very well written, crooning tales of misery, depression and ancient times. His guitar work is also quite good, with riffs that range from beautifully sorrowful whines ("The Waterless Streams"), to chilling acoustic passages ("The Bitter Veils of Solemnity"), to crushingly heavy percussive riffs (25:19 of the title-track).
While the first three songs are all good, they can not compare to the likes of the title-track, "The Book of Kings" which is one of the best funeral doom songs I have ever heard, if not the. Every second of this song is pure audial gold, and with this song MC nailed the whole idea of funeral doom spot on. At over half an hour, the song goes through various changes and stays at it's slow pace yet never gets boring (a nice feat. given it's length, as I explained earlier). The guitar melody around the 3:23 mark or so is one of the most sad and depressing melodies my ears have ever had the (dis?)pleasure of listening to. The song is chock full of good riffs, haunting melancholy, and a terrible sense of foreboding dread lingering on the air, and I begrudgingly admit that I have come damn near close to tears listening to this track.
Mournful Congregation, while they might not be the best funeral doom band in the world, did a really good job with this album. While it is a rather good place to start for the genre, I wouldn't dive right in, as this type of music can be incredibly boring for the average listener, but that is mainly the case with all funeral doom. If you are an average listener of Esoteric, Skepticism, Catacombs etc., then you won't be disappointed. If you're still not convinced, just download the title-track as it is a masterpiece.
Highlights: "The Book of Kings", "The Bitter Veils of Solemnity".