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Mournful Congregation : The Book of Kings

The new Mournful Congregation album is a must for anyone who enjoyed their previous efforts, and basically for any fan of extreme yet melodic Doom Metal.

With their three full-length albums and a handful of miscellaneous releases, The Australians Mournful Congregation have established themselves as one of the very best bands the contemporary Doom scene has to offer. Now, fans of the genre can rejoice over a fourth album which will not leave anyone dissatisfied – quite the contrary, it will reinforce the band’s reputation even more. It is hard (if not impossible) to compare the full-length releases in terms of quality since they all are great pieces of musical art in their own right. The Book of Kings makes no exception, and this is certainly the best and most essential news I can give.

As to the band’s sound, little can be said that has not been described in earlier reviews. The basic formula is still the same. Fans will get what they expect and love, but the album has enough of an individual feel to it, just like all the previous releases. All of the characteristic elements return here as great as ever – be it heavy riffs, ultra-slow, harmonic guitar melodies dripping with sadness or gentle acoustics. The latter are most noteworthy on “The Bitter Veils of Solemnity”, a long acoustic piece very much in the vein of “When the Weeping Dawn Beheld Its Mortal Thirst” from the second album, but more minimalist. Those who enjoyed the band’s old demo track “An Epic Dream of Desire” will be particularly fond of “The Waterless Streams”, a stunningly beautiful song without growls which focuses on creating a captivating atmosphere – it is likely to become an instant classic!

The tracklisting of the new album is very similar in structure to The Monad of Creation: after a long and fascinating opener, we get a slightly shorter track which is then followed by the obligatory acoustic piece. An extra-long title track closes the album; with its impressive 33 minutes, “The Book of Kings” is the longest composition the band has released to date. This track is of particular interest since it carries the listener through a potentially symbolist story of the rise and fall of kings through divine intervention (admittedly, a rather weird lyrical theme which takes some getting used to). The structural approach of the song made me think of a Doom version of the classic concept album Crimson by Edge of Sanity despite the total absence of stylistic similarities. In correspondence with the lyrics, various moods and quite different parts appear in the course of the song, including some crushing riffs with bleak clean guitar picking, an element which has not been typical of the band’s sound before. Some of the transitions are rather harsh and can suddenly cut off the thick atmosphere enveloping and hypnotising the listener. This is the only potential point of criticism of the entire album, but it hardly compromises the otherwise impeccable quality of the music. If we take the storytelling nature of the lyrics into consideration, such transitions can even make sense because they force you to follow closely with the development instead of just passively absorbing the atmosphere.

The massive total playing time of 76 minutes can be tough to digest at first since the songwriting is quite complex once more, making it hard to follow with the music upon first listen. But luckily, there are so many great ideas on The Book of Kings that it never becomes dragging. Owing to the complexity of the compositions, the listening experience becomes better with every spin because you internalise the structure and can more and more anticipate the further development of the songs. Lovers of the band’s earlier work will be familiar with this gratifying effect of Mournful Congregation’s music.

To cut a long story short, this album is exactly what most of us expect it to be: another masterpiece and therefore a must for anyone who enjoyed the band’s previous efforts, and basically for any fan of extreme yet melodic Doom Metal. The Book of Kings serves well to remind us that there is nothing better in the world than a great Doom album.

Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. The Catechism of Depression
2. The Waterless Streams
3. The Bitter Veils of Solemnity
4. The Book of Kings

Duration : Approx. 76 minutes

Visit the Mournful Congregation bandpage.

Reviewed on 2012-02-27 by Dominik Sonders
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