"The Unspoken Hymns"

By Earthdog

'The Unspoken Hymns' is not a collection of new tracks but a compilation of some of Mournful Congregation's best but more obscure works. Set for release in September this year, I am guessing it is for introducing one of Australia's best ever doom bands to American audiences. The compilation features songs and rare versions only previously available on long sold out limited vinyl splits, and being someone who generally hasn't got much time for compilations, I find this to an essential release for both fans of the band and doom-metal fans in general.

If you have never heard the excellence of Mournful Congregation then this proves to be an ideal place to start. Of course these guys play slow... really, really slow to the point where it sounds like the music may just self-destruct and stop completely. They are depressive and full of emotion but characterized by droning guitar passages, simple but incredibly heavy drumming, and an atmosphere of pure torture. Basically the only tempo changes to be heard here is slow to even slower so if you want to hear a band that is truly oppressive, this is it.....

The album starts with a new version of an old track titled 'Left Unspoken.' This track originally appeared on the split they did many moons ago with Otesanek, Loss and Orthadox. This version brings the production up to the quality of the 'June Frost' album they released in 2009. Musically it is not that much different from the original version but with the clearer, heavier production it sounds even more like the funeral-doom monster it really is. Mournful Congregation are a dynamic but slow-moving machine in terms of song arrangement as well as the actual playing. 'Left Unspoken' is a monolithic crawl lasting over 10 minutes and it is a perfect representation of what funeral-doom should sound like; in-short, this is a masterpiece.

'The Epitome Of Gods And Men Alike' first appeared on a split with Worship in 2002, and was later released in the same year on 'The Dawning of Mournful Hymns' album. Like with all of their older material, this track is a much sought after classic of depressive doom but it is also faster than the usual Mournful Congregation songs but keep in mind fast by this bands standards is still a slow-dirge for anybody else. This deserves its place on this compilation as it is truly one of their best songs.

'A Slow March To The Burial' was first released on a split with Stabat Mater in 2004, and more recently on 'The June Frost' album. This version sounds like the one from the split so it lacks the production values of the later version but it is still a powerful take on another classic track. The growls that this band uses are swapped for more of a loud whisper for this song and the song is played with excruciating precision that is incredibly mesmerizing.

'Descent Of The Flames' is up next and is without a doubt one of the highlights of 'The June Frost' album and of course it was also on a split with Stone Wings in 2007 and it is that version that is featured here. It lacks the great production of 'The June Frost' version but the rawness of this recording gives it its own unique vibe while still basically being the same exact song. The band is actually more melodic than they are given credit for because of the use of guitar harmonies and this track highlights how skilled this band really is. Yes, it is slow, depressive, down-trodden doom but dig deep into the song and there is more going on than what is on the surface...great track.

'Elemental' is a Thergothon cover and a very good one at that. This version is almost better than the original and it is very fitting to end the album with this tribute to one of the most underrated bands ever. Thergothon were haunting and epic in every possible sense of the words and so too is Mournful Congregation so this is a perfect end to this great collection of funeral tunes. This is an essential purchase for the Mournful Congregation fans who missed out on the split releases they have been on but it is also just a great doom album that all doom fans should own. I am still amazed that the band isn't praised more in the doom underground especially in the USA so hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call for all you funeral-doom fans out there. 'The Unspoken Hymns' will be released through 20 Buck Spin on September 20th, 2011 in the lead up to the release of Mournful Congregation's fourth full-length album, 'The Book Of Kings.' .....9.5/10