"The Book Of Kings"


I must admit that I wasn't expecting too much from the new Mournful Congregation album. I just thought maybe they would have run out of ideas by now and was expecting a stale and average release this time around but I was wrong...very, very, wrong. There is something to be said for a band that has been around for almost 20 years and just keep up a consistent high-standard with every release. This is only their fourth full-length album so they haven't been that productive in the recording process but each album has been a masterpiece. A word of warning to begin with; this album is real long, 76 minutes long in-fact with one track stretching out a mammoth 33 minutes so for you people out there with short attention spans - stop reading now, this album is NOT for you. Now keep in mind it has only been two years since the band released a monumental classic with 'The June Frost' album so it was going to be a challenge to come up with anything better but I think they have done it or at least matched that album's enduring quality.

This album is a dry, cold, contemplative release whose minor-key, depressive dirges drag you in from the opening seconds of the first track, the 19 minute 'The Catechism of Depression.' This track is funeral-doom being dragged through mud and slime and it is not till some 10 minutes into the track when a little ray of light begins to shine through with a gentle acoustic passage but it is short-lived and it soon again, becomes a monstrous, sparse funeral-doom fest of monolithic proportions. There is a lot of musical terminology I could use here to describe the gloom and doom of this piece but it is more about the emotional element to me. This is a heart-breaking, devastating piece of music with so much depth that no words can do it justice. You just need to crank it up in a darkened room and let the music wash over you, this is hypnotic doom at its best. Even the growls of Damon Good have a strange, melodic quality that act like another instrument of depression so to say this track is complete would be an understatement.

'The Waterless Streams' and 'The Bitter Veils of Solemnity' are two 12 minute menacing tracks and at the same time, emotionally draining pieces of music. The latter is perhaps the best track on the album. 'The Bitter Veils of Solemnity' is the only real-time in the album where the mood lifts up out of the darkness even though it is still not exactly a cheerful piece but it offers a nice break from the overwhelming dark melancholy that the rest of the album projects. I think the best word I can use at this point is "tasteful". This band can be about as funeralized as doom can get at times but this album as a whole displays a (and I hate to say this) epic prog-rock production approach to doom-metal. Imagine Yes or a Rush kind of band trying to pull off funeral-doom epic tracks and it could sound like this. The technicality displayed in the playing is at times stunning and I always knew the band were great musicians but they have outdone themselves here and really pushed their own musical boundaries.

The albums closing track is the 33 minute title track and this is where it is easy to get lost or bored depending on your mood at the time of listening. The track doesn't really offer anything different and it is stretched out beyond belief so it requires some effort to get through it. Again, the playing is incredible and the atmosphere is crippling but at over half a hour's worth of music, it is easy to get a little bored by the end of it. This is without a doubt in my mind though Mournful Congregation's masterpiece, their most polished and ambitious album to date. While a lot of the album is crushing with massive doom-metal riffs, a lot of it is also layered with many gentle passages that might surprise some doom listeners. The only track that goes off the rails slightly is the all-too-long title track but that is a minor flaw. Overall this is almost essential for fans of funeral doom and more than essential for folks that are already a fan of the band. In a word - "majestic." ...........9/10.