Released: 2011, Weird Truth
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Crikey, this is a tough one to put to paper.
Point: Mournful Congregation is a great band. 2009’s THE JUNE FROST was an exceptional, diverse collection of funeral/death/doom tunes that benefited from the subtle diversity peppered across the album’s 8 tracks.
Counterpoint: Their new album THE BOOK OF KINGS is not so exceptional.
4 tunes marching in at an hour and 16 minutes, you do the math. It comes across more as an endurance marathon than an album that you want to put on and vibe to. Here’s the rub though; the core of each of these tunes is really good. Each track carries a variety of moments that are genuinely moving, but those moments are sandwiched between unnecessary bulk that never really “clicks.” It’s like the songs are really long if only for the sake of being really long, not because it adds something to the composition.
When the most digestible tracks both surpass the 12-minute mark, you know you might have a communication problem. “The Waterless Streams” and “The Bitter Veils of Solemnity” are each powerful dirges that stretch gorgeous melody lines across the musical abyss, and are examples of what Mournful Congregation does best. But the 17-minute opener “The Catechism of Depression” doesn’t go anywhere until the last four minutes and the 34-minute (Christ almighty) closing title track has sporadic moments of valor, but it’s so much of a chore to get there it’s almost not worth it.
The highlights on THE BOOK OF KINGS are just too far and few between for a recommendation. To reiterate my first point, Mournful Congregation is a great band; unfortunately this isn’t an example of that greatness. Check out the band’s back catalog if you really want to hear what they’re capable of.