MOURNFUL CONGREGATION – The Exuviae of Gods – Part I (2022)REVIEW

By the force of mysteriously muscled air or some unspeakable daimonian possession of the elements the cathedral doors ease open. As if living flaps of flesh and bone made temple splayed, no light bleeds into view beyond silhouette of the pipe organ in black-and-grey as it’d cough up ancient dust in announce of what’d been unleashed from this ancient womb by our intrusion, Death. Our very fortitude is rendered obscure by the heat of this force and instead of life from loin sprung forth, our wilting begins in earnest as the sinistral beast born begins its eerily rousing, melancholic dirge to shed and ascend. The husk of unsayable horrors, the lowest feeling of dread in remnants of crystalline shell is left behind as a great pile of sheet musick for ‘The Exuviae of Gods: Part I‘, the latest extended player from Adelaide, South Australia-based funeral doom metal band Mournful Congregation. The weight of these three pieces of doom is an unreal, empyrean death pressed upon the psyche with such force that even the non-believer fades into tunnel-envisioned collapse, a face eternally snapped down of its neck.

Not only have I already sputtered and drooled my Mournful Congregation fandom all over the place in review of ‘The Incubus of Karma‘ (2018) but I’d also detailed some notes on the history of the band therein, including were I’d fallen in with their discography. That point of view hasn’t shifted in the slightest and I still consider this group one of very few pillars to sustain the extreme doom reality in mind as viable, limitlessly droning form. At the point of their previous release the major conclusion was more-or-less that they could push their muse in any direction and succeed based on the gigantic pieces that’d made up that double album and the sheer ground it’d covered. So, the jackass fan in me could sum my reaction to this record in as few words as: “Best funeral doom band continues to be the best” as they present two new pieces from this (at least) two volume set of mini LP releases and include a well updated re-recording of “An Epic Dream of Desire”, the title track from their second demo tape (‘An Epic Dream of Desire‘, 1995). Yet it is worth pointing out a few ways in which they have pushed at the boundaries of past works as well as clearly refined the still resonant core idea, style and sound of the band.

The obviate appeal behind Mournful Congregation‘s work has long been a keen ear for coherent melodic voicing at the very precipice of “too slow” to be read, the notion that we are getting complete songs from the band rather than the 33rpm version of a very good Peaceville three album (see also: Thergothon). Guitar tone resolves into riff able to convey bleakest mood, majestically downtrodden scenes are then formed to the point of steady immersion and this is the something ‘extra’ which so many legacy funeral doom metal bands never got quite right beyond those who’d given up by the late 90’s. From my point of view it isn’t pacing alone which affects the listener and signifies “doom” but the listless shaping of the moment, a feat only Skepticism has been as consistently conjuring otherwise.

The Exuviae of Gods Part I‘ reminds us that Mournful Congregation have built upon an unique voice for decades never having collapsed or even rested comfortably in pursuit of the next scene depicted, “Mountainous Shadows, Cast Through Time” being a finest example of -their- version of funeral doom metal with its soaring, shredding and oft harmonized lead guitars, ornately soldiering-slow rhythms, and heavier doses of death/doom metal parlance which we find in their craft beyond 2011 or so. Much like Dream Unending the previous year each song we pick up here is another conversation with a similarly consistent mood conveyed, in terms of this opening piece we manifest a heap crestfallen and petitioning upwards to the decaying void where the Gods are supposed to have been, a palpable emptiness resounding with each further plea. The largely instrumental “The Exuviae of Gods” follows up in ponderance of the scene itself, reprising the fine use of lead guitars that’d made ‘The Incubus of Karma‘ such an unforgettable record a few years back with even more elaborate runs, verging on virtuosic progressive metal expanse just as the piece peaks in its last minute or so.

“An Epic Dream of Desire” retains two very important qualities in its overall upgraded form first the era-specific cadence of the vocals and their opening expressions, secondly the sustain of the distorted guitar tones which fizzle out at just the right points in emphasis of the accompanying acoustic guitar movements. This’d been what’d made returning to this song a thrill in my own experience anyhow, though of course they’ve added more rhythm guitar layers and everything is better fused but the original experience and mood is yet captured in an effective way. The sort of alien juxtaposition of both guitar tones and the vocals made the original a surreal, weird harmonization of gloom and I am impressed that none of this feeling is lost for the duration of this 15+ minute piece.

My recommendation of essentially every single Mournful Congregation release comes from a place of long-established fandom, sure enough, but this one didn’t have an easy ‘in’ to my mind palace specifically because the previous album is such a great work to follow, a defining elaboration of their screed. Yet all cylinders are firing here, the mood is transporting and the musicianship without err in its craft, and the muse it offers is undeniable as a result. It’ll be interesting to see what Part II does differently or if it simply completes the right-hand bookend as expected. A high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (88/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:The Exuviae of the Gods – Part I
LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin,
Osmose Productions
RELEASE DATE:May 27th, 2022

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