In the present the auld statues still inspire self-immolation well beyond their ancient impact, symbols of enduring ages and forgotten lessons of artisan magickry. From their marbled mouths swerves a heat-bent angle of cutting light, a hallucinatory whorl in the glass eye of a muttering charcoaled husk. Here the dust never settled beyond the first melancholic dirge uttered, a self-shedding ritual of ascension beyond the cathedral doors unto lowest dread-bound horrors. What’d just as well been fleeting interstitial drainage is instead ceremonial cosmogeny that’d muse back to origin in the storied weaver’s hand of Adelaide, Australia-based funeral doom metal quintet Mournful Congregation on this second and final entrant in their most recent opus. ‘The Exuviae of Gods – Part II‘ provides the right hand, now conjoined with the claw-fingered grasp of the first and encasing an arcane muse in their newly scalding illumination.
Since I’d written at length about Mournful Congregation‘s prior two releases a fair deal the sum of my fandom draws them on the side of inspiration rather than mere scholarly interest, a huge fan to say the least and that notion hasn’t budge the least bit a year later. If you’d read my review of ‘The Exuviae of Gods – Part I‘ (2022) then that’ll essentially find its mirror within this second part as the band present another two new pieces and include a second well updated re-recording of a song (“Heads Bowed”) from their second demo tape (‘An Epic Dream of Desire‘, 1995). It is worth reflecting upon the continuity and vision of each of the four new pieces shared between Parts I and II in their empyrean presence yet I’d first direct toward the fact that we have a mostly complete re-recording of the band’s second demo tape. The heart or bisected middle section of the two LPs considered as a set contains a wholly resuscitated, warmed and thundering work originally crafted back in the mid-1990’s whereas the outer shell, the skeleton and the body encases this statement with pieces that consider the possibilities of the groups painterly eight-armed capability. The result is remarkably no less set outside of time, persistent in its unique vision and voice quite a few years later.
Whereas many early funeral doom metal bands embraced the lo-fi ugliness and sparse ambiance of the niche in the scant stretch of pre-millennial releases these folks, primarily Damon Good (StarGazer, Cauldron Black Ram), seem to have conceived of Mournful Congregation‘s sound in view of traditional doom metal and melodic death/doom metal where sonic richness would inevitably develop and pacing would naturally become more readable as a desire for tuneful, affecting works became characteristic features beyond cold avant-garde droning elsewhere. A complex way of suggesting their work is readable, lush, and no less distraught or all-consuming as the lot they’re typically lumped in with. In this sense one would expect fairly self-conscious releases from a band so well revered, certainly influential in no small way, yet we only get their most thoughtful and professional result as the path steps in and out of shadow throughout ‘The Exuviae of Gods‘. As a pretty consistent blip in my notes and memory “Mountainous Shadows, Cast Through Time” from the Part I remains one of my favorite opening pieces from any of the band’s releases, a high point which is not necessarily replicated in tone with otherwise worthy opener “Heads Bowed”, a song which’d opened their aforementioned second demo with good reason. This only adds to the sensation that this is the second half of their gatefold, an experience which reads with clear bookends surrounding a well-preserved ancient core.
A consular diptych. — Of course there is no sense in thinking or rationalizing otherwise, you really do need both parts of ‘The Exuviae of Gods‘ to appreciate its curious existence as a not-double LP and a reflecting pool set betwixt what I’d assume is a sixth full-length down the road. That said the new pieces here are again an extension of the strengths found on ‘The Incubus of Karma‘ (2018) where pronounced guitar harmonies and mid-paced death/doom metal stirring became louder glaring points of mastery. You’ll feel some of that condensed brilliance in “The Forbidden Abysm” to be sure but it is within the outstretched arms of the nearly ~19 minute “The Paling Crest” where Part II digs in to finish the elaborate thought that Part I presented. Also, it should be obvious enough to the attentive funeral doom metal ear today that there are very few viable acts in the space as self-realized and memorably writ as these fellowes, then and now they’ve always written incredible doom metal songs no matter how stretched the pace.
Since it makes no sense separating ‘The Exuviae of the Gods‘ two parts when evaluating them per their running orders I would suggest that I particularly enjoyed this album art as a continuation and a reflection of the first part (both per Karmazid) when paired. The full statement of this record does mirror the prior half as a sort of antipode, or, different tonal reach while still bearing the same grand, sophisticated loft overall. Though I wasn’t sure this would ultimately make sense as a two-part venture the high standards of Mournful Congregation have not faltered within this nostalgic and insightful undertaking. A very high recommendation.
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