Mournful_congregation The_exuviae_of_gods_part_i_and_ii

Mournful Congregation - The Exuviae of Gods Part I/II


Heavy. Slow. Dense. With elongated undulating dark often yearning melodies, yet with a sense of ethereal and meditative specters hovering above. The Australians of Mournful Congregation release the sequel of what they began last spring.

Thirty years ago, Mournful Congregation was formed and began exploring the gloomier sides of Death Doom Metal. They decelerated the pace of Death Metal from 120 bpm to slower than 30-40 bpm, tuned down every instrument, and suited it with guttural growls. They made unhurriedly melancholic dirge melodies, dripping sadness and sorrow through long tracks. On the other side of the world, in Finland, Skepticism and Thergothon had done the same a couple of years earlier. And with them, Mournful Congregation became shapers of a small metal sub-genre that after some years was labelled Funeral Doom Metal. Metal music at a pace slower than a classical funeral march.

And here we are thirty years into the development of a still vibrant(!) genre as my colleague Dan so wonderfully showed in his review of the new Bell Witch album. Even if it still is a small sub-genre there are important bands out there playing this monolithic version of metal music; Esoteric, Ea, Mourning Beloveth, and Ahab to name a few. And Mournful Congregation show with the two EP releases that they are still on top of the game. I do think these two releases should be seen as one full-length with 90 minutes of monumental Funeral Doom music.

There are six tracks on these two releases, and two of the tracks are re-recordings taken from the band´s demo released in 1995. Part I ends with a track from 1995 and Part II opens with a track from 1995. Part I, can be said to be side A, which has three songs and opens the fourteen-minute long “Mountainous Shadows, Cast Through Time” with a mighty organ. After the organ has established the melody it pummels into distorted, dense, heavy Funeral Doom with guttural growling. The music drags along seeping out a melodic theme that embraces the deep-tuned music. The thundering music lightens a bit as a down-tuned solo guitar plays a slow theme immersed in the dense and dark music. One of the trademarks of Mournful Congregation are the many layers of guitars and the many overdubs that create vast sonics and make you discover new patterns on each track every time you listen to the music. And of course, the immense guttural growling. When we are lulled into a meditative state, the tempo shifts to blast drums with guitars lifting the melody from the distorted soundscape playing in pair until a guitar solo breaks out, more high-pitched than before. What can be called a solo in this kind of music, is quite slow and dripping with yearning and sorrow.

The second song in Part I, ”The Exuviae of Gods”, is a seven-minute instrumental that opens with a gentle strumming acoustic guitar. Mournful Congregation always uses acoustic guitars to great effects, which becomes apparent when the heavily distorted guitar glides in to accompany the acoustic guitar bursting out a slow, down-tuned solo. A melodic theme runs through the interaction between the acoustic and distorted guitars, which also have slow-paced higher pitched solos.

Part I closes with a re-recording of the wonderful ”An Epic Dream of Desire”. At a glacial pace, the band shows us why they became the forerunner in this genre. The track was then epic and has become even more epic now when the DIY sense is gone and the sonics are updated. The band´s music was even slower in the beginning and the vocals on this are clean and sonorous, more reciting than singing. Throughout the track, the guitars are floating in the background, at an extremely slow pace. In between, the drums mark subtle transitions to even heavier and denser sounds floating forward on lead-cladded feet, the melodic pattern rises and sinks. The dense, slow music becomes meditative as it oozes forward and the deep vocals recite along with the melody.

Then we leave 2022 and part II (side B) is out in May 2023, almost on the same day of the month even. It opens with an updated tremendous version of ”Heads Bowed” and once again it makes sense why they updated it. It is a sublime Funeral Doom track that begins with acoustic guitars repeating a melodic theme, strumming in harmony until the distorted guitars take the melody to the pace and sound of Funeral Doom, sinking deeper down as the guttural growling is thick and sticky delivering the lyrics. When you think it cannot be slower, it slows down merely able to churn out the melody from the distorted slowness. The growls are more of a recital than normal vocals. The flow of the dense music is broken by an acoustic guitar before it morphs back into the monolithic riffs and down-tuned slow solo.

Then part II ends with two tracks that show that Mournful Congregation still are highly imaginary and creative musicians in the genre. First the eight-minute-long ”The Forbidden Abyss” opens with a melody played by two electric guitars with slow bass and drums (timpani-style) at the bottom. There are some higher pitched solo guitar parts immersed in the sonics. Towards the end, the riffs lead to higher notes and one guitar breaks out once more giving a whammy bar solo. At the highest point, the track turns into an atmospheric part with synths before withdrawing back into heavy dragging and chugging and then a transition into blast beats again with slow-motion guitars.

The last almost 19 minutes long track, ”The Paling Crest” is a musical treasure trove. As they have shown on previous albums, they are masters in creating long, intricate, and engaging tracks - dreamy even, in the way they glide through the different sections. It opens with a clear timbre from an acoustic guitar before some acoustic strumming elaborates on the melody. There is a sublime shift into the realm of doom when one hard hit on the bass opens up for an orchestrated choir to join the acoustic guitar, drum, and bass. Then the choir takes over and a distorted solo rises to take over with the acoustic six-string still being there and the bass beginning to play a melody beneath the guitars. Other instruments fade away and a couple of acoustic guitars follow with fingerpicking and strumming. The pace is slow, but the way the track is executed, a sense of minstrel´s song seeps from it. Eventually, the track evolves into dense, distorted Funeral Doom with the guttural growling recital. And like this the subtle changes go throughout the track until one guitar breaks free and shifts into a higher-pitched solo as the sound rises from a crescent before fading into oblivion.

And you are woken from your meditative state, refreshed.