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"A Picture Of The Devouring Gloom Devouring The Spheres Of Being"

With a song title like this on it an album has already won. End of review.

No? Ok, let's do this.

MOURNFUL CONGREGATION - The Incubus Of Karma (CD) (2018)

Whenever you are getting into a new music genre, my personal advice would always be: Pace yourself! Don't overwhelm your capacity to absorb with all important artists and classics at once, but take the time to actually enjoy and explore each invidual work of art on its own.

And if there is one subgenre in particular, which makes it extremely easy to be discovered slowly, then it has to be funeral doom. I've been aware of this especially slow, solemn and sorrowful brand of doom for a couple of years now, but when you're discovering the most important players mainly by their recent releases, it can take quite a while to get them all together.
The reason is simple: apart from the music often being emotionally demanding, composing long crawling songs just takes fucking time. Even without even considering the creative process: How many playthroughs through one epic are possible during one rehearsal?

So funeral doom bands tend to take their time between the releases of albums. Not always six years like Loss before "Horizonless" - or even seven like Skepticism before "Ordeal", but you can see the tendency.

This March Australia's Mournful Congregation returned after four years with "The Incubus Of Karma". And even though I'm unfamiliar with the previous output of their career, which already spans a respectable quarter-century, all I can say is: Boy, did they use this time good!

The album consists of six tracks. The four "full" songs are each between fifteen and twenty-two minutes long. Only the two instrumentals, one of them being the intro "The Indwelling Ascend" and the other the title track come significantly shorter with three resp. six minutes length.

The overall tone and atmosphere is very similar to the herein before mentioned groups, yet apart from the sheer songwriting craft there a a couple of specifics which have to be mentioned:

The sparse and precise drumming. On the whole album Tim Call doesn't play one single hit too much, demonstrating an absolute mastery of musical economics. You simply cannot play the drums more on point. The rhythm work of Mournful Congregation is on par with the greatest slow motion players out there.

The vocals. The guttural ultra-deep growling is quite typical for the genre and nothing overly special in itself, but the way the production handles it is just perfect. In the spirit of classic death metal production fails like Possessed's "Seven Churches" the grunts are drained in reverb and technically way too loud. They seem to muffle and push the music away under them. However this is done with intent and in exactly the right extent, which makes it a brilliant effect.

And last but not at all least the element which elevates this album above almost everything else you'll hear this year - and I'm not only restricting this to doom or metal: Lead guitars.
The lead guitar harmonies of Damon Good and Justin Hartwig are just sonic gold.The title track "The Incubus Of Karma" for example sounds like Chuck Schuldiner interpreting an Omar Rodriguez Lopez tune.
But there are magnificent melodic crescendos all over the album and when those are ascending out of the hopeless existential void, they carry so much beauty, bliss and majesty, it's almost an overload of pure emotion.

And before you ask: The most amazing leads can of course be found in the longest song, which is also the grand finale and highlight of the whole album. And of course that is "A Picture Of The Devouring Gloom Devouring The Spheres Of Being".

Mournful Congregation have created a masterpiece here. This album will surely find its way to the top of many best-of-the-year lists. And it deserves it.

Funeral doom perfection.

Highlights: A Picture Of The Devouring Gloom Devouring The Spheres Of Being, Scripture Of Exaltation And Punishment, The Rubaiyat

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