Mournful Congregation - _The June Frost_
(Weird Truth Productions, 2009)
by: Alexandra Erickson (8.5 out of 10)
Without reservation or hesitation, _The June Frost_ is Mournful Congregation's opus -- at least thus far in their career. Carrying the funeral doom torch with fervor (as much as one can have in this grayscale genre), they have set the bar almost immeasurably high. Their ability to make 17-minute long songs interesting, and keep them interesting, is in and of itself a feat not often found in doom. Stagnancy and painfully slow rhythms drowning in distortion that finds itself more akin to early black metal than despondent doom have become the standard for one's expectations of new funeral doom releases. But with dexterity and palpable skill, Mournful Congregation set out on this album with the confidence of giants. Running the gambit from whinnying guitar-heavy instrumentals to the aforementioned 10+ minute long epics that break your heart in their resonance, the beauty mired in the bleakness is plentiful.

Australia's answer to the German giants Ahab or America's Asunder, Mournful Congregation have already grabbed their genre by the throat and are widely considered the band to beat, and with every new release, they're laying their claim ever deeper. There is unmistakable growth since their last full-length, _The Monad of Creation_, released in 2005. Of course any active band that allows a four-year leap between albums is going to have, at the very least, a different aura about them. But the variation here is quieter than most, more subtle than what we've come to expect from such gaps in album releases. First, they've taken a step back and have only two songs that last more than ten minutes, a far cry from the consistently ambitious songs on _The Monad of Creation_. Second, there has been a step out of the daunting midnight and into a melancholic twilight, contributing more melody and painful emotion than the gravelly murk of their earlier works. And third, there has been a considerable leap in the musicianship displayed on all fronts, but most namely the guitars. Nimble-fingered interludes abound and are largely responsible for the lighter atmosphere here. This isn't to discredit the dense drumming, thick and evocative vocals, exquisite song writing, much less the exceptional production quality. No, it all falls into place, but the guitar has come front and center, standing shoulder to shoulder with the abyssal vocals.

My only gripe with this album, aside from being made to wait four years for it, is the length of the songs. Yes, while the eight track album runs just over one hour, I've a hard time dealing with songs under four minutes long on a funeral doom release. As superficial and absolutely erroneous as that one complaint is, I think it speaks more in tribute to the charm exhibited on this album. _The June Frost_ isn't a clarion call for the depressed masses looking for the newest thing to salve their aching souls (Asunder pun completely intended), but more a breath of fresh air in a genre full of black metal musicians gone awry.

Contact: http://www.myspace.com/mournfulcongregation

(article published 18/7/2009)


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