Back in my early days of Internet metal education, when forums were still trendy, the name Mourning Beloveth kept cropping up as essential listening for doom/death fans based solely on the strength of their two demos. Formed in 1992—just a couple of years after genre pioneers My Dying Bride and Anathema—Mourning Beloveth waited nine years to release their debut album Dust, and it wasn’t until 2002 that they were picked up by small Irish label Sentinel Records. Given the early buzz around the band (maybe I just had clued-in metal buddies) and their obvious talent this seems pretty strange, especially as several of their less consistent peers enjoyed much greater industry support. But while their output has been of high quality, it has also lacked personality: their early records were a little too indebted to My Dying Bride, and it was only on 2005’s A Murderous Circus that they developed their sound into something less derivative by incorporating hints of the driving Celtic metal style pioneered by Primordial. So is 2016 going to be the year that Mourning Beloveth finally live up to their early potential and take their place among doom metal royalty?
Probably not, but they’ll certainly be awarded something better than Lord of the Privy. Rust and Bone moves further away from their early My Dying Bride worship and fully embraces the Celtic folk influences hinted at on their past few records, giving them a sound that is somehow simultaneously mournful and rousing. Epic opener “Godether” is the best implementation of this: the clean, folky intro gives way to a beautiful, tragic doom section that makes Swallow the Sun sound positively uplifting. Just as you’re about to give up all hope, the song changes gear to offer a glimmer of light; still miserable, but with a driving triplet feel that carries you to the song’s black metal climax. Going full-on blastbeats-and-trem-picking is a new string to Mourning Beloveth‘s baleful bow, and makes for a great and unexpected climax to the song.
Rust and Bone also sees Mourning Beloveth experimenting with album structure. Though ostensibly a full-length, with a run-time of 39 minutes the record is remarkably short for a doom album, while two of its five tracks—the gentle “Rust” and Alternative 4 leftover “Bone”—are brief, quiet interludes that break-up the three longer songs. Closer “A Terrible Beauty Is Born” is another departure for the band: an entirely acoustic folk piece, with Frank Brennan’s powerful clean vocals underpinned by a simple acoustic guitar riff. This makes for a stark contrast against the dense weight of their usual doom, and works surprisingly well as an album closer.
Such experimentation is to be commended, but it exposes the flaws in Mourning Beloveth‘s songwriting. While they pen wonderful riffs and melodies, they don’t write nearly enough of them. “Godether” is over sixteen minutes long but only features three main riffs, “The Mantle Tomb” is eleven minutes and almost as repetitive (and almost too derivative of Primordial), while closer “A Terrible Beauty Is Born” simply cycles over the same riff for seven minutes. The repetitiveness of this final track is exacerbated by its sparse arrangement and the lack of subtlety in Brennan’s vocals. Though he has a fantastic, strong voice that sounds like a cross between Primordial‘s Alan Averill and DoomSword‘s Vali, a little nuance would have gone a long way on this track. Finally, the contrast in styles between songs, though adding some needed diversity, reduces the coherence of the record as a whole.
The overall result is that this feels much more like an EP than a full album, and—with some trimming from “Godether” and “The Mantle Tomb”—would have fared much better if released as such. I am a fan of the Primordial-influenced death/doom style Mourning Beloveth now write, but they have yet to release the record that truly makes it their own.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Van Records
Websites: mourningbelovethvanrecords.bandcamp.com | mourningbeloveth.com | facebook.com/MourningBelovethBand
Release Dates: Digital: 2016.01.04 | EU: 2016.01.22 | NA: 02.05.2016