June is never a good month for the Grymm household. Between the rapidly increasing temperatures, even more rapidly increasing humidity, and BUGS EVERYWHERE, I’m not exactly what you would peg as “walking on sunshine.” I just want to stay inside, shun the sunlight, and get some dirge-and-purge going. And here comes Australia’s Mournful Congregation, with their stop-gap 2-song, 30-minute EP, Concrescence of the Sophia, bridging the distance between 2011’s all-encompassing somber funeral march, The Book of Kings, and their next full-length album. Should you stay in and harvest the sorrow, or would it be better for you to go outside, put on Coppertone SPF100, and flamethrow some 8-legged critters?
The twenty-minute-plus title track begins with some very somber riffing recalling Kings‘s sadder moments by guitarist/vocalist/leader Damon Good and fellow guitarist Justin Hartwig, sapping all happiness and good feelings from you as the minutes slowly progress, with a second guitar droning 2:44 in. Just from the first three minutes, you can tell Mournful Congregation haven’t missed a single plodding step towards the vacant funeral doom throne once held by fellow Aussies diSEMBOWELMENT. Six minutes in, an acoustic guitar drops in, electric guitars fade out, and you are blanketed in more suffocating atmosphere, before yet another sadder, bleaker change with chord bends, another acoustic fade-out, and some variations to keep things dark yet interesting throughout. The absolute best part is the final three minutes, which can only be accurately described as heart-wrenching, with twin-guitar chord bends and plodding drumming, both fading out with a beautiful Anathema-esque clean guitar melody, playing out to the very quiet end. Powerful.
The other song, “Silence of the Passed”, moves even slower, but is the more atmospheric of the two dirges, with some atonal melodies drifting atop a molasses-drenched rhythm. The clean guitar is very bright and shiny on here, marking a stark contrast against the thickness of the other guitars and bass, making it the focus besides Good’s growling, which goes full-on angry grizzly bear halfway in. There is a lot more breathing room in this song, allowing the mood to settle in a bit better, even if the overall effect isn’t quite as powerful as the title track. Still, quite amazing, and I love the abrupt ending with the guitars whining their last death throes.
One thing that I was taken back with is just how rich and full this album sounds. Damon Good’s production job on here is stellar, as the guitars and bass feel heavy and thick when needed, and soft and clean whenever necessary, without compressing the life out of anything. The drums also sound pretty natural. The fact that my dynamic range software kicked back with a high score doesn’t surprise me one bit, as this sounds phenomenal no matter what I play it on. As for your enjoyment of this record, it solely depends on your level of patience. Funeral doom in general (and Mournful Congregation in particular) requires complete immersion, and isn’t for those privy to quick bursts of listening pleasure. However, if you crave something thick, meaty, and full of sorrow, by all means, dig right in.
Concrescence of the Sophia is an awesome follow-up to The Book of Kings, and will tide you over until the eventual release of their next album. Don’t let the track count fool you, this is worthy of a purchase and of repeated listening sessions. Besides, this is more enjoyable than, say, encountering this while outside.