Review Summary: the monad of evolution.
Mournful Congregation are one of the most unique bands one would have the pleasure of hearing – funeral doom is not known for its diversity, and even though the obvious characteristics of the sub-genre apply to the band, such as wallowing tempos and despondent atmosphere, Mournful Congregation’s approach is hardly expected. Their use of acoustics and their overly melodic nature, although being represented to some extent by other bands, is what defines Mournful Congregation as a group. The June Frost
comes after their monumental release The Monad of Creation
, and it’s safe to say that Mournful Congregation have lived up to any expectations fans of the band may have had. Moreover, there has been a significant evolution in their sound; the usual tenets of their distinct brand of funeral doom are here, but the album is far more accessible than their previous release, which was simply four very long tracks. The shorter track lengths on The June Frost
make a noteworthy difference in how it is approached, and in various ways the album is much more accessible than one would imagine a funeral doom album to be. As an album of such high ambitions, it must be pointed out that the epic feel of its music does not completely measure up to that of The Monad of Creation
, but it still, to a great extent, does superbly in creating a mournful and bleak atmosphere, while being both aesthetically pleasing and relatively accessible.
Unlike a lot of funeral doom, Mournful Congregation do not rely on repetition of musical themes as the driving force of their music; it’s common for such blatant drone elements to be incorporated with funeral doom, but Mournful Congregation prove that it is not a necessity. Contrary to creating a hypnotic and mesmerising atmosphere through recurrent ideas, Mournful Congregation pride themselves on their compositional skill, making sure that there is always an element of diversity inherent in their music, and in most cases this is the crux of their success. The June Frost
is just as much of a compositional accomplishment as The Monad of Creation
, albeit in a slightly different manner; where the earlier album was four separate and enveloping journeys through the band’s signature mournful soundscapes, The June Frost
is seemingly a single composition on its own, not a collection of songs. The brunt of this is borne by the longer tracks, but it is the shorter ones which complement the longer in order to create a complete and fulfilling album; it is this fluidity which ultimately makes The June Frost
such a satisfying listen.
Although being considered extreme metal, Mournful Congregation are remarkably palatable to those who do not often dabble in the genre. Aside from the occasional moments of brutality that are sprinkled across the album, The June Frost
, much like all of Mournful Congregation’s work, does not have any ‘heavy’ moments. There are passages where the mood can be described as ominous or perhaps menacing, but the album, and Mournful Congregation’s style in general, is not one that is really heavy at all. The band’s emphasis on acoustic guitars, both on their own and in collusion with the saturating effect of the electric guitar, really gives a melancholic and mellow feel to the album. Moreover, the album’s actual structure and the nature of its melodies really repress any possible notion of heaviness; even the blast beat driven section in ‘Suicide Choir’ sounds mournful rather than heavy, making listeners absolutely sure that the band’s name is the most fitting they could have chosen.
Opening the album, ‘Solemn Strikes the Funeral Chime’ is an almost perfect precursor to The June Frost
’s musical aesthetic. It begins with the slightly muffled ringing of a church bell, around which the song builds itself, organs laying the groundwork before the guitars and their respective feedback complete the sonic saturation. The album has a very large focus on far reaching lead guitar lines, which often play over slower yet intricate melodies provided by the rhythm guitar, sometimes feeding off of each and at other times going their own separate ways, though remaining in a state of coherence. With a short yet beautiful guitar line leading the song, the opening track wastes no time in introducing this technique to us while its effervescence washes over the listener.
For the most part, The June Frost
is a very ethereal sounding album; its largely solemn feel is complemented by the band’s tendency to write meandering and dreamy melodies. The album’s lucid production is very apt, remaining clear but not overly so, thus allowing there to be a certain merger between the various parts of the music to create a saturating wall of sound. The vocals are simply another element of the album, and in no way direct it more than the instruments; more often than not they complement the particular song’s melody, and generally fade into the ambience. It’s actually to the album’s favour that the vocals take the backseat; tracks like ‘The June Frost’ are completely instrumental and absolutely amazing, and the inclusion of the low and sluggish growls would definitely detract from their effect.
The June Frost
, much like The Monad of Creation
, is an album with a specific direction in mind, and this most evidently shows in its composition. It’s the result of a long process of deliberation, and one can tell how much effort has gone to its construction in the way it flows, with almost nothing impeding its motion. Along with this, it’s also the result of a long process of evolution; the band has been writing music for over fifteen years now, and although that little bit of subjectivity allows one to slightly favour earlier releases such as The Monad of Creation
over this one, it would not be unwise to say that the band is at the very peak of its career. Highly recommended.