Funeral doom is rather peculiar for its consistency, in that most other genres suffer from it, but this one utilizes its time and history for tightening the wreath that is its breadth. Mournful Congregation exemplify this rather well with their discography, and while the consistency is proving its worth, the boundary that is “genre” is starting to slowly cripple the quality of work. That’s not to defame The Book of Kings; it ranks as high as any of their other records. Heaviness as older generations interpret is its element of opulence, working much in the way as fellow fathers Thergothon or Skepticism where the music never tries to be overpowering but merely is, thus the density has much more effect, and in tandem with the atmosphere The Australian trio ruminates these through their course.
First of all, too many doom bands rely on synthetic sorrow or superficial atmosphere, and while it seems to work on too many people, the bands that can do it naturally don’t get nearly enough credit for it. The way atmosphere is manifested here is purely through the arrangement of notes instead of tacky synths and uselessly meandering leads, and when keyboards make an appearance, which is about four times, it is not overbearing or purposeless, such as the buzz-like synth throughout the title track or the stridently beautiful outro of The Catechism of Depression. The guitar sound surprisingly works really well on its own exuding the dispirited theme just because of attention to production. The arrangements, while “simple”, give off a classical edge that is hard to explain, for there’s nothing blatantly austere but there’s always an apparent ministration throughout the album, which is a perfect supplement for something this slow.
While I mentioned that the “rules” of doom are beginning to affect the creative process, The Book of Kings does well enough to avoid stagnation. First of all, the vocals are only growls during the bookend tracks. For the two middle tracks, they are spoken word or whispered, and these styles are also added to the growling in the title track. The variance of vocals does wonders for music that requires this much repetition, especially the two sections of the album with male choir, an addition I wished they could incorporate more. There’s also an abundance of clean and acoustic guitars, most apparent in The Waterless Streams and The Bitter Veils of Solemnity, that expand the resonance, especially when production plays more of a part or when an acoustic solo infers folk influence or when they mix the cleans with the distortion in much better consequence than conventionalized examples.
With its long songs, it is disappointing that the transitions are often less thought out than they should be. It’s more apparent in the 33 minutes of the title track, where there are many, many transitions but none too satisfying. The song can make up for it by not having much filler in the first place, but it still leaves something unfinished. On a contrary note, the album is more thought out than this would suggest thankfully. The bookends and the two middle tracks are, respectfully, extremely complementary; The Catechism of Depression and The Book of Kings both share means of build, riff patterns, overall sonic similarity, whereas The Waterless Streams and The Bitter Veils of Solemnity sound like the same song written in different ways, but never being redundant. The songs don’t share exact riffs, but give the impression of conscious relation due to their arc...much like a book.
The Book of Kings will be one of the last records of its kind before the genre will be forced to progress and it marks its place in time well, and thankfully so in a year with not much quality metal to speak of compared to the usual. Where Colosseum has ended with the death of a member, Mournful Congregation will pick up the slack with their contemporaries and hopefully the genre can continue to expand while maintaining and tautening its solidified principles. The resourceful airs of the present gives good indication.