It’s safe to assume that the new Mournful Congregation “The Incubus of Karma“ album would be like a magnum opus for the band with crushing guitar riffs . Since their first demo in 1994, they have released a significant discography, and their style and unique approach somehow resembles the doom/death lords Thergothon a while ago . Although all six tracks are strong enough to stand on their own, Mournful Congregation has created a musical journey that is best experienced as a whole. I think that music’s worth cannot always be determined by its technicality. Despite the seven years long gap and the lineup change they’ve lost none of their ability to craft a despondent, melancholy atmosphere, and with this more than an hour effort, they’ve managed not to just live up to their previous works, but surpass them, drowning the listener in contemplation with their best effort to date.
This long and complex album starts with an intro-song named “The Indwelling Ascent”. From the beginning, the atmosphere becomes dark and melancholic. ”Whispering Spiritscapes, the second track, has gloomy tones before a crash of drums signals forth for the guitars to play their slow riffs. The guttural vocals, low and cavernous, with each intonation scattering the positivity, are present. The atmosphere of despair and melancholy is so expertly crafted that will drag you down and will leave you feeling overwhelmed. The band’s success formula revolves around writing long songs based on distorted riff repetitions crafted by Justin Hartwig and mournful melodies. This is topped off with some of the best dark voice in scene attributed to Damon Good. “The Rubaiyat” make us think of quatrains attributed to Omar Khayyam (the Astronomer-Poet of Persia). The first part of this song sounds equal parts nihilistic and sorrowful completed by the suspense of the lyrics:
“We recall all despair borne of the last
A reflection of man’s pain so vast”
then a gorgeous clean guitar part takes command, and morphs into a crashing wave of distorted melodies. Every part of the song cycles many times, and even the extreme metal sections have a strong hypnotic effect due to the repetition. The band knows exactly how many times to repeat every section to achieve maximum impact. This song has a sort of meditative, insightful aura given by the slow pace.
“The incubus of Karma”, the fourth song of the album is the one that gives the name of the album. It starts with classical guitar tones that are interwoven with metallic harmonies.
“Scripture of Exaltation and Punishment” was the first single of this album. Its style is representative for the band and also for this album. The guitars draw you into the depths, the atmosphere is similar to the first Shape of Despair album, a swirling darkness that surrounds you and threatens to drown you in your own misery. The riffs are dark and oppressive, while maintaining your interest in almost a morbid way. Listening to this song is almost like descending into the inner abyss of unconscious, as it tends to bring certain difficult feelings back toward the surface, or connecting those that were already there. Yet it is difficult to turn this off once it has begun. The music, itself, paints a picture of a world consumed with an inescapable darkness that promises to devour your spirit. To the end, the song is built in a unitary harmony with a brilliant solo epilogue.
The last song of the album,” A Picture of the Devouring Gloom Devouring the Spheres of Being” is also the longest. From the anguished sound of the title track to the funeral feeling possessed by this track , the songs seem to flow from one to the next in a most natural manner. Decadent and atmospheric, the guitars in the background are at the mercy of the hypnotic synthesized passages with luxuriant spectral attire.
Immortality and mortality; future, present, and past. It is a permanent struggle between the inner world and the shallow society and for those who are searching more than earthly delights, Mournful Congregation crafted this album. And I think they have outdone themselves.